Maka Zai, A New Rum Takes Flight
Man's World|March 2021
Gin might be the trendy flavour among alcohol entrepreneurs these days, but one woman is betting on rum
Vikram Achanta

Kasturi Banerjee worked in financial services for 14 years, and her journey from banker to bartender started in 2019. Her fascination with bartending and drinks led her to throw herself headfirst into the field by embarking upon a three-month bartending course, and along the way doing an internship at KOKO, the Asian-themed gastro bar in Mumbai’s Lower Parel.

Her diversity of background, coupled with her evident love and passion for the bar space, led to an automatic choice to be a jury member for 30 Best Bars India 2019, which is where our paths first crossed. We stayed in touch off and on after that. I then became aware of the plans for her next metamorphosis, from bartender to blender.

Whisky is/was a key area of passion, and after her bartending course, she began mentorship stints, wherein she could educate diverse groups of people on whiskies from around the world. Tasting myriad spirits and learning about storied brands led her to delve deeper into these spirits' production. She was able to strike up a relationship at a leading Indian distillery, which allowed her to have an internship there. The bug of creating her own brand was now very firmly planted.

The next question was what to create, and this is where her love for matured and aged spirits, like rum and whisky, kicked in. Globally murmurings about a Rum Renaissance were in the air. In India, bartenders were keen to add flavourful spirits like rum to their ever-expanding cocktail menu.

With the germ of two products in mind and some hands-on experience in understanding the craft of a blender under some expert mentorship, Banerjee incorporated a company called Stilldistilling Spirits, and began working on product development.

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