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Interviews

Know Your Distillers: Harish Lokesh

Mastering the Craft: A Journey into Distilling with Harish Lokesh

Meet Harish Lokesh, a passionate chemical engineer turned head distiller and distillery manager at Living Root Beverages. His journey into the world of distilling began during his college years, sparked by a friend's simple complaint about the lack of appealing drinks on the shelf. Motivated by his background, Harish ventured into the art and science of distillation, leading him to become a key player in the ever-evolving spirits landscape.

Harish shares his experiences, insights, and challenges in this insightful interview as a distiller. Join us as we explore the world of distillation through Harish's discerning eyes, unraveling the secrets behind creating exceptional spirits and navigating the complex, ever-changing landscape of the spirits industry.

Tell us a little about your background and journey into distilling.

Chemical engineer graduate batch of 2021, my journey into distilling started while I was pursuing my bachelor's degree. 2022 there came about an opening for a gin distiller at Amrut Distilleries Pvt Ltd. That marked my entry into the industry.

Your current role and what does your day look like?

I’m currently the Head distiller and distillery manager at Living Root Beverages. My day-to-day involves a lot of overview of the distillery process. From production to bottling. Although I make sure to invest adequate time into R&D in uncharted territories.

What inspired you to become a distiller?

A dear friend complained that none of the drinks on the shelf appealed to their palate. I figured being a chemical engineer I could fix this. That sparked my interest for me to become a distiller.

What are some of the most important skills for a distiller?

Sensory skills are an absolute necessity
Effective communicative skills
Ability to improvise and adapt.
Strong management skills

How do you think a distiller can help in driving marketing and sales personally?

I have personally been involved in various marketing campaigns across the products I’ve made and to be the person literally standing behind the counter and the bottle shows a patron that the distiller has a sense of consideration for the patron's time, it sends a message of care, interest and assurance of utmost quality by the person who has made it. I truly believe every distiller must stand behind the liquids they make for it is their work that speaks volumes, and that can make or break a brand.

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Define a good distiller.

A person who is true and honest about their work, a person whose intention is as clear as the spirit they distill yet flavourful.

What is the hardest part of a distiller's job?

I think it’s the sensorial aspect, it’s a highly subjective matter.

What are the current challenges the spirits industry is facing according to you?

In India, there is a lack of structure regarding rules and regulations of what a spirit should be.
Distilleries tend to bend rules as per their will, but they bend them so far that they break them. The lack of checks and balances is a CONCERNING issue, if there are none then the patrons are the ones to suffer as they are deceived about the truth of the product.

What skill or topic you are learning currently and why?

Sales, I intend to become a master distiller. For one to become a master distiller they have to accomplish mastery in the following fields.

- Product ideation and R&D
- Scale up and backend operations
- Marketing 
- Sales

I’ve accomplished 3 out of the 4.

What is your idea of a good life?

To be able to live healthy, to grow, to help others around you grow as well.

Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?

A neat glass of whiskey with a cigar and some dark cocoa on a cool Bangalore day, sitting by a lake overlooking the sunset.

Your favorite 2-3 distilling or spirits books?

Whiskey and spirits for dummies, the art of distilling.

What do you look for in a supplier when sourcing bulk spirits / NGS if you do?

NGS liquid data,
Grain source - single-grain, multi-grain
ABV - 96% is ideal
Sensory evaluation for any off odours and taste
Take us through your process of blending.

It’s an extensive process,

- To first evaluate the samples at different ABV
-  then comes the aspect of selecting a particular liquid for the blend.
-  blending 2 liquids to build a foundation, acting essentially as the base note flavour profiles.
-  then comes the intricate process of layering down the complexity without compromising the richness of the top note on the nose.

Although the method remains the same one can achieve various blends resulting in different profiles.

How do you take care of production waste?

We treat the production waste in an ETP the residuals from the ETP are used as manure.

What steps do you take to become more sustainable?

Energy conservation is the goal.
Solar-powered heat for the still is something we need to consider. Reduces stack emissions if at all there is a boiler set up.
Optimise distillery piping lines, these are usually unseen hindrances and a sink for energy loss.

What trends do you anticipate in the beverage industry in the coming months? Where do you see the domestic craft distilling scene going? What's next for the industry?

Craft distilling can be great from the perspective of the patron but not necessarily for the different distilleries making the product.
The craft distilling scene has over-saturated the market. For companies to compete in such a scenario is difficult.

International and Domestic Submission deadline is February 22. If you are looking to grow your brand in 2024, looking for product feedback, or looking to get in front of real trade buyers. It's time to enter your brands in the London Competitions. Here's how to enter, costs and benefits.

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