Profile of a home-grown craft spirit made from 100% blue agave

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#craft tequila, #Desmond Nazareth, #Goa distillery, #Maya Pistola Agavepura, #partner, #Passcode Hospitality, #Radhika Dhariwal, #Rakshay Dhariwal

Maya Pistola Agavepura is distilled in Chittoor, and aged, bottled and blended in Goa. A 750ml bottle costs Rs 2,695 in Goa.

Sweet, crisp taste with a sharp flavour at the end – this is how a tequila experience is described. Made with Blue Agave, yeast and water, tequila is a popular drink globally and slowly gaining momentum in India too.

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Tequila and Mezcal from Mexico have GI or Geographical Indications owned by their government. India, thus, may not be home to tequila, but Agave spirits made from the species that grows on the Deccan Plateau, are slowly making their mark.

Growing popularity

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Tequila – or agave spirits – is no longer equated with downing shots alone. Neat, or with a single cube of ice, aficionados, today enjoy this spirit in varied ways, cocktails included. Celebrated bartender Yangdup Lama says, “Most people still drink tequila as a shot, but not like the traditional way of drinking a mixto (made with 51% Agave) with salt and lime. I guess, with the 100% agave and finer spirits, Indians are embracing the neat or on-the-rocks, for tequilas. When it comes to cocktails, nothing beats a Margarita.”

Rakshay Dhariwal, Partner at Passcode Hospitality, says that over the past few years, tequila, mezcal and agave spirits have emerged as one of the fastest growing categories of spirits. The Indian palate has always been ready for agave, he adds; 100% agave spirits have herbaceous, earthy notes, with a semi-sweetness, which is a very dynamic flavour profile that pairs very well with Indian spices and food. Riding on this crest of popularity, he along with his sibling Radhika, launched Maya Pistola Agavepura, a 100% agave spirit. Distilled in Chittoor, it is aged, bottled and blended in Goa.

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The 100% natural, additive-free Reposado, is the first to be launched and is priced at Rs 2,695 for a 750 ml bottle in Goa, where it is currently available. Pistola will eventually be available in four more variants: Smoky Agave, Añejo, Extra Añejo and a Cask Strength Extra Añejo.

With its notes of caramel, butterscotch, oak, vanilla, black pepper, and cacao, smooth texture and mouthfeel, and rounded flavours, the best way to drink Pistola is to sip it on ice.

Frontrunner Goa

Years ago, with the new-found interest in tequila and agave-based spirits, Desmond Nazareth of Desmondji, pioneered these in Goa and was undoubtedly one of the few who made this possible outside of Mexico.

Goa has once again paved the way for agave spirits. Vikram Achanta, founder and CEO, Tulleeho, says, “Desmond Nazareth realised that the Agave Americana growing wild in India could be harnessed in making an agave spirit. The next stage in evolution of Indian agave spirit, has come logically, by Rakshay Dhariwal, who spotted a trend across his outlets of increased consumption of premium and super-premium agave spirits, both tequila and mezcal, with enthusiasts treating it as a sipping spirit akin to a fine single malt or cognac as opposed to a cheap spirit to be taken as a shot. This resulted in Maya Pistola, a Reposado (rested) 100% agave spirit.”

According to Rakshay, with the raw materials growing in profusion in one’s backyard, he thought of attempting a top-class, quality product that can be served at their outposts. “We are maturing our spirit in Goa because the natural salinity in the coastal town lends a rounded flavour to the agave spirit. Moreover, Goa is a very accessible and experimental market, with a well-defined hybrid of locals and tourists. Thus, these along with the relatively straight forward-label registration rules, made Goa a logical first place for us to launch Maya Pistola Agavepura,” he says.

The name Maya Pistola is inspired by the agave spirit’s brand mascot, the re-imagined and reincarnated Goddess of Agave, Mayahuel. Why Pistola? “The pistol was, in fact, created not as a weapon of harm, but as a tool of justice and democracy. Our aged Agavepura is devoid of any adulteration or colouring and is 100% pure. A spirit that makes one feel authentic and elevated,” says Radhika.

#craft tequila, #Desmond Nazareth, #Goa distillery, #Maya Pistola Agavepura, #partner, #Passcode Hospitality, #Radhika Dhariwal, #Rakshay Dhariwal
Maya Pistola Agavepura is aged in American White Oak and ex-bourbon barrels.

The process

The first variant to hit the markets is the Reposado. Rakshay says, “Our process takes place in two parts: the harvesting, cooking, milling, fermenting and distilling happens in the Deccan, and the maturing, blending and bottling, happens in Goa. Our 100% agave spirit has been made from Piñas (or the heart of the agave plant) from Wild Agave Americana from the Deccan plateau. The Piñas are then baked in an autoclave using steam and high pressure. Then, we shred the Piñas to extract the sweet juices. These are bio-fermented to create the wash that is double distilled in a half copper pot still, in small batches. This distilled spirit is then transported to Goa, where it is aged in a mix of Virgin American White Oak barrels and two different types of ex-bourbon barrels before it’s blended down to 40% abv (alcohol by volume), non-chill filtered, bottled, and hand-labelled.”

Future of agave spirits

From a party shot to a craft spirit, the journey for tequila has been a long one. Rakshay says, “You can choose to shoot it as well, and we recommend a chilli lemon salt or cinnamon and orange to enhance the flavour profiles of the spirit. The Reposado lends itself to cocktails, especially twists on classics such as Pistola Manhattans and Pistola Old Fashioneds.”

While Yangdup Lama feels that a very small section of the younger generation is drinking agave spirits, as it is still not easily accessible, Rakshay adds, “Sure, everyone is drinking gin right now, but Tequila and Mezcal is what everyone will be drinking in the next five years.”

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