Every love story is beautiful in its own right but not every love story registers itself in the glorious annals of history like the story of Bhagya Lakshmi Barrett and Robert Barrett. Little did the couple know that they would go on to create a brand one day when they first met on a blind date. Today, they are simply overwhelmed at the tremendous response that their newly launched gin has garnered.
When the Irish biochemist and his software engineer wife from Kerala decided to encapsulate their romance in a bottle of gin, they had absolutely no clue that their product would take social media by storm. Within a month or two of its launch, Maharani Gin has become a familiar name among the connoisseurs of fine spirits. Launched by Rebel City Distillery, the couple’s own distillery in Ireland’s Cork, the gin celebrates a fusion of Malayali and Irish cultures and this is what makes it special. The gin was launched on June 23 and went viral after a Keralite in Ireland shared its video on social media.
While Robert is a biochemist turned fine spirits expert who, following a number of years researching cancer cell migration, spent more than a decade learning the art of crafting and distilling premium spirits around the world, Bhagya is a Senior Program Manager at Dell. Work has made her live in cities like Chennai and Madrid after which she pursued an MBA from Ireland. The last two months have been super hectic for the couple, thanks to the surge in demand for their gin. The premium gin is zested with pomelo fruit and uniquely spiced with cassia and nutmeg-mace, all sourced from a women’s organic farming co-operative in Bhagya’s home state of Kerala.
Speaking to Outlook Traveller, Robert says that Maharani gin is a tribute to revolutionary women all over the world. “Kerala’s culture is traditionally matriarchal, and that’s why we decided to call the gin ‘Maharani’, which means Queen”, he says. Bhagya tells us that their brand reflects their admiration for strong women. “Especially, the women of Vanamoolika, who prepared our signature botanicals,” she says. “ We have sourced our signature botanicals of Maharani gin from a woman’s collective in Wayanad, which is my favourite place in Kerala. I was really fascinated and inspired by the idea of a place run by women from the local community and we were extremely satisfied with the quality of the product,” she adds. Since the launch of their gin, they have been receiving a lot of inquiries regarding the women’s collective and the couple is glad about helping people discover the collective.
When asked how their roots have influenced the gin, Bhagya says that the fact that gin is a flavoured spirit, made her realise how spices can be used to prepare a version of the spirit. Kerala is known for its spices and shares a rich spice trade history with Europe. Robert’s love for the spices of Kerala led Bhagya to suggest him to prepare a gin with these desi exotic flavours. “We have received a great response to the gin both in terms of taste from connoisseurs and the brand story from within Ireland and among Malayalees worldwide,” says an elated Robert. Furthermore, the distillery name reflects Cork city where the gin is distilled which is known as the Rebel county for being a prominent location in multiple rebellions as well as during the Irish war of independence.
The couple started planning for the distillery about two years ago and Robert quit his job as a distilling consultant a year ago to work on the project full time ahead of the launch. “We sourced our signature botanicals from Vanamoolika. This then formed the backbone if you will of the gin and led to us to a citrus/spice gin and I structured the remaining botanicals – cardamom, lemon, orange, coriander, orris and of course juniper to support that,” says Robert speaking about the journey behind the making of the spirit. According to him, Maharani gin is best served with premium tonic, pink grapefruit and mint leaves for an unforgettable sensory experience of flora and spice.
Telling us about the design of the bottle, Bhagya, who helps Robert in packaging and bottling the drink, says that they worked over 18 months on the design. “ We feel it reflects our story of Cork and Kerala as well as a tribute to strong women, using the sword as a symbol of female empowerment,” she says. At present, the couple is experimenting with akvavit and abs in the recipes as well as pondering over other ideas for small batches. The distillery is planning to release a rum next year with both unaged or white rum and aged or brown rum variants.
Robert and Bhagya also plan to bring the gin to India but it’s going to take a while due to the pandemic and excise permissions. At present, Maharani Gin can be bought internationally from online sellers including Celticwhiskey.com, Irishmalts.com, Wineonline.ie, and Drinkshero.com.
For further information visit www.rebelcitydistillery.com