Couple's 'crazy' idea for distilling Wolverhampton gin
A gin distillery has been set up in the heart of Wolverhampton by a couple who gave up home and jobs in London to turn their 'crazy' dream into reality.
Bruce and Paramjit Nagra have got on board the British boom in gin sales by producing and selling what they believe is the world's first clear lassi-flavoured version of the spirit.
Wolverhampton-born Bruce worked as a building manager and his wife, who was born in West Bromwich, was a project manager for the Metropolitan Police. They first started the business in October 2016 in Croydon before returning to their home city in 2017 to start producing Crazy Gin.
They sold their home in London to move in with Bruce's mother in his home city.
The food-loving couple infuse the iconic yoghurt-based Punjabi drink with the British spirit out of a hi-tec distillery and bar, Crazy Co Distillery, on the edge of the Mander Centre in Victoria Street in the former Costa Coffee premises.
Their dream was to create an alcoholic drink that reflected and celebrated their British-Asian identity.
Bruce and Paramjit's first premises in the city centre were in Victoria Passage and the business moved to its current home in June last year. The premises licence for serving alcohol came through in October.
Crazy Co Distillery is open to the public Thursday and Friday 5pm to 11pm and on Saturdays between 12 noon and 11pm.
It is also available by appointment at other times so groups of people can come in and watch the distilling process and experience tasting sessions.
"We think that what people want on the High Street now is to have an experience and we aim to offer that," explained Bruce.
The couple say the exotic drink, which they also sell online, is the world's first clear lassi. They started distilling their own gin and flavourings after teaching themselves the process after a supplier pulled out.
Bruce and Paramjit are producing about 200 bottles a week and as well as serving the gin up in the own bar they supply it to exclusive shops like Harvey Nichols as well as Michelin-rated restaurants including the Cinnamon Club in London. IT retails at £39.95 a bottle.
Celebrity chefs including Sat Bains and Heston Blumenthal have raved about Crazy Gin on social media and hip-hop and grime musician Tinie Tempah contacted the couple to provide drinks for a music event.
"It's about expressing our Indian and British heritage through an alcoholic drink, " said 40-year-old Bruce.
"It all began one tipsy Friday night when we started talking about our passion for food and how the trend is towards fusing Indian and British flavours," he explained
"We began to reminisce about the foods of our childhood, which was always an eclectic mix of Indian and British cultures. Recipes like spicy baked beans with onions and butter or a spam curry.
"So we wondered why had there been no similar attempts with a drink."
Paramjit, aged 39, said: "As the night wore on we thought how can we push the boundaries and decided we wanted to create a British-Indian alcoholic drink because it reflected our joint heritage and had never been done before."
The couple settled on gin as the most suitable alcohol base for the Indian yoghurt-based drink.
"People were telling us its impossible to distill alcohol and lassi but we eventually found someone who had created a cream gin," added Bruce.
They had tried eight different versions before opting for ingredients of black pepper, cumin and turmeric, with yoghurt and coriander and pomegranate for sweetness along with clarified butter or ghee.
"My mother said we were crazy but that just gave us motive to prove everyone wrong and provided the inspiration for the name Crazy Gin," said Bruce.
"Paagal – the Punjabi word for crazy – was the politest thing she called us when she learnt of our plans," he added.
The couple, who aim to offer a unique gin experience, have invested thousands of pounds on hi-tec distilling equipment including a rotary evaporator.
Ingredients are added one by one to make sure every bottle had a consistent and smooth taste.
Crazy Gin is vacuum-distilled to enhance the flavours of the fruit lassi.
Spices are marinated in a gin spirit base for three days, filtered and then distilled under pressure and centrifugal up to 40 degrees with yoghurt, using the rotary evaporator.
By-products from the distilling process included gin-flavoured ghee and other super-concentrated flavourings and essences that can be used in all types of cooking.
"Our next step is to launch new products to sell to the public and trade as Crazy Co," said Bruce.
They include atomizers for the trade and home users and a flavour kit that can be used in any kind of spirit or cocktail
Crazy Co will also be running a competition aimed at bar tenders.