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31.07.2017

It’s appropriate that this bottle of mead comes to us on a Sunday morning, a slot once reserved for Mahabharat on TV. We take a sip of the intoxicant and float straight into a scene above the clouds where gods sip from golden goblets and hang with apsaras wearing sequined spangled bras.

 
“That’s mead they’re supposed to be drinking,” Rohan Rehani tells us, adding that honey alcohol is one of the oldest fermented beverages known to man – it pre-dates agriculture – with mentions in Vedic texts and Viking folklore. We take another big sip from our bottle, notes of Kashmiri apple making up for missed Sunday brunch.
 
Rohan and his business partner Nitin are the founders of Moonshine, the country’s first meadery. Located between Lavasa and Pune, Moonshine will ship pints into Mumbai and Pune bars starting next month. Rohan and Nitin are both former consultants, which makes their poetic descriptions of “gilded bee hives falling into fresh rain water, and drunken bees buzzing over wild flowers” a bit out of place.
 
It must be all those experiments with mead. We lift the golden honey haze off Rohan and Nitin, so they can talk facts.
 
“In 2014, we began experimenting with the idea of mead and in 2016, we signed the lease to our meadery."

What does it taste like? “Mildly sweeter than a chenin blanc, with notes of honey and Kashmiri apples."

Rohan recently returned from an internship at the Colony Meadery in Pennsylvania, but he and Nitin have no other former experience in mead-making. Over the last three years, they’ve conducted trials of sweet meads and dry ones; meads that taste like chocolate-orange; jamun; aam panna and kala namak; others that smell of pomegranate and vanilla. “My favourite is the lemon-mint which smells like a mojito, tastes like wine and feels like beer,” says Nitin, explaining that aromas, tastes and textures depend on when ingredients are added during the fermentation process.

Despite these experiments, which will surface as small-batch meads, Moonshine’s big launch will involve just one flavour: honey-apple mead with 9% alcohol (they are licensed to go up to 21%) . What does it taste like? “Mildly sweeter than a chenin blanc, with notes of honey and Kashmiri apples.” 

The Moonshine boys currently source their honey from North India, but are looking for local sources in Maharashtra, and eventually plan to cultivate 500 hives on their property so they can produce honey in-house.
 
Rohan and Nitin will also offer Moonshine meadery tours with bee keeping classes and tastings. “The joke is that the best way to get people to make a pit stop here on their way to and from Pune, is to have sparkling toilets,” Rohan grins.
 
With Moonshine almost ready to launch, it will pay to be friends with Rohan and Nitin, who will have a stash of bottles for gifting purposes. “But the best part of the present is only realised the next day. Mead comes with no hangovers,” they promise. That’s probably too tall a claim – they underestimate our dinking capacities – but there’s only one way to find out. Mead marathon next month?
 
Getting there: Moonshine Meadery, launches in a month but meanwhile follow them on Instagram at @moonshinemeadery or email rohan@moonshinemeadery.com for inquiries.

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