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, the reimagined goddess of Agave.
Dhariwal, who runs Passcode Hospitality—the group that runs successful bars and restaurants such as PCO, Saz and Ping’s Orient Cafe across multiple cities in India—is using his intel about India’s drinking habits gleaned from years of running an F&B business.“I see the demand for the spirit increasing across our bars and with the lockdown, sourcing premium liquor from abroad was becoming a challenge. We have the raw materials growing in profusion in our backyard, so I thought why not attempt to make a top class, quality product that we can serve at our outposts?,” says Dhariwal. “Sure, everyone is drinking gin right now, but tequila and mezcal is what everyone is going to be drinking in the next five years,” he says. Across the board, the consensus on agave and Mezcal seems to be growing. It isn’t just a coincidence that The Rock, Kendall Jenner and George Clooney, have all placed bets on the spirit in the recent past.
Pistola will eventually be available in three variants: 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. Even on a moderately humid Mumbai evening, the reposado goes down quickly, with no traces of the ghosts of tequilas past. In the pipeline is the smoky agave, with notes of white pepper, grass and honey, and the añejo, with cooked agave, cocoa, honey and butter.
“The great thing about agave is that it’s very suitable for the Indian palate, as it has a hint of sweetness. This also makes it superb for pairings, since we use so many spices in Indian cooking,” explains Dhariwal.
Pistola will be available in Goa at Rs2,695 for 750ml