More so that any other spirit, gin has the ability to capture the flavours of a region. Because, aside from its defining flavour of juniper berries, there are no hard and fast rules on what botanicals can go into the spirit. The Japanese have dived in using local botanicals, with Roku Gin, Nikka Coffey Gin and Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin gaining popularity and curiosity around the globe, thanks to the nuances of yuzu, sansho pepper, gyokuro tea and so on. Now, Singapore is putting a South-east Asian spin on the trend.
Jamie Koh, founder of Chupitos Shots Bar and The Beast Southern Kitchen & Bourbon Bar, has finally realised her dream of becoming a distiller with the opening of Brass Lion Distillery, Singapore’s first standalone micro-distillery. Its debut product, the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin, contains 22 botanicals, with all but the juniper berries (which are imported from Macedonia) sourced from within 5km of the distillery’s location in Alexandra Terrace. These include herbs and spices like torch ginger flowers, lemongrass, chrysanthemum flowers, pomelo peels, angelica root and galangal. But making a good gin isn’t a simple case of gathering ingredients that sound delicious together. Koh enrolled in a distilling school in the US in 2012. Subsequently, she went back to the US every year for three years, looking for an apprenticeship.
She found one in Charleston, South Carolina, and eventually another in Germany’s Black Forest. By 2015, she was ready and began the process of getting the proper licences to open an outfit here. While the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin is available for preorder on www.brassliondistillery.com, here’s what went into the distillery, the first of its kind in Singapore.
Local gins that come with unique Asian flavour.
01 TANGLIN ORCHID GIN
Based in Mandai, this distillery uses two types of orchid in its gin – the powdered form of the dried stalk of the Dendrobium nobile (famous for being one of nine “immortality herbs” in Chinese medicine), and the vanilla orchid, which adds richness to the flavour. Another prominent botanical is the Indian amchoor, a dried powder made from unripe mangoes which gives the gin a prominent citrus note. www.tanglin-gin.com
02 PAPER LANTERN SICHUAN PEPPER GIN
From its distillery in Chiang Mai, the Singapore-based Paper Lantern Distilling craft spirits company uses Thai rice for its base spirit (relatively uncommon in the gin world) and combines botanicals like Sichuan peppercorns, makhwaen (prickly ash seeds), lemongrass, ginger and galangal with juniper for a gin that is spicy and fresh. Longan berry honey is added at the end for just a hint of sweetness. A gin unlike any other. www.drinkpaperlantern.com
Photo: Paper Lantern Gin