Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson sells it. Kendall Jenner sells it. Adam Levine sells it. Elon Musk sells it. Even George Clooney created a brand. It is truly tequila’s time in the sun. Aided, in part, by celebrity power.
American alcohol e-commerce site Drizly’s latest report has one big takeaway: 2022 might be the year of tequila. The Global Mezcal Market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 22.36%. Both tequila and mezcal are spirits made from the agave plant. “The sales of mezcal abroad grew by 600% in 2020! There is a huge trend happening globally when it comes to tequila and mezcal,” says Rakshay Dhariwal of Passcode Hospitality. “It is the right time to introduce a very premium [agave] spirit for the Indian market.”
Dhariwal’s offering, thus, is a 100% aged agave spirit called Maya Pistola Agavepura (Pistola for short). The premium sipping spirit will launch in two weeks and will retail at liquor shops and in restaurants and bars across Goa. Dhariwal calls Pistola agave spirit ‘a nectar by the gods for mortals’, which is double distilled and aged in ex-Bourbon casks. It has an oaky nose, with vanilla and caramel notes and is smooth enough to be savoured [neat], not shot.
The idea for an agave spirit came to Dhariwal during the pandemic last year. Beyond the global trend, Dhariwal noticed a big increase in the consumption of tequila in his bars across the country. “As a restaurateur, I saw that my clients were moving away from gin towards agave spirits like tequilas and mezcals. We are seeing a huge explosion for new craft premium brands,” he says. “Agave has that lovely sweetness that goes well with the Indian palate.”
Pistola is a complete Made in India product. The Agave Americana plant grows in the Deccan Plateau. The spirit is distilled in Chittoor and then aged, blended and bottled in Goa. “As we cannot call it a tequila [owing to a GI tag], we wanted to give it a name that was peppier and whimsical,” says Dhariwal. Thus, Maya Pistola Agavepura: Maya is the Indian avatar of the goddess of Agave, Mayahuel. Dhariwal chose Goa to launch Pistola because it made financial sense. “Post-pandemic, logistics is the biggest barrier in the country. Transportation from Chittoor to Goa made the most sense. Besides, Goa has a strong bar space, and a great market,” he says.
The real story of the agave plant’s presence in India goes back to the Colombian exchange, during the 15th and 16th century, which started the exchange of goods from Europe, Africa, and Asia to the Americas. The Indian Deccan Plateau’s terroir matches that of the Agave-growing regions of the Americas. The drought-resistant Agave Americana adapted to the local climate and was grown along the railway line — the British found it useful to keep away cattle from straying on the tracks. Agave has grown in India for over a century.
With Pistola, the plant and the Indian Agave Market gets some momentum. It’s taken ten years for this market to see a new addition. In April 2011, Desmond Nazareth launched India’s first agave-based spirits, DesmondJi 51% Agave and DesmondJi 100% Agave. These variants are available in Goa, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Karnataka, and Daman; their 100% Agave is also co-branded in Denmark and USA. Dhariwal too has plans of taking Pistola across India and exporting it too. In the next year, he aims to introduce an Anejo, and a Blanco too. With these offerings, agave spirits could soon become the drink of choice, to be sipped and savoured, and not just downed as shots.
In a few years, India could stake its claim for leading the non-Mexican International Agave Spirits market, along with Australia and South Africa. “I am confident with what we are doing. There will be a huge demand for these spirits,” says Dhariwal.
Pistola will retail for Rs 2695 (750 ml).