In a drinks mar­ket in­un­dated with world-class spir­its, Don Men­doza explores the need for Sin­ga­pore-branded gins

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In a drinks mar­ket in­un­dated with world-class spir­its, where do the Sin­ga­pore-branded gins stand?

By in­dus­try stan­dards, the rules that de­fine and reg­u­late what gin is and how it is made are ar­guably one of the most re­laxed. Granted, pop­u­lar la­bels have over time helped de­fine the spirit’s tra­di­tional, or more com­mon, taste pro­files (or styles of gin), but un­like any other cat­e­gory of spir­its, gin con­tin­ues to inspire more cre­ative in­ter­pre­ta­tions. The last few years have been some of the most ex­hil­a­rat­ing for lovers of craft spir­its, in par­tic­u­lar this ju­niper berry-based op­tion. And it is pos­si­bly the same grow­ing sig­nif­i­cance of prod­ucts with prove­nance we have seen in the world of gas­tron­omy that has fu­elled a de­sire for more lo­cal gin. A few brands have made their mark in the past three years, but un­til the launch of Tan­glin Gin in June this year, there were no be­spoke gins dis­tilled in Sin­ga­pore. “The rise of gin (in Sin­ga­pore) is in my view di­rectly con­nected to the rise of cock­tails,” shares Andy Hodg­son, one of four brand own­ers be­hind the na­tion’s first lo­cally dis­tilled gin, which boasts the den­dro­bium or­chid among the 11 botan­i­cals care­fully cho­sen to “rep­re­sent the cul­tures and flavours of the city”, in­clud­ing co­rian­der seeds, liquorice root, cas­sia bark and am­choor (In­dian dried mango pow­der). “I guess we’ve seen for some time the de­mand in the lo­cal mar­ket for a gin (or even just a spirit) that Sin­ga­pore can be proud of and cel­e­brate on an in­ter­na­tional stage,” he con­tin­ues. The com­pany is also plan­ning to launch its sec­ond ex­pres­sion—one that its head dis­tiller Tim White­field has been plan­ning since the start. It has been dubbed the Man­darin Chilli Gin and they have al­ready be­gun “test­ing”. This, too, is tar­geted at a re­gional mar­ket, Hodg­son re­veals. “Tim has in the pipeline two other flavour pro­files, ” he shares. One is an in­ter­na­tional gin called Noir. The other will be

called The Botanic Gar­dens or The Gar­dens of Sin­ga­pore and is very much a work in progress.


De­spite the temp­ta­tion to be boldly cre­ative with the recipe, Tip­pling Club head bar­tender Joe Schofield af­firms that it is not only about cre­at­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with chef-owner Ryan Clift and Aus­tralian master dis­tiller James Young, Tip­pling Club launched, for the first time, its very own Sons of Tip­pling Gin in July. “We wanted to cre­ate a de­li­cious gin that peo­ple wanted to drink again; at the mo­ment, there are so many gins around us­ing wacky botan­i­cals for the sake of giv­ing them­selves a USP,” says Schofield, adding that in truth, not all of them are tasty. “We wanted a gin that could hold its own in cock­tails as well as in a hum­ble gin and tonic; the gin it­self is unashamedly cit­rusy with a bold tex­ture and a slightly higher ABV (al­co­hol by vol­ume),” he ex­plains, adding how th­ese fac­tors help the gin shine through other in­gre­di­ents in mixed drinks. Even so, it would seem that op­por­tu­nity to come up with some­thing uniquely de­li­cious re­mains all too ap­peal­ing for some, given that one would only need to en­sure that the flavour pro­file re­volves around ju­niper berries. Paper Lantern, for in­stance, was es­tab­lished with a fo­cus on Asian flavours and in­gre­di­ents. Founded by Simin Kay­han Ames and her hus­band Rick in 2013, it is a Sin­ga­pore com­pany and brand that dis­tils its gin in Chi­ang Mai, Thai­land. The Paper Lantern Gin, Ames ex­plains, has eight botan­i­cals in­clud­ing ju­niper berries, Sichuan pep­pers, makhwaen (a type of prickly ash re­lated to Sichuan pep­per), gin­ger, galan­gal and lemon­grass, while lon­gan berry honey is added at the very end, after the dis­til­la­tion process. “The gin’s very unique and that’s the goal,” she af­firms. “We wanted to cre­ate a gin that mat­ters and that stands out whether you’re tast­ing it neat or in cock­tails.” The gin was launched in May 2016 with the help of a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign, and the com­pany has since been grow­ing the busi­ness in Sin­ga­pore, get­ting the gin into ho­tels, bars, restau­rants and con­sumer fairs.


An­other unique as­pect of the Paper Lantern Gin is that Paper Lantern makes its own base spirit from rice, whereas most dis­til­leries, Ames says, pur­chase grain neu­tral spirit and start dis­till­ing the botan­i­cals with that neu­tral base. “We’re truly grain-to-glass: pur­chas­ing, fer­ment­ing and dis­till­ing the rice, and then start­ing the botan­i­cal dis­til­la­tion with that base,” she de­clares. But it is not the first lo­cal brand of gin with a fo­cus on a unique bal­ance of botan­i­cals inspired by the re­gion. Cre­ated to cel­e­brate the 100th an­niver­sary of the Sin­ga­pore Sling, Raf­fles 1915 Gin—a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Raf­fles Ho­tels & Re­sorts and Sip­smith, the pi­o­neers of London’s ar­ti­sanal gin re­nais­sance— fea­tures botan­i­cals of the Malaysian penin­sula. Jas­mine flow­ers, fresh pomelo peel, lemon­grass, Kaf­fir lime leaves, nut­meg and car­damom are dis­tilled along­side some of the clas­sic gin botan­i­cals found in the award-win­ning Sip­smith London Dry Gin. Launched in 2015, the Raf­fles 1915 Gin per­haps boasts one of the most uniquely ob­jec­tive marriage of two worlds, not to men­tion a ro­man­tic tale of serendip­ity to boot, as Sip­smith co-founder Sam Galswor­thy is re­lated to Sir Stam­ford Raf­fles. It is a great piece of his­tory to mull over drinks. But the beauty of th­ese gins has lit­tle to do with age. You don’t need to age gin. A new brand, how­ever, would need to have a great recipe and brass con­fi­dence, es­pe­cially if it were to de­but with a be­spoke gin. And that’s ex­actly what Brass Lion Dis­tillery, Sin­ga­pore’s first stand­alone mi­crodis­tillery, did last month with the launch of its Brass Lion Sin­ga­pore Dry Gin, which is made with 22 botan­i­cals that al­lude to the is­land’s unique lo­ca­tion and blend of cul­tures. Hodg­son, too, is con­fi­dent the num­ber of new gin fans will con­tinue to grow, but recog­nises that many lo­cal con­sumers would have grown up with dark spir­its and beer. “So we’re pro­vid­ing a choice rather than a re­place­ment,” he says. And good­ness knows how much we love be­ing spoilt for choice.


CEL­E­BRA­TORY TIPPLE Cre­ated to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the Sin­ga­pore Sling, the Raf­fles 1915 Gin also spot­lights uniquely South­east Asian flavours such as jas­mine, car­damom and Kaf­fir lime leaves, to name a few

THE IDEAL START Gin is a good start­ing spirit for many dis­til­leries as it doesn’t have to age, says Paper Lantern co-founder Simin Kay­han Ames

Year on year, gin con­sump­tion is grow­ing glob­ally, says Tan­glin Gin co-founder Andy Hodg­son, who thinks “it’s a shame that it has taken so long for a coun­try with such a gin her­itage to have one of its own” SPIR­ITED AWAY

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