Jin Jiji: the heart and soul of India

2 maggio 2024

A land full of colors and fragrances, the desire to celebrate a country that is almost a continent in itself, a spirit incorporating unique botanicals - all of this is Jin Jiji, the gin from India. Ansh Khanna, one of its founders, tells us more about it.

India is the birthplace of herbs and spices that have swept the world with their huge variety ranging from intense to delicate and from spicy to sweet, and that are still widely used in cooking and even in medicine.

Gin & Tonic was also first created in India - a cocktail whose history is tightly intertwined with that of the country. Tonic water containing quinine was originally a medicine taken by British soldiers to combat malaria, with the addition of gin to improve the flavor. The mix turned out to be delicious, which brings us straight to Jin Jiji.

"The idea for Jin JiJi came to us during one of my stays in India," says Ansh Khanna, one of the two founders of the brand. “At the time I was working in the United States for an alcohol import company, which gave me the opportunity to sample interesting spirits from all over the world including many from India, but I had never seen an Indian gin. Then I started traveling the world to visit distilleries, and I immediately realized that India had a lot of botanicals and it could really be the best place in the world for gin, as in many ways it's the world's garden. Once back in India I started researching the different regions and their botanicals, which led to the creation of Jin JiJi.”

Jin JiJi was founded in 2019 by Ansh Khanna and Master Sommelier Ken Fredrickson, with the goal to encapsulate the unique flavors and magic of a country like no other in the world. The name Jiji comes from the Hindi word Jijivisha, meaning love of life

“The first step in getting our project off the ground was finding a production site,” explains Khanna. “As we had no background in spirit production this was the biggest challenge, but I am grateful I found experienced mentors who helped me with this.”

The place for the distillery was eventually found in Goa, a tiny state in western India home to a vibrant mixture of Indian and Portuguese cultures.

The desire to celebrate the flavors of India is naturally reflected in the care they put into selecting their botanicals.

Hand-picked Himalayan juniper forms the basis of Jin Jiji's botanical profile. The distillers first discovered it at a spice market in Delhi. At first they weren't sure just what it was and took it to the English Gin Guild, which confirmed it was juniper, but of a unique kind: "It has a more earthy, 'funkier' aromatic profile compared to traditional varieties."

As Ansh Khanna tells us, Jin JiJi was also the first gin to use tulsi, a local basil variety that plays a central role in Ayurvedic medicine known in Italy as "holy basil". 

"This plant is often considered the earthly manifestation of the goddess Tulsi. It's grown in most of India's home gardens and has a special place in many people's hearts."

In addition to the classic Jin Jiji India Dry Gin and its High Proof variant - the first Navy strength Indian gin - there is also a very special Darjeeling version made using Darjeeling First Flush (first harvest) tea. 

"We chose tea as the basic plant because India is home to the world's most celebrated geographical indication (GI) tea regions. Darjeeling was the first Indian product to obtain GI status and we believe that gin is a spirit capable of expressing its terroir."

This version features the addition of ginger, cardamom and cloves - the same spices used in Masala Chai Tea, a traditional Indian preparation.

As for the production process, the botanicals are macerated overnight. “This is followed by slow distillation in our 1000-liter Bain Marie copper still.” Copper reacts at the molecular level to produce a naturally crisp, smooth spirit. It helps eliminate volatile sulfur compounds during distillation, a process that ensures the purity of gin.

Jin Jiji's journey continues with a precise goal, summed up by Ansh Khanna:

"We hope Jin JiJi is increasingly a way for people to learn more about the history of India and its unique botanicals in the best bars in the world."