Joining the budding local crafts spirits scene is Singapore Distillery, an Ang Mo Kio-based distillery that recently launched in August with six signature gins inspired by Southeast Asia as well as a vodka.
The man behind the booze is Ashwin Sekaran, a certified distiller who apprenticed in distilleries in the UK and Australia. It made sense to him to start a distillery here because of how accessible and available fresh ingredients like spices, fruits, herbs and botanicals are in Singapore.
Sekaran sources many of these local and regional ingredients from markets around the island, and has crafted several of his gins around these familiar flavours. A clear favourite is the Coconut Pandan Gin – a flavour combination you almost can’t go wrong with, but also tough to produce in a spirit. Sekaran and his team distills the spirit with coconut hearts, a part of the coconut that grows inside the fruit when it is more mature, and pandan leaves. Coconut hearts are difficult to source, but Sekaran insists on using it to infuse a more intense flavour and aroma into his gin. The result is a fragrant and almost creamy spirit that can be enjoyed neat, or in tropical cocktails like a Piña Colada (with the gin in place of rum).
More Southeast Asian ingredients feature in the Lime Garden Gin, which is made with three types of limes: calamansi, key lime and kaffir lime. The aroma of kaffir lime comes through first, before the sweetness from the calamansi. We enjoyed this one neat, but Sekaran also suggests having it in a Gimlet.
The flavour that surprised us the most was the Singapore Sling Gin, made with ingredients found in the famous cocktail. While a Singapore Sling is not usually our drink of choice, we thoroughly enjoyed this gin with some tonic water and expect it works very well in cocktails. It is a bright and fruity blend of orange, cherries, angelica, pineapple and limes and also has herbaceous, floral notes.
A take on the Southeast Asian Bandung drink, the Stolen Roses Gin caught our eye for its intense red colour that changes to a beautiful bright pink once diluted. It is a natural hue that comes from a blend of roses sourced from Europe and around the region that are gently distilled with the gin. The spirit is then rested with the roses to pick up another layer of flavour and more colour. It is one of the sweeter gins in the range, which is also great for cocktails, and has a smooth finish.
For something more intense, go for the Kyuri Gin, made with fresh Japanese cucumbers and sakura flowers. The cucumbers are rested in the base spirit for 24 hours before being distilled, with additional cucumber vapour infused along with sakura flowers to preserve their fresh, bright flavours, which would made a great Martini.
Rounding off the core gin range is the Singa Gin, a classic London Dry Gin featuring a blend of 13 herbs and spices including juniper, cloves, mandarin orange, Ceylon cinnamon, Cassia cinnamon grains of paradise, angelica root, key lime, coriander, orris, cardamom, liquorice, and Sarawak pepper. The full-bodied juniper flavours holds its own in the gin, which is quite sweet and also considerably strong as it is designed to go well with tonic water or in cocktails like a Negroni.
We also tasted the Merlion Vodka, which has been distilled five times for a super smooth, clean and easy drinking spirit. Sekaran shares that a pineapple vodka is in the works, and plans to expand the range even more. No dates are set yet but judging by what we’ve tasted so far, they’ll be worth the wait.
Singapore Distillery’s gins can be purchased at singaporedistillery.com and are also available at selected bars and restaurants across the island.
(All images: Singapore Distillery)