The Chambal Valley in Madhya Pradesh is a land of mystique. The river that criss-crosses the region, once known as Charmanyavati, was believed to be ‘cursed’ for it was formed by the sacrifice of thousands of cows by mythological king Rantideva. More recently though, many associate the region with hair-raising ravines and the stories of dacoits that spell terror. All in all, a mere mention of this fascinating terrain unleashes a spirit of thrill and adventure.
It is this very element that extends to the newest gin on the block, Chambal, which has its origins in the Chambal Valley. Meticulously crafted by third-generation distillers and blenders Bapuna Alcobrew, the spirit taps into the power of an exquisite blend of handpicked botanicals from the region that have a unique flavour profile.
But what is the story behind the inception of this distilled spirit? Pervez Bapuna, COO, Bapuna Alcobrew tells us, “Our connection with the Chambal region is four decades long. The foundation of our unit was an adventurous endeavour that our family undertook. The region is remarkable; however, it is often forgotten or misunderstood.”
“Having grown up here, I have a deep-rooted affinity for the region including its history, distinctive topography, and unsaid charm. Every facet of Chambal gin embodies the untamed and adventurous spirit that defines the region,” he continues.
When I attended the launch event of Chambal, the role that the eponymous valley plays in the journey of the brand became even more evident. As the world of the Chambal Valley came alive through ravines made of fabrics, rustic oil lanterns, and Mandana prints—a folk painting associated with one of the oldest tribal communities of Madhya Pradesh—I wondered how the spirit on offer incorporates the flavours of the region.
“The uniqueness comes from our unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and the production process that has evolved over three generations. Our gin has unique layers and an extremely smooth flavour profile,” explains Bapuna.
Excitement in every sip
The bottle in itself is a reminder of the rustic charm of the Chambal Valley. Deep amber in colour with a torn label boldly displaying crossed rifles, the brand pays homage to the notorious dacoits who once resided there. It also has motifs of gharials, waves, indigenous fauna, and traditional design elements found in Mandana art.
As I sipped the gin with tonic water, the notes of wild cinnamon bark became instantly recognisable. With each sip, I could identify more flavours–the aroma of juniper berries, the delicate layers of black and green cardamom, a burst of citrus, and a subtle nuttiness from the infusion of almonds. In a nutshell, my palate was bursting with a symphony of flavours, leaving me wanting for more.
By now, I was kicked to check out the cocktail menu on offer. While Saanjh (gin, lychee, grapefruit, lime, and rosemary) and Three Naught Two (gin, grenadine, lime, and tonic water) were refreshing, my favourite turned out to be Amrit (gin, fresh cucumber, elderflower spirit, lime, orange peel, and tonic). Let’s just say it was nothing short of sweet nectar that seamlessly combined the freshness of cucumber with the fruitiness of elderflower. A win-win! Saanjh strikes a balance with the tartness of grapefruit and the sweetness of lychee. The addition of rosemary is a winner with its distinct aroma that is sure to serenade your senses. On the other hand, Three Naught Two is a light and refreshing cocktail that's welcome, be it day or night. The grenadine with its tart sweetness takes it to a whole new level.
There are several botanical-infused gins available today, it is the infusion of unique ingredients from the Chambal Valley that make this gin a cut above the rest. For those who do not have an appetite for experimentation, the spiciness of the spirit may be overwhelming.
Increasing popularity of botanicals
But was infusion of botanicals a conscious decision by the brand, owing to the growing popularity of this trend among the younger lot?
Bapuna answers, ”I believe the phenomenon isn’t restricted to the preference of GenZ or millennials; it is prevalent across all age groups. A fascinating aspect particularly in the Indian context is the harmony that it finds with our more experienced palate.”
It’s clear that the emergence of regionally-inspired offerings will leave a long-lasting impact on the gin landscape. Bapuna believes this trend taps into a profound consumer desire for products that aren’t just beverages but stories deeply-rooted in a region’s ethos.
“The consumer today seeks authenticity in their choices and the desire not just to connect with the product but also revel in the narrative behind the product.,” he adds.
Chambal is currently available in Delhi and Madhya Pradesh with Maharashtra and the rest of India not far behind on the distribution roadmap.
Price: Rs 1950 in Delhi