Disclaimer: Desmond Nazareth returned to India in 2000, not 2002 as mentioned in the video. Additionally, DesmondJi’s Indian Agave Spirits are only bottled in Goa. The distillery is located in Andhra Pradesh.
Mexico has Tequila. Scotland has Scotch. Brazil has Cachaça. In a country as wide and diverse as India, can we really not come up with a signature liquor that can be exported across the globe? Sure, we have popular local spirits like Fenny and Toddy, but for legal and practical reasons, neither of those are ever going to conquer the globe. Not yet, anyway.
However, there is one company that has taken it upon themselves to challenge this status quo. DesmondJi Craft Spirits, Cocktails and Liqueurs became famous for their take on Tequila – or Indian Agave Spirits, as founder Desmond Nazareth is quick to correct me. While the climates of Central Mexico and the Deccan Plateau are similar enough to produce similar products, Mexico has labelled Tequila as a designation of origin product. This simply means that any Blue Agave-based spirit cannot be labelled Tequila unless it is made in designated regions of Mexico.
DesmondJi’s determination to create high quality liquors based on more obscure, yet popular, ingredients such as sugarcane and agave has led to the establishment of a trusted brand in both India and abroad. It is only natural that their next big challenge would be to finally promote an Indian-based liquor to the world.
In a wide-ranging talk with Nazareth on everything from the influence of meteors on Tequila’s connection with India to the surprising method by which “Indian Made Foreign Liquors” are actually made, the man behind DesmondJi reveals one important facet of his character. He sees alcohol as more than just a part of a relaxed Friday night; it’s an opportunity to land India on the map.
And he has a plan to do it too. DesmondJi recently released their take on a popular Central Indian homemade liquor called Mahua. Primarily distilled from the Mahua flower, it is drunk by millions of people from Maharashtra to West Bengal, with rumours that even some villages as far north as Assam brew the stuff.
While DJ’s Mahua is different from the original moonshine that the villagers drink – the bottled beverage comes in at 40% alcohol content compared to a much lower 9%-12% in the home-brewed batches – Nazareth rightly sees this as a chance for India to bring a part of their alcohol heritage to the world. And it is not just an issue of national pride; if Mahua becomes popular, that means potential jobs for the millions of tribal and rural brewers that know the alcohol best.
You can also listen to this interview as a podcast here.