The two biggest oxymorons in the Indian market are IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) and Blended Scotch. Nobody is sure what is Indian and what is foreign in IMFL. Blended scotch can have any amount of imported liquor, domestic liquor, and cheap molasses. In Feb 2017, India’s leading weekly Outlook magazine ran a cover story: “The 41,000 crore trick called IMFL” to reform some of the questionable, yet permissible industry practices but met with little success.
Molasses, a black tar-like residue, is an industrial waste and a byproduct of sugar processing. It is the main culprit for the hangover one gets after consuming cheap liquors, yet there is no mass movement to regulate it.
Goût de terroirs, the French word that talks about the natural harmony of climate, soil, water, and the people from a region are completely missing in the Indian food and beverage industry. Even today, most of the microbrewery hire foreign staff and import their entire requirements of hops, malt, and yeast. By constantly judging our product on western standards, we kill the possibility of innovation & freedom of expression.
Twenty years ago, when I first made my batch, there was very little information and awareness about fermentation at home. Fancy words like home-brewing were not even coined and the customer preferences were shifting from heirloom traditions to packaged food and beverages. This website is a small attempt to reverse this trend.
कर्म कर्ता क्रिया ||
This website is an effort to answer the reader: What, How, and When of home-brewing. This step by step practical guide is a mash-up of history, science, logic, and simple common sense. Firstly, a bit of history, background, and culture to create inquisitiveness. Then tons simple recipes to reassure the reader that the process is easy, simple, and fun. Finally, a lifelong quest to master the art of balancing the delicate sensory tastes and aromas. The science of, creating an impact on the final product by small tweaks in process or ingredients. Unlike a typical recipe website, designed for instant-noodle-chefs where readers measure-mix-brew, this is more like a guided journey to self-discovery. The readers should scientifically understand what they are doing and why. Enabling the readers to devise new ways to perfect the craft, innovate, and revive a food tradition is the motivation behind Arishtam.
About the Author
My first association with fermentation started twenty years ago when I made my first batch as part of a high-school project in 1999 and has stuck with me ever since. Under graduation from IIT Kharagpur allowed me to work cross-disciplinary and spend a lot of my time fermenting & trying to recreate Vedic brews. Masters at IIM Lucknow and an overseas semester in France gave me an opportunity to interact with various artisans, winemakers, pastis (fermented meat spreads), and other artists. Subsequently, I traveled to over 20 countries to gain exposure to various cultures, traditions, and choices made by locals there. All this helped me with a unique blended approach to food-craft which keeps them contemporary and yet in harmony with the culture and heritage.
My lifelong quest is the revival of our long-forgotten Indian heritage, traditions and restoring them to its rightful place. Here, at Aristam, we do not bombard the readers with jargons to make them snobs. Unlike food labels, there are no confusing terms or esoteric ingredients. The website tries to crystalize the ancient knowledge into the simple crux and then scientifically analyze the impact of each of the actions, processes, and ingredients. The goal is to enable the readers and to aid their food experiment by utilizing the available and affordable equipment and resources.
From France, I understood the value of tradition and presentation. Italy taught me the concept of the wine of natural harmony that occurs in a geographical biome. Germany taught me the subtle differences between the various spices and hops. Americans inspired me to be bold enough to take brewing not as a hobby but as a profession. South Korea with its kimchi, miso, and kombucha taught me the value of fermentation beyond recreation. China & Japan have perfected the art of honoring the traditions and blending them into something that the modern generation will revere. Enumerating further, Rwanda & Uganda taught me that using traditional rudimentary processes & equipment should not be a matter of shame but a badge of honor worth flaunting.
Nothing could have been achieved without the support, pep talk, and assistance of my family. My father has been the constant beacon in my life, guiding and challenging me all the time. My wife quit her job so that we could balance our social commitments. She has been the moral compass, which helped me to stay focused on a long-term vision. The path of self-discovery we chose was filled with challenges and perils.
Throughout my life, I have tried to absorb these nuggets of wisdom like a sponge. I have met people from different walks of life, learned from their experiences, and tried to incorporate them into my life. I still call myself an artisan, a learner, rather than a master.
The name Arishtam (freedom from injury/ disease) is borrowed from Vedas. Our Vedas and ancient literature describe fermentation at great lengths. They detail out ways to extract the essence from the herbs, ensuring that the nectar reaches every cell & rooh (the spirit) of the recipient without being denatured in the process. Western medicine typically boils the herbs in order to extract its essence and then use sugar syrup to mask its harsh tastes. Presently, homeopathy and many western medicines are altering their recipes to incorporate the tinctures. Like the Vedic Arishtam, they have discovered that alcohol is a good solvent capable of extracting the medicinal properties most efficiently from the herbs and has an uncanny ability to make the taste more palatable.
arishtam.com is a small initiative to enable fellow hobbyists to perfect their quest of this ultimate expression of one’s individuality. This website is especially for those food craft enthusiasts who understand the harmful effects of dyes, molasses, chemicals, and additives. Today the industry is laden with so many buzzwords and confusing marketing jargon that people get lost and end up over-complicating their consumption patterns. We will try to bust some of the myths, beliefs, and use a scientific process to help in making a more informed and balanced choice.