WE are the world’s largest whisky drinking nation. So you could call it poetic justice that a new brandy is reportedly winning several blind tastings against heavyweights like Black Dog 12 Year Old and Teacher’s 50. The brandy in question is Janus, from Sula Vineyard’s subsidiary, Artisan Spirits, and comes just when the conversation over Make in India is hotting up. In the making for over four years, and launched last year, it has been available in the South since February. “We are working with bartenders in Goa who have been drinking whisky for 20-odd years and they are confused when they taste Janus blindfolded,” begins Yogesh Mathur, VP (manufacturing), Sula Wines. The tastings organised by Sula serve as training sessions for both bartenders and F&B managers who are being introduced to Janus for the first time. It is, after all, India’s first cognac-style grape brandy, made in Baramati in Maharashtra and cannot be clubbed with the molasses-based alcohol commonly available that owes its flavour to brandy essence. “People are bowled over and almost 60 per cent prefer this brandy to the whisky on the table, possibly because of the rich aroma and taste,” adds Mathur.
Keeping it small
In the industry for 30 years, Mathur started out at liquor giant USL, the largest Indian spirits company, where six lakh cases and 30 plus brands are a given. “We are only looking at 5,000 to 8,000 cases annually for the next few years,” he says about the brandy that was initially crafted with Remy Cointreau (the makers of Remy Martin had entered into a joint venture with Sula but had to exit last year, leaving behind the technical know-how perfected over almost 300 years and the smarts of master blender, Yonael Bernard). Janus has been created from three table grapes — Bangalore Blue, Bangalore Purple and Thompson Seedless. The last, used to make raisins and sparkling wines in India, is preferred over the conventional cognac grape, Ugni Blanc. The wines are double distilled in small batches in onion-shaped copper pot stills from France. The eau de vie or odourless liquor is aged in French Limousin oak casks for nine months to a year. Named after the ancient Roman god with two faces, looking at the past and future, Janus is already being promoted at dinners in Pondicherry and Goa. And cocktail recipes, like The Indian Punch with Earl Grey tea, are big hits. Plans are on to participate in international contests (don’t forget that leading whisky expert Jim Murray’s stamp of approval put Bengaluru’s Amrut Distilleries on the whisky map). But first, he says, Janus must be presented across the country, especially among whisky faithfuls!
Priced at Rs 1,500 in Pondicherry, Rs 1,900 in Karnataka, Rs 2,390 in Andhra Pradesh and Rs 2,265 in Telangana for 750 ml. Details: 022 61280606