We Are Looking To Expand Our Global Footprint In The USA & Europe: Sakshi Saigal, Co-Founder & Director, Stranger & Sons
We encourage diversity in the F&B industry and pride ourselves on working with mixologists and innovators who go onto becoming industry leaders and creating a niche for themselves
How did you come about the idea of Stranger & Sons?
I was working towards my MBA in Barcelona, while Vidur was studying in the UK and Rahul had just set up his craft brewery in Mumbai. While we were tasting and drinking a variety of gins every day – whether in London’s cocktail bars or the gin tonics of Barcelona, we were getting well acquainted with the gin landscape. That’s when it piqued our interest. We asked ourselves why India wasn’t up to speed with Gin although Gin manufacturers all over the world looked to India when it came to sourcing botanicals.
We encountered so many brands based on a vision of India that we knew very well had never been a reality. This made us question why products with these botanicals are made everywhere but here. To add to this, there wasn’t any other quality homegrown product then that was conveying the story from our perspective so we decided to change that and embarked into a lot of research before setting up Third Eye Distillery, home to Stranger & Sons Gin.
With the idea of building a truly Indian Gin, one that fits as seamlessly in the colourful and vibrant bars of Goa as it does proudly in the top bars of the world. We saw this as an opportunity to tell the story of a new India through an interesting medium- Gin, especially since this liquid had its own strange ties to India. Stranger & Sons was created in contemporary India, a country that is diverse, nuanced and eccentric. There’s a peculiar quality to India that always makes you look twice and puts you on the path of seeking, in our case, seeking the strange. Our brand name ‘Stranger & Sons’ is an ode to the wonderful strangeness of India and a nod to the creative entrepreneurial spirit inherent in most Indians.
How are your products different from your contemporaries? Can you tell us about some in house products exclusive to you?
What makes Stranger & Sons different is how we celebrate our diverse, unique and complicated history while recognizing India in its current context instead of the stereotypical version with just palaces, elephants, and so on. We have embraced this wonderful strangeness inherent in contemporary India, the India of the here and now, allowing consumers to connect with the story and the brand in a very organic manner.
Owing to its unique botanicals, Stranger & Sons has a three-dimensional flavour profile. The citrus peels give the gin a beautiful freshness on the front palate which is rounded off with a robust blend of warm spices including black pepper, mace, nutmeg and coriander that give it a strong spiced middle. Liquorice, cassia bark and mace make the finishing flourish smooth, earthy and sweet. The versatility of the gin provides bartenders a very solid foundation to any cocktail and a variety of flavors to play with. We often curate elevated cocktail experiences as well, around gibsons and gimlets, our hero cocktails, in order for consumers to interact with the brand up close.
Moreover, with the overarching idea of elevating cocktail culture in India and embracing unconventionality, we created India’s first distilled cocktail, Perry Road Peru, in collaboration with The Bombay Canteen. Along with exploring the untapped market of bottled cocktails, we’re looking to cultivate a culture of innovation and collaboration on our home ground and we look forward to bringing a new, unique distilled cocktail every year to surprise our consumers in the most unexpected ways!
Most recently, we also worked with the Australian Distillery Four Pillars where we embraced the trend of virtual tastings and invented ‘zoom’ distilling to create two unique Gins that combine the best of India and Australia in a bottle. We look forward to launching the limited edition bottles in India soon!
Water is a substantial by-product in distilleries. In an era of ESG compliance how do you plan on remaining sustainable?
We’re mindful of our impact on the environment and one of our core commitments is to choose practices and partners that help us stay true to our sustainability goals.
With the aim to reduce and preserve the amount of water we use for our 16-hour distillation run, we invested in a tank that recycles the water. With the help of our chiller and tank, we are able to save 10,000 litres of water per run. When we drain the water from the chiller, it is directed to our botanical garden. So right from managing the water waste at our distillery to reusing the remaining fruits used for every batch of gin to make pickles and cordials, we make sure to collaborate with brands that have social consciousness built into their DNA.
We collaborated with No Nasties, a brand committed to organic, fair trade and vegan clothes for our merchandise. Our shipper boxes were designed in collaboration with Corugami that promotes the use of innovative packaging design and products made from sustainable materials that are 100% biodegradable. The box is plastic free and made from corrugated board which is completely recyclable.
Third Eye Distillery is always looking at ways to improve and mitigate our impact on society and the environment and with every stage of growth, we expect to do more!
Women are underrepresented in the drinks section. How are you changing that?
Through Stranger & Sons, we’ve spearheaded initiatives centered around collaboration and bringing together women across the industry to connect with each other, build a community and form lasting relationships. We hope to provide various platforms through our ‘Risk Takers and Cocktail Shakers’ events, where women are not only valued, but celebrated for their talent and tenacity.
As a brand, we encourage diversity in the F&B industry and pride ourselves on working with mixologists and innovators who go onto becoming industry leaders and creating a niche for themselves. The women in our team are there for their skills and contribution, more than just having a healthy gender diversity. Rather than exalting the virtues of any particular gender, it is more important to cultivate a respectful, encouraging working environment and implement the right values. I personally would like to encourage all women to focus on becoming the best versions of themselves in order to see the positive impact that we all wish for in terms of representation.
What are your plans for expansion, are international locations on the card?
We launched Stranger & Sons from the shores of Goa in 2018 and expanded to Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka and Rajasthan within India and UK, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, New Zealand and the UAE, internationally.
In 2020, we got picked as the first Indian brand for the Craft Gin Club - a subscription box service that provides gin enthusiasts in the UK with a new gin every month. Stranger & Sons was the Gin of the Month for September 2020 and despite the pandemic, we managed to mobilize the distillery team effectively and sent bottles to 70,000 homes across the UK!
Our bigger market would indeed be our domestic presence followed by our international markets but we are expanding in both areas. We will indeed be exploring various domestic markets including Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and more. In terms of international expansion, we look forward to increasing our global footprint through our upcoming launches in the USA and the rest of Europe. Each new market brings a unique, diverse consumer base which makes the experience, well, lets just say thrilling!
We are also constantly trying to do our bit to make our distillery more responsible and sustainable while exploring new extensions and experimenting with various ideas. The one thing we know for sure is that whichever product we release next will truly be adding to the conversation and be integral to taking our cocktail culture to the next step.
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