Drink it in: Aparajita Ninan

The co-creator of Hapusa Gin talks to Brummell about creating India’s first craft gin distillery, discovering the Himalayan juniper berry and drinking spirits at mountain temperature

Food and Drink 5 Jul 2022

Hapusa gin

Hapusa Gin

What makes Hapusa Gin unique?

Hapusa is a Himalayan Dry Gin. We call it this because at its core is our juniper foraged at about 10,000 feet up in the Himalayas. This juniper is highly aromatic and bold, which lends beautifully to the gin itself, making it complex and quite bold, ideal for sipping. Hapusa also happens to be made by the first craft gin distillery in India and the only one using exclusively indigenous botanicals.

When tasting Hapusa Gin, what notes and flavours should people look out for?

Pine forest and wildflowers on the nose with a bold earthiness on the palate and a long, delicately spiced and smooth finish.

Where did the idea for the brand come from?

The story started with our discovery of the Himalayan juniper berry. We had not known before that that juniper grew in the northern part of the country. When we visited Khari Baoli, one of the largest spice markets in Asia, we discovered very small amounts of this and were also told that the Sanskrit name for the juniper berry was Hapusa. That’s when the story of the gin and the story of the name came to be.

Hapusa co-creator Aparajita Ninan
Hapusa co-creator Aparajita Ninan

How did you go about creating Hapusa Gin?

This Himalayan juniper berry was very aromatic and unique. Hence, we decided to create a sipping gin that would shine a spotlight on it. We distilled over 120 different botanicals that we could get our hands on and slowly went about trying various combinations that might work. Through a process of exploration and elimination with some of our friends and family as enthusiastic guinea pigs, we came to a recipe we all fell in love with.

Hapusa and your other gin, Greater Than Gin, have very distinct aesthetics – how important was getting this right in the brand’s development?

Once we had the recipe in place, the design process well and truly got under way. We know that people like to drink with their eyes before they actually even buy the bottle, so we had to make the bottle, label and the cork top combine to create the perfect visual representation of the liquid it contained.

The vibrant and deep purple colour of the bottle was chosen to represent the exact hue of a ripe juniper berry. The label shape was created to represent the grand Himalayan vistas, with the golden strokes depicting the pine leaves strewn on the forest floor we would walk through.

Most importantly, though, all our design decisions for Hapusa as well as for Greater Than were guided by our desire to create brands that represented the modern India we lived in, rather than focus on any colonial stories that might have otherwise seemed an obvious connection for gins with the country. We decided to stay away from the cliché that is India and managed through both the brands to talk about the people and the places behind them.

What is your favourite way of drinking Hapusa Gin?

Straight from the freezer at “mountain temperature”. Pour straight into the glass and sip slowly.

If I’m at a bar though, a well-made Hapusa martini is a spectacular thing.

What is your favourite bar in the world and why?

My favourite bar is actually a bar I have never been to, but dream of visiting very soon hopefully. Two Schmucks in Barcelona has the kind of energy and character that make me feel like it might well be my spirit animal. I cannot wait to have a drink there!

Have you noticed a difference in the way people in the UK and India appreciate and consume gin?

Gin is still relatively new to us. People in India are still experimenting a lot with gin cocktails and it has quickly become a drink popular with high-energy bars and events. There is a bit more seriousness and geekiness surrounding gin in the UK, which we still need to find in India – but we’ll get there quickly by the looks of it.

What is next for Hapusa Gin?

Hapusa has been growing very quickly and all the while doing it the right way. Medals like a Double Gold at the International Spirits Challenge 2022 or the Gold at the IWSC 2021 among others are a great way to build trust while continuing to tell our story. We were especially excited to be nominated among the top five international gin distillers last year by the IWSC.

These bits of recognition keep us going and charged up to expand our horizons further beyond the 16 countries we currently export to. A recent minority investment from global drinks giant Diageo has also helped us grow our network globally and we should definitely be touching down in some new countries before the end of this year.

Hapusa and Greater Than are both the creations of Nao Spirits; naospirits.com