India gets a new agave spirit smoothest—homegrown spirit. Lopamudra Ganguly speaks to  Rakshay Dhariwal about it.

A 100% aged agave spirit, Pistola is only the second brand of its kind in the country, after Desmondji’s 51% and 100% agave spirits. “Owing to the strict laws that govern GI (Geographical Indication) tags, the spirit cannot be called tequila unless it is made in that geographical area,” explains Rakshay Dhariwal, one half of the brains behind the new spirit. Pistola is a product of the Passcode Hospitality stable, that Rakshay runs along with this sister, Radhika.

Tequila is a region-specific name for a distilled beverage made from Blue Agave, a plant that is grown on rich volcanic soils in Mexico. In India, agave grows abundantly across the Deccan Plateau. With the help of Desmond Nazareth—India’s first agave maker, Dhariwal was able to set up a facility in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor and distil the agave before transferring it to Goa to be blended, aged and bottled. Pistola—the name that references a small handgun to allude to the power the spirit packs—also refers to an enterprising person who is an agent of change. For Dhariwal, however, Maya Pistola is the name of the agave spirit’s brand mascot. reposado, smoky agave and añejo, but first, Dhariwal is launching the reposado. It’s creamy, with hints of vanilla, caramel and butterscotch, but also mildly peppery to pique the palate. The biggest test of how any spirit fares in India is to drink it alfresco, to see how the body responds. Excerpts of the interview:

Q1. Tell us about the New Spirit Pistola.

Maya Pistola Agavepura is India’s first 100% Aged Agave Spirit. The 100% Agave is harvested from the Deccan plateau in India and is distilled and barrel aged in ex bourbon barrels in India. Though it cannot be called Tequila or Mezcal as those names are protected by the Mexican government, this is also an Agave spirit made from the same species of agave used to make several Mezcals and is made totally naturally without any additives whatsoever. As a result, the product is very pure and causes no hangover!

Q2.What are the variants?

Currently we have a reposado that has been aged in ex-bourbon barrels out in the market. We are also launching a Rosa, an Anejo and an Extra Anejo in the near future.

Q3.How did you think about an Agave spirit? not Gin or any other?

Since I own bars, I saw the writing on the wall. While gin is still popular, people have started looking for something new in the craft spirit space. I noticed that in the last year and a half a lot of taste makers and influencers themselves have started opting for 100% Agave spirits, mainly because they are full of character and low in calories. Hence I decided to try my hand at something new–a 100% Indian-made high quality agave spirit.

Q4.What is the maturation process and time?

Each variant is matured in a different way–using different barrels and for different periods of time. We follow the standard ageing times for the variants. Our reposado is aged for anything between 2 and 5 months in ex bourbon barrels, while the Rosa will be aged for approximately one month in a ex-KRSMA cabernet sauvignon wine barrels. The Anejo will be aged for over one year in oak barrels and the extra anejo will be aged in ex bourbon & new oak barrels for over 3 years!

Q5.How do you fetch your raw materials?

We work with partners who help source the agave from the deccan and distill it there. We have also tried and tested several different types of bourbon barrels that we have imported, experimented with the char levels and blended the product carefully to make sure the spirit is smooth and rich and lovely to drink.

Q6.What are the bottlenecks you faced while launching this spirit? The Geograhical conditions as well as policies.

The biggest challenge we have faced so far is the differing policies of each state. As a small independent craft brand, we are navigating the many regulations of each state, figuring out how to cost our product and working on price structures that are competitive yet fair.

Q7.What is your volume of production?

We are ramping up to produce 10k cases this year and 20k cases next year.

Q8.Where is it available and at what price?

The reposado is currently available in Goa for 2985 and in Delhi for 3320 for 700ml bottles