Third Eye Distillery has shaken up the perception of Indian spirits with its cool, contemporary Stranger & Sons gin
Almost every household in India has a spice box, an inspiring receptacle known as a masala dabba, which cooks delve into to find the ideal combination of flavours to enhance any dish. The spice box is one of the influences behind Stranger & Sons, a premium gin by Third Eye Distillery in Goa, which is packed with flavours from across the subcontinent. “We have been supplying the botanicals that make gin for millennia, so we thought we should put them in a bottle ourselves,” says Vidur Gupta, who founded the company in 2018 with partners Rahul Mehra and Sakshi Saigal.
Stranger & Sons has created a new market in luxury spirits at home, as well as expanding into overseas territories including the UK. It has achieved this by embracing Indian culture, history and contradictions, as well as the exceptional local ingredients, resulting in a drink and a brand that is modern, stylish and quintessentially Indian. A core element of this is the colourful tale of the company’s founding, involving a two-tailed, three-eyed juniper-loving creature, which features on the labels.
“India can be a complex place,” says Vidur. “We have 28 states with unique cultures and various different languages. There are incredibly ancient traditions, but we’re also a very young country – of traditions, myths and mystics, but also a tech giant and a centre for arts and architecture. We wanted to play on that and celebrate our diverse and complicated history while recognising India in its current context.”
Stranger & Sons gin builds on its juniper base with a bold bouquet of native botanicals, including pepper, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and a medley of four citrus peels, among them unique varieties of orange and lime. These are distilled using a single-shot process that allows the flavours to assume their full expression. “It is a three-dimensional gin,” says Vidur. “We wanted it to be bold. Indians love full flavours, and this has a distinct nose, middle and end.”
Elegantly packaged, with the bottle and cork from the best international suppliers, the drink holds its own against the finest gins in the world. In 2020, it was the first Indian gin to be awarded Gold-Outstanding at the International Wine and Spirit competition. A year later, it won Gold at The Gin Masters and a Master medal at The Asian Spirits Masters.
After success at home, Stranger & Sons became more widely acknowledged following a collaboration with Australian distillery Four Pillars, producing Trading Tides and Spice Trade Gin. And as the company continues to break boundaries, it seeks to bring other drinks to the market that share the gin’s sense of bountiful flavour. Indeed, the distillery founders have partnered with a bar in Jaipur’s artisan jewellery district to create exquisite experiences where the best of Stranger & Sons’ cocktails are at play, such as Fernando’s Special, a combination of Stranger & Sons, dry vermouth and fermented tomato brine; and the Strange Gimlet highball, featuring Stranger & Sons, Gondhraj lime cordial, cardamom tincture, lime juice and soda water. “Through the bar, we are helping to spread cocktail culture in India, which is arriving in a big fashion. We are at the forefront as one of the companies to spark that change,” says Vidur.
The company is exploring rum and whisky, even vermouth, as India is already a big producer of sugar, wine and botanicals. “From launching India’s first distilled cocktail that used seasonal pink guavas to our collaboration with Four Pillars, innovation is at the heart of the brand.”