Camikara Rum has become a trailblazer in the Indian rum industry, redefining the nation’s taste for premium spirits. As the first and only 100% pure cane juice rum, Camikara has taken the alcoholic beverage space by storm. Combining traditional craftsmanship with modern techniques, Camikara Rum has embarked on a remarkable journey of innovation. From the fertile sugarcane fields that blanket the Indian landscape to the meticulous production process, every bottle exudes a narrative of unwavering commitment and exceptional quality. Camikara Rum is also the first Indian rum to ever win a gold medal at the prestigious IWSC Awards 2023, with 95 points.
In an exclusive interview with Mr. Siddhartha Sharma, Promoter of Piccadily Distilleries renowned for its exceptional production of the illustrious Camikara Rum, we uncover the secrets behind their remarkable success story.
What was the idea behind the creation of Camikara Rum, and why did you choose to start with a 12 year old release?
The inception of Camikara Rum stemmed from a profound idea that embraced the realm of premiumization. Distilled in 2009, Camikara 12 was born as a result of our vision to delve into the art of malt whisky, complemented by our possession of a sugar mill. Inspired by this unique combination, we ventured into the distillation of sugarcane juice, carefully aging it in bourbon oak barrels. As fate would have it, these barrels found themselves inadvertently tucked away amidst the burgeoning production of our malt, awaiting their moment to shine.
The fortuitous turn of events occurred during the challenging period of the Covid pandemic, when we decided to create more space within our warehouses. In this process, we stumbled upon a remarkable discovery: a cache of distilled sugarcane juice barrels that had been inadvertently neglected, around 20% of which had even suffered the ravages of time, with dried-out contents and exposed metal hoops. Our curiosity piqued, we promptly procured samples for further examination, revealing a spirit of astounding potency, clocking in at 72% alcohol by volume.
My initial encounter with this spirit elicited a peculiar array of sensations. Yet, as I ventured forth to explore it once again, I discovered a captivating essence that defied conventional expectations. Uncertain whether it held greatness or folly, I sought the opinions of other industry leaders by sharing this unique liquid with them. To my delight, it garnered admiration and praise. Although a mere 6.6% of the original liquid remained, due to the significant loss incurred during the angel’s share, we recognized its irreplaceable value and resolved to bottle it.
In Sanskrit Language, the term “Camikara” symbolizes liquid gold, a name befitting the precious nature of our extraordinary creation. It was only after experiencing the magnificence of this liquid that we decided to embrace the world of rum, despite our primary focus on malt whisky. Though unintended, the angels themselves seemed to guide our path toward this venture.
Where is Camikara rum made, and could you provide details about the type of sugarcane used? Furthermore, do you prioritize yield or terrior when selecting sugarcane for your production process?
Camikara Rum takes its origins in Haryana, India, where our sugar mill is situated. During the winter season when the sugarcane harvest is in full swing, we allocate a month of downtime in our malt production to utilize our pot stills for distilling the cane juice. Our approach to distillation has taken various forms: one involves distilling the cane juice without any filtration, while the other incorporates a simple filtration process to remove husk and bagasse prior to distillation. This meticulous process takes place at our distillery located in Haryana.
To accommodate the production of rum, we have established a dedicated warehouse right across from our distillery. This space will also serve as our visitor center, allowing enthusiasts to experience our craft firsthand. For the aging process, we employ newly charred bourbon barrels, which we use only once, to impart distinct flavors to our rum.
In terms of terroir, our location in Haryana holds a significant influence. Situated near the Yamuna river, we benefit from an environment that deviates from the flat plains commonly associated with the region. The groundwater in our area is replenished annually by glacial water, lending a silky profile to our cane juice. Furthermore, our locality is renowned for having some of the finest water in the country, further enhancing the quality of our product.
As for the specific sugarcane variety used in our initial batch and still maintained today, we rely on COJ-36 which is a shorter and thicker variety. Despite a decline in yield, we remain committed to this particular variety. To ensure a consistent supply of sugarcane for our rum production, we engage in contract farming with trusted partners.
What was the influence behind using pure cane juice and pot stills and can you elaborate on your production process?
The decision to employ pure cane juice and pot stills in our production process was deeply influenced by the prevalent use of molasses to produce a low-cost and subpar spirit known as rectified spirit in India. This spirit lacked pleasant aromas and flavors, leaving much to be desired. In Punjabi, which is a regional Indian language, it was commonly described as “heek maardi aae,” meaning unpleasant on the nose. Recognizing the abundance of sugarcane available to us, we embarked on a different path, aiming to create something pure and distinctive, setting ourselves apart from the crowd.
Our pot stills, made entirely from 100% Dollar copper, are crafted in India. We utilize a 25,000-liter wash still and a 15,000-liter spirit still, employing a double distillation process. To ensure the highest quality, we carefully select the cuts at around 65-66% alcohol by volume before transferring the liquid to barrels. While we dilute it to 62.5% prior to filling the barrels, the strength may vary upon extraction. Due to the tropical climate and intense heat we experience, water evaporates at a faster rate, sometimes resulting in an increase in strength to 63-64%.
By opting for pure cane juice and employing pot stills, we strive to produce a rum of exceptional quality, harnessing the essence of sugarcane in its purest form, while ensuring a meticulous and precise distillation process.
As pioneers in the Indian rum industry, have you personally explored the world of Agricole rums? Could you share any experiences or insights gained from trying Agricole rum and how it may have influenced your own rum-making journey?
Our journey has been one of exploration and continuous learning. While we had already crafted our first batch before engaging with others, we have had the privilege of interacting with numerous individuals over the years who have shared their insights and experiences with us. Notable figures such as Maggie Campbell from Mount Gay and a certain gentleman in London, whom I prefer not to name, have played a significant role in expanding our horizons by introducing us to the world of Agricole rums.
Exploring Agricole rums was an enlightening experience for us. We discovered that Agricole represents a refined style of rum, in stark contrast to the molasses-based rums. It became evident that the Agricole style, without the addition of flavors or caramel, possesses a purity and elegance that truly does justice to the craft. Inspired by this revelation, we aspired to create a rum that captures the essence of its terroir, allowing the flavors to speak for themselves without any interference.
The exploration of Agricole rums has profoundly influenced our own rum-making journey. It has driven us to pursue a path that prioritizes purity and the expression of terroir in our creations. Our aim is to produce a rum that exemplifies the highest standards of craftsmanship, offering a sensory experience that is both authentic and unique. The knowledge and insights gained from our encounters with Agricole rums have undoubtedly shaped our approach, guiding us towards the creation of Camikara.
Could you share Camikara’s future aspirations and forthcoming strategies? Furthermore, we would love to gain some insights into your plans for upcoming 3 year old and 8 year old rum offerings?
Camikara has set its sights on a future filled with ambition and strategic vision. Central to our plans is a strong emphasis on education. In India, where the understanding of quality rums may be limited, we are driven to enlighten consumers about what truly defines a remarkable rum. It is our mission to transcend the perceptions shaped by past experiences, where rice-based or lesser-quality rums have dominated the market. We believe that through education, we can elevate the appreciation of rum, empowering individuals to discover the exceptional qualities and craftsmanship behind a truly high-quality spirit.
Furthermore, we are committed to utilizing our natural resources to create exceptional rums, including our forthcoming 3-year-old and 8-year-old offerings. These expressions will cater to a variety of palates and consumer preferences, ensuring that there is a Camikara rum for every discerning taste. We also aim to encourage more individuals to engage with the craft of rum production. We have access to an abundance of sugarcane in the country, allowing us to create our own category of rums that is distinct and independent of any other spirit.
The mantra we adhere to is “liquid to the lips.” Our primary focus is to encourage more people to try our spirits and experience their unique qualities. Through this hands-on approach, individuals will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rum category.
Regarding our upcoming 3-year-old and 8-year-old expressions, we are excited to introduce them to the market. The 3-year-old expression serves as an intermediary, aimed at introducing individuals to the rum category, especially those who may be unfamiliar with it. Additionally, it provides bartenders with an opportunity to explore and create their own unique expressions using our rum as a base. On the other hand, the 8-year-old expression is a superb sipping rum, crafted to deliver an exceptional experience to those who appreciate the nuances and complexities of aged spirits.
Is the Indian rum industry on the brink of a substantial surge in expansion, paving the way for a promising future?
Without a doubt, I firmly believe and hope that the Indian rum industry will experience a significant surge in expansion in the future. The signs are already apparent, as more and more individuals are awakening to the immense potential of rum production in India. We witness the emergence of new and exciting products from regions like Goa, and there is a growing curiosity among people who are engaging in conversations with blenders and distillers to understand the intricacies of the craft.
These discussions revolve around questions such as “What is it?” “How can we do it?” and “What is the process behind it?” This promising trend indicates that a wave of innovation and creativity is on the horizon. As someone who has traversed this path, I am eager to extend my support and share my experiences with anyone who seeks it. Together, we can contribute to the flourishing growth of the Indian rum industry.
Asim Raza is a Wines and Spirits professional with a WSET Level 3 certification in Spirits. With a comprehensive understanding of the spirits industry, Asim brings expertise and passion to his work. Connect with Asim via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his journey on Instagram @asimraza_ .