My wife and I were travelling in Meghalaya a few weeks ago. We visited Shillong and then we went to Cherrapunji in the East Khasi hills. These were mesmerising locations, with stunning caves, waterfalls and lakes. I recalled Cherrapunji from my school geography books, where it had been showcased as the wettest place on earth. This town draws over a million visitors who come to see the rain.

Cherrapunji Gin

Later that evening, we were wandering around the Police Bazaar area of Shillong, and dropped into a liquor store. Amongst all the well known brands, we noticed something very new and different. A very colourful metal bottle, with interesting graphics that appeared to be inspired by the forests of Meghalaya. The bottle said – “Cherrapunji Gin”.

As I read the label, what struck me as unique was the list of ingredients that go into this gin — the most prominent of these being rainwater from Cherrapunji. Rainwater is harvested in Mawsynram, the sister town of Cherrapunji, using stainless steel tanks. It is then filtered twice and used to produce the gin, blended with a number of local botanicals such as the Khasi mandarin and the sohmarit wild peppers that give it wonderful spicy, citrus notes.

Cherrapunji Gin

Cherrapunji Gin

In essence, this gin brings to consumers the flavours of Meghalaya, and, very importantly, the experience of drinking in the rains of the wettest place on earth. I was informed that the initial response to Cherrapunji gin has been very positive. We also took two bottles back to our home in Bangalore!

Bottled rain

This encounter prompted a new curiosity in my mind. Has rainwater been actively used by other marketers and brands?

The answer is yes, and there is a lot of headroom for even more use. For instance, in some countries, bottled rainwater is now marketed as a cost-effective and natural alternative to conventional purified water. Brands such as Oregon Rain (in the US) and Cloud Rain (in Tasmania) have entered the marketplace. Rainwater harvested in unpolluted areas has none of the after-taste of other waters, primarily because it is nitrate free and has low mineral content. It is also filtered before bottling, to ensure complete purity. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before Indian brands of bottled water introduce their own rainwater variants.

Mitti Attar and Perfumes

Yet another category where rainwater has inspired brands is perfumes. The town of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh is famous for “Mitti Attar”, a perfume that captures the distinct smell of the first rain mixed with soil. This smell, also called Petrichor, is generated by using a centuries old technique that uses both rainwater and soil. A slow and complex distillation process is used to make the highly valued “Mitti Attar” that has received a GI (geographical indication) status.

Leading brands of perfumes across the world have tried to capture the scent of rain. For instance, Marc Jacobs markets a perfume that is simply called “Rain”, which brings its users the smell of fresh summer rain tinged with freshly cut grass. The perfume has watery notes which celebrate tropical rain. Other rainwater themed brands include “In the Rain” by Floraiku of Paris, and Demeter Petrichor which is full of the earthy scent of soil drenched in rain.

Emotions of rain

Why do consumers choose these rainwater inspired products? Perhaps the most fundamental reason is that most of us have a very positive lifelong relationship with rain. We have beautiful memories of rain from our childhood days, including getting wet in the monsoons. We have equally fond snapshots in our mind, either real or imagined, of romance in the rains. We love sipping a hot cup of masala chai on our balconies, watching the rain come down. We know that rain fills our rivers and lakes, and nurtures our land. We experience many of these positive emotions when we use any product that explicitly contains rain water.

This is fertile ground for marketers. For instance, can we think of soaps and shampoos that contain rain water, or gourmet restaurant dishes prepared using filtered rain? In a completely different space, could jewellery or garment or accessory brands celebrate rain through designs inspired by rainfall, raindrops or moisture laden clouds? This is just the start of a long wet list. Marketers in many categories will benefit by saying - Rain, rain, come again.

(Harish Bhat is an avid marketer and bestselling author. He was previously the Brand Custodian at Tata Sons. These are his personal views.)