Akin to Tequila or Mezcal, meet this
India-made agave spirit called ‘Agavepura’ by Maya Pistola

Re-born out of a tragic blaze, this revolutionary spirit from the brains behind India’s Pass Code Hospitality group has taken India’s drink enthusiasts by storm, and they’re not stopping there.

10 May 2024

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Photo caption: Maya Pistola Agavepura is 100% pure agave and completely unadulterated | Photo credit: Maya Pistola

It was Christmas Eve of 2021 and Maya Pistola was on the verge of launching their first Agavepura product on the market — but it was not to be. Their distillery went up in flames on that fateful night. Still, it ironically only stoked the fire in the heart of Rakshay Dhariwal, owner of Pass Code Hospitality and Maya Pistola. He doubled down, or rather, quintupled down.

“We lost so much that we invested, but it allowed us to rebuild,” said Rakshay. “Just from our initial product testing and tastings, we received an overwhelming response to the work we were doing. So much so that instead of throwing in the towel, we rebuilt everything – five-and-a-half times bigger.” Since Maya Pistola’s rescheduled market launch of Agavepura in March 2022, things have only looked upwards.

 Photo caption: Restaurateur Rakshay Dhariwal, owner of Maya Pistola and Pass Code Hospitality. | Photo credit: Maya Pistola

What is Agavepura?

Made from the blue-green variety of the Wild Agave Americana plant which grows naturally in the highlands of India’s Deccan Plateau, Agavepura is similar to tequila and mezcal except for the fact that it is not made in Mexico, whose government legally owns those terms under Geographical Indications (GI) protection. The solution to this conundrum was simple and genius: to create a new category or brand of agave spirits in line with the industry trend.

“The trend we observed in agave spirits was purity. Some brands claim to be 100% agave, but out of that 100% you are legally allowed to use up to 1% additives – and that’s a significant amount which can alter the way a product tastes,” explained Rakshay. “We decided to coin the term Agavepura because it emphasises that it is 100% pure agave and completely unadulterated. We don’t use any additives, caramel colouring, or anything else that would change the look and taste of our product, or give consumers nasty hangovers the morning after.”

Photo caption: The various expressions of Maya Pistola Agavepura. | Photo credit: Maya Pistola

The Inception of Maya Pistola

Operating 18 bars and restaurants across India under his Pass Code Hospitality group, Rakshay was already privy to the growing demand for agave spirits in India, since 2016. That sat in his mind as a mere observation for four years, until 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic revealed it as a lucrative opportunity.

“During the pandemic, we (Pass Code Hospitality) started selling all our alcohol stock to pay salaries and other essential expenses. After the beer and wine were sold, the next thing to fly off our shelves were our high-end agave spirits. So that’s when I knew there was an inherent opportunity here with the plethora of agave that grows in India.

Why not make our own agave spirit in India?” Rakshay mused.

He got to work in March 2020, building a brand and fine-tuning the production process until the tragedy of the Christmas Eve fire. Out of this tribulation, a phoenix rose.

“Luckily, we had managed to save just a little bit that sustained us for about six months, so we’ve been in the market for about just over two years, since February 2022 when we launched in Goa,” shared Rakshay. Such was the response to their market testing that they decided to re-build the facility five-and-a-half times bigger to sustain a much higher volume than before, now distributing to regions across India and Asia. That was a move which took them a step closer to their vision of success.

Photo caption: Maya Pistola turned tribulation into opportunity with the Phoenix Anejo, inspired by the Christmas Eve fire in 2021. | Photo credit: Maya Pistola

The Vision and Success of Agavepura

“Our vision for Agavepura is to become India’s largest-selling agave spirit and to sell the Indian Agave story abroad. Specifically nowadays, with the success of craft Indian spirits, we want to pioneer this whole movement – not only for us but all quality spirits coming out of India,” explained Rakshay.

Validation for their work soon came in the form of industry recognition as Maya Pistola’s Anejo Agavepura took home the top “Master medal” at The DB & SB Spring Blind Tasting 2023 competition, while also receiving gold and silver medals in the 2024 edition. With a quality product in tow and just creeping onto the world stage, Maya Pistola quickly got the attention it deserved. In April 2024, multinational beverage conglomerate Diageo announced its purchase of 15% of Inspired Hospitality, the holding company for Maya Pistola through its Indian arm United Spirits. Maya Pistola’s Reposado and Joven expressions also won two stars each at the inaugural SOCraft (Spirit Of Craft) Awards 2024.

“The highest point for us was probably the fact that a company like Diageo, which is the number one spirits company in the world, approached us. They said they loved what we were doing and they’d love to be involved. I think it helps us tremendously in terms of strategy and getting their help when it comes to sales and distribution. It is also invaluable validation, they have not invested in too many – they have only invested in about 35 companies worldwide and it is a huge stage for a very small brand like ours to get noticed,” recounted Rakshay.

 Photo caption: Cocktails made with Maya Pistola Agavepura, Anejo 

Photo caption: Maya Pistola Agavepura, Extra Anejo. | Photo credit: Maya Pistola

Onward, Upward and Worldwide

Having made its mark in the industry, Maya Pistola has since unveiled several variants. Staying true to its mantra of 100% purity with no additives, these expressions are differentiated in flavour as they age in a variety of oaks and casks, such as ex-bourbon casks and ex-Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The Anejo is aged for over 14 months in Virgin American White Oak, while the newly launched Extra Anejo is aged for over 36 months in that same oak before finishing in ex-bourbon barrels.

Also on the cards in the near future for Maya Pistola is independence in its production process. Currently, they are working with two distilleries who process the agave plants until the double distillation stage on the Deccan Plateau itself, before it is shipped to Goa where it is aged, blended and bottled.

“The plan now is simple — to grow the brand as much as possible. Now is the right time for us to explore another distillery of our own that’s bigger and able to support our increased demand forecasts,” Rakshay shared.

With the spirits industry now sitting up and taking notice of Maya Pistola’s meteoric rise, it is only a matter of time before the world is sold on the Indian agave story.

Photo caption: The latest expressions of Maya Pistola Agavepura, where flavours are imparted from the oak barrels in which they age. | Photo credit: Maya Pistola

Author: Julianna Hedger

Julianna is a seasoned content specialist who started her writing career in unscripted television production and broadcast news at FOX Sports Asia and the Associated Press. She has since added various writing skills to her repertoire, such as long-form articles, SEO-driven blogs and social media copywriting. She is driven by her personal passions in content creation, food and sports media.

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