How Himmaleh Spirits is bottling the Kumaoni culture in its provincial gin!

Co-founders of Himmaleh Spirits share how Kumaon & I, a gin made with all the ingredients from the Himalayan region, captures the essence of truly local.

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update
Himmaleh Spirits

What comes to your mind when you hear of the Himalayas? Lush green scapes, waters gushing, snow-clad mountains, wealthy forest and the freshness of nature. What if all of these were captured in a bottle and served to you in the form of a spirit? Himmaleh Spirits does something very similar with their provincial gin, Kumaon & I which sources all its ingredients from the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. Let’s hear it from the co-founders of the brand, Ansh Khanna and Samarth Prasad on what makes Kumaon & I India’s first provincial gin that is made with 100 per cent ingredients from the Kumaon region. 

co-founders of Himmaleh Spirits
(L) Ansh Khanna and Samarth Prasad (R), co-founders of Himmaleh Spirits with Mukund Prasad (C)

A transformative trip to Japan introduced Ansh to the Japanese craft revolution. He realized that India, with its rich array of local resources, had the potential to produce world-class spirits. This made him share his vision of producing a provincial gin. His experience with wine and spirits after working in a winery on the central coast of California and with a fine wine and spirits merchant in Chicago garnered him the intricacies of farming, terroir, fermenting, and winemaking. Combined with the business mind of Samarth and his degree in hospitality management and curiosity for the alcobev industry led to the inception of Kumaon & I. 

Ansh and Samarth shared a vision; to represent India and its diverse resources through their spirits. There was no better place to start this journey than Uttarakhand, with its geographical diversity and abundance of necessary resources. “The state offers a plethora of ingredients at various altitudes, unique salt types, and more,” says Ansh. Their concept was inspired by the world of wine, where every bottle can be traced back to its vineyard, preserving the flavours of the grapes.

A Bottle Full of Kumaoni Culture

Their approach was to allow the ingredients to take the lead and emit the essence of the region they are from without altering them too much. Their goal was to capture the flavours of the Kumaon region in a bottle, creating a gin with a distinct flavour. This could be only done with the help of the geography’s knowledge and localities. They sought to use unexplored local materials, crafting a product that could make the people of Kumaon proud and serve as a unique souvenir for visitors. Samarth's deep connection with the region played a crucial role. Having lived there for many years, he was well-acquainted with the local communities and farmers. Owing to its vast expanse, it was a challenge to find the right ingredients to make a gin that represents Uttarakhand and the Kumaon region well.

Himmaleh Spirits Distillery
Himmaleh Spirits Distillery

Samarth says, "We distilled, interacted, and blended all the available botanicals to see what worked well together. After which we came up with a formula. Made from fresh Himalayan spring water and 11 handpicked, locally sourced botanicals, this gin is a true celebration of local flavours.” This all-natural Himalayan dry gin is crafted meticulously at the source, extracting maximum flavour and lending a distinct texture to the spirit. It is crafted from the Himalayan juniper, timur (a berry-like Szechuan pepper only found in the Kumaon region), and black turmeric, which is cultivated at over 10,000 feet, endowing it with a richly concentrated flavour. It is complemented by coriander seeds, galgal, kinu, Damask rose, and local walnuts from their farm in Nainital.

kumaon & I ingredients

“This makes Kumaon & I a concept of farm to bottle. There are no middlemen; we work directly with local farmers in the mountains. Rare and unknown ingredients like juniper and kalmegh can only be found in the deep forests, known only to the locals," asserts the co-founder. 

local farmers of Kumaon
Local farmers of Kumaon who work with Kumaon & I

Not only the ingredients but the packaging of the bottle is also inspired by the culture of this region. It is a different take on the local ritualistic hand-painted art form of Aipan. A white paste made by grounding cooked rice with water (Biswar) is used by local women to draw distinctive patterns on a smooth surface of wet ochre mud Geru which is red. This is complemented by another artform style which is the Kumaoni Pichora pattern. The dots and lines signify the sisterhood and community of women in Uttarakhand. Kumaon & I is a tribute to this femme power and mother nature's bounties.

Kumaon & I
Kumaon & I

In addition to Kumaon & I, Himmaleh Spirits introduced 'Bandarful', a liqueur made from Indian single-origin coffee. Sourced from farms in Chikmagalur, the coffee undergoes a special process. “It starts with cold brewing, followed by blending with local rice spirit, resulting in the best version of the coffee. It is a fresh concept that resonates with coffee enthusiasts,” says Ansh.

Bandarful coffee liquor
Bandarful coffee liquor

Himmaleh Spirits is available in six markets; Uttarakhand, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Goa. Kumaon & I is priced at around INR 3000, while Bandarful is available for INR 1800. The company is continuously experimenting with flavours and ingredients. Samarth says "Uttarakhand is a diverse region. We are experimenting a lot, and you might see many other spirits in the future which represent the true essence of the region, making the local community proud of their product and giving tourists a souvenir to take back home which represents the Kumaon region."

Kumaon & I provincial gin India’s first provincial gin Bandarful Kumaon & I gin