Female master blenders are making more waves in the spirits industry than ever before, not just for being “the first,” but also for their roles as innovative navigators of taste, brand, and industry. We were able to find a connoisseur in the space who has crafted a spirit with ingredients that can be traced to Kerala. Her brand is called the Rebel City Distillery and is making waves for launching a gin – The Maharani Gin – dedicated to the women of Kerala.
Spirits have always been associated with men for as long as they have existed. They’ve been tagged as the CEO’s of businesses, the big guys doing the labour-intensive work of distilling, and the people drinking whiskey at the bar. However, women have long been involved in the industry in a variety of capacities but they have simply not been recognized. That has shifted in the last ten years. Women run distilleries all over the world, producing some of the world’s finest spirits you can get hold of. The founding story of the Maharani gin is proof of it.
Rebel City Distillery is located in the Docklands, Cork, Ireland. Maharani Gin is inspired by the cultures of Cork and Kerala, where its founders Robert Barret and Bhagya Barret respectively hail from.
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Robert is in spirits production and has worked in Ireland and Canada in various distilleries as a consultant. “The experience I gained from working in those places gave me the confidence to start planning our distillery with Bhagya from 2018 onwards,” he says.
Bhagya is in IT Program Management. She holds an MBA in project management from Dublin Business School and an engineering in Information Technology from Kerala. She has been in the IT industry for around 14 years and has been delivering multi-million dollar programs over different geographical locations and across segments.
“We’ve been working on the gin since June 2020, and we’ve had a lot of help from the Irish community and the Indian diaspora. We currently sell our products in Ireland, Singapore, and Germany. In the future months, we have plans to launch in France and the United States. We also sell in the United Kingdom through Amazon and in Denmark through GinButler,” Bhagya says.
Their consumers are generally young professionals who are eager to try new tastes and care about provenance. The customers are also folks who prefer craft premium spirits over mass-manufactured products.
To achieve Maharani’s distinctive flavour, the base neutral spirit is fermented and distilled from wheat, then re-distilled on-site at the distillery in the presence of their botanicals. Every piece of the Rebel City Distillery is handcrafted right from distillation to bottling to labelling.
So what is the connection between Rebel Distillery and Kerala?
The Signature botanicals are procured from the Western Ghats of India. “We procure it from Vanamoolika, a collective in Wayanad. One of our founders Bhagya is from Kerala and Wayanad is our favourite part of Kerala,” Robert says.
What Does The Maharani Gin Taste Like?
Their flavour profile of citrus and spice is more contemporary and less juniper-forward compared to more traditional gins. The citrus and spice components along with a dash of sweetness are derived from their signature botanicals of Pomelo, Nutmeg mace and Cassia which they source from Kerala. The geographical provenance of signature botanicals used in gin makes their gin stand out from the rest.
Irish creative agency Slater Design created the magnificent gin label that you see on Maharani. It pays homage to Keralan women’s power. “We wanted to create a brand design which was clean and simple without an overload of any colours which is widely seen in Indian inspired products abroad. It took us around 18 months to finalize branding,” he says.
He further added, “We have used elements from Kerala folklore and festivals in the brand design. Pantone Blue is used as the logo colour as it has a sense of calmness. The name Maharani is a tribute to roots from where signature botanicals are procured.”
Even the label and box patterns appear to convey how smooth this premium liquor will be to drink.“We decided to make gin because we enjoy it and the addition of spices gives it a unique flavour,” Bhagya says.
Maharani is their flagship product, and they are planning to produce Rum, Niche Spirits, and Whisky in the future.