The craft cocktail culture continues to grow in Singapore’s dynamic drinks scene and so has the demand for premium artisanal spirits. Local entrepreneurs are paving the way with innovative products such as made-in-Singapore gins distilled from honey and gula Melaka, and spirits that are infused with familiar Asian botanicals. We round up five Singapore-based craft spirit labels that are the toast of the town.
Compendium is the brainchild of the same people behind Rachelle The Rabbit Meadery, which makes Singapore’s first locally-produced mead — an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with water. While gin is traditionally made with a base liquor distilled from grains, the base for Compendium’s very local Rojak Gin and Chendol Gin is distilled from fermented honey. Juniper, lemon peel and torch ginger give the Rojak Gin its distinct flavour evocative of the local hawker dish while the latest Chendol Gin, named after the coconut shaved ice dessert, is distilled from gula Melaka instead of honey and re-distilled with pandan leaves, coconut and juniper.
Singapore’s first gin distillery launched its label in June 2018 with its maiden Orchid Gin which combined traditional gin botanicals with Asian ingredients like Angelica root, amchoor (mango powder), the dried stems of dendrobium orchids and vanilla pods, actually the fruit of a species of orchid. The Orchid Gin bagged a Silver medal at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition in November 2018 and, in March this year, it won the prestigious Silver Award at The 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Tanglin Gin’s second expression is the Mandarin Chilli Gin, a citrusy blend of Kampot black pepper, kaffir lime leaves, mandarin peel, young ginger and chilli alongside its signature botanical of dendrobium orchid.
Established in late 2018 shortly after Tanglin Gin, home-grown craft distillery Brass Lion burst onto the local drinks scene with its Singapore Dry Gin, a concoction of 22 botanicals that are found in many Asian dishes, including torch ginger flower, mandarin peel, angelica root, galangal and lemongrass. Brass Lion also produces the Pahit Gin, a pink Angostura bitters-tinged gin, and the Butterfly Pea Flower Gin, which sports a blue hue. Aficionados can also attend distillery tours at its 4,000-square-feet industrial warehouse space in the western part of Singapore and get up close with Nala, the distillery’s gleaming German copper still that’s nicknamed after the Lion Queen in the Disney film.
The Orientalist Spirits
Based in Singapore with distilleries in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Tibet, where its ingredients are from, The Orientalist Spirits produces Asian expressions of vodka and gin. The Orientalist Origins Vodka is made with organic longan honey from South-east Asia, Tibetan highland barley, nine varieties of premium potato and soft Japanese spring water from Kagoshima, while the Star Vodka is infused with tropical starfruit. The Orientalist also produces several expressions of gin including The Orientalist 23, The Orientalist Dragon and the Gunpowder Gin, each with unique combinations of Asian botanicals.
Cachaça is a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice that features most prominently in Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha. Launched exclusively in Asia by a Singapore start-up in 2014, Maracatu’s cachaça is handcrafted in small batches in a boutique distillery in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The distillation process is based on time-honoured techniques in a copper pot still and the spirit is rested in stainless steel barrels for two months before being bottled as a premium product with no additives added.