Singapore, Drinks –
JAMIE KOH, SIMON ZHAO and VIC RAM, and expats TIM WHITEFIELD, ANDY HODGSON, CHARLIE VAN EEDEN AND CHRIS BOX, brave the road less travelled to create their own gin labels that are proudly Singapore-Made
ROJAK GIN AND CHENDOL GIN
Compendium distiller brings Simon Zhao and Vic Ram together to produce Singapore gins that call to mind favourite local foods
IMAGINE THE COCKTAILS you could come up with using Singapore-made gins with names like Rojak Gin and Chendol Gin. These gins are also very good on their own as they are mellow and have intriguing flavours born of tropical Singapore and its exciting local food.
Rojak Gin and Chendol Gin are produced by local distillery Compendium with Rachelle the Rabbit Meadery founder Simon Zhao and brand ambassador Vic Ram teaming up together. It took them about 9 months to come up with the desired results.
Rojak Gin has elements of torch ginger, juniper and lemon peel. And instead of using a neutral grain spirit as its base distillate it uses homemade mead (spirit made with fermented honey).
Chendol Gin calls upon the coconutty sweet iced dessert it is named after. More mellow with a creamier feel on the tongue than Rojak Gin, the main ingredients in Chendol Gin are pandan leaves, coconut and juniper. Here honey is swapped for gula melaka in its base distillate.
A chat with SIMON ZHAO and VIC RAM
As a Singapore based distillery we wanted the first two products to have a sense of Singapore pride.”
Just the name of your gins: Rojak Gin and Cendol Gin catch the eye of many Singaporeans and Southeast Asians with a touch of humour. How did you come up with the idea of creating these gins and giving them these names?
Rojak Gin: We decided the name based on the rojak flower, torch Ginger, and the mixed culture that we have in Singapore. Basically rojak means mixed.
Chendol Gin: Named after the favourite local dessert as it has all the ingredients that goes into the chendol – pandan, gula melaka, coconut.
What are the main ingredients in the respective distillates of Rojak Gin and Cendol Gin? And what are their character profiles?
Rojak Gin pays homage to local hawker culture. Our flagship product is a cacophony of flavours and scents that are at once recognisable. Distilled from fermented artisanal honey, the silky sipping gin is infused with three elegant botanicals – juniper berries, lemon peel and torch ginger. Upon uncorking the bottle, you will be greeted with a familiar Rojak aroma, which opens the palate to enjoy a beautiful blend of bright, fruity and layered botanicals with each sip.
Chendol Gin is the second in Compendium’s releases. It is a recreation of the familiar local dessert and perfectly balances both potent and subtle tastes. First fermented and distilled from gula melaka (palm sugar), this sweet and mellow sipping gin is then re-distilled with three complementing botanicals – juniper berries, pandan leaves and coconut. With a long and fragrant finish topped with lingering pandan and coconut notes, the Chendol Gin leaves a subtle and creamy after-taste. Soft, vibrant and reminiscent of childhood chendol desserts.
What cocktails work well with these gins and what would you garnish them with?
Rojak Gin: Negroni – Rojak Gin, Campari, Rosso Vermouth (classic); garnish with slice of orange
Memory Lane – Rojak Gin, Ice cream soda, peycaud bitters; garnish with grass jelly
Chendol Gin: Great Jack – Chendol Gin, Jackfruit & ginger soda, garnish with freeze dried jackfruit and mint leaves
Mango Curry – Chendol Gin, Campari, lemon Juice, mango & curry leaves syrup, ginger beer; garnish with curry leaves
How do you relax after a hard day at work? And what Singapore food do you enjoy?
Simon: After a hard day at work, we like to savour up and coming R&D products to perfect further. Hokkien Mee is a favourite local dish.
Vic: I like to head to a bar and enjoy my beer and a shot of tequila. Favourite local food would be assorted dim sum.
What advice would you give a young student who wants to create homegrown gin and other liquor the way you have?
Start by learning the basics, and from there let your imagination run wild and be proud of the culture we grow up in.
BRASS LION GIN
Managing director Jamie Koh first had the idea of a Singapore distillery producing Singapore spirits back in 2012
IN THE BRASS LION DISTILLERY at Alexandra Terrace huge custom-made copper stills from Germany are at work. There is an R&D lab, and a back garden, which grows many of the 22 botanicals that create an inspired Singapore character to the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin – galangal, pomelo peel, torch ginger flower, lemongrass, chrysanthemum flora and angelica.
Managing director Jamie Koh first had the idea of creating a Singapore gin back in 2012, when she was founder of The Chupitos Bar and The Beast Southern Kitchen&Bourbon Bar. Alcohol was in her blood, and she new the local bar scene, and was convinced a made-in-Singapore gin would work.
The young Singaporean travelled to the US and then to Germany to attend distilling courses, and knocked on doors in search of apprenticeships at distilling companies.
A master distiller in Germany worked with her to create Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin. The goal was a Singapore gin for Singapore’s tropical climate, made with Singapore spices and herbs with accent notes on citrus and juniper.
Today her fruits of labour are paying off, as her gin label is seen at many bars across town at a time when gin is a rapidly expanding force in the global drinks scene.
The Singapore Dry Gin is crafted with herbs and spices that were carefully selected to represent the cultural melting pot that is Singapore. Staying true to the traditional method of pot still distillation, we combine classic gin botanicals with Asian flavours.”
Managing director, Brass Lion Distillery
A chat with JAMIE KOH, managing director, Brass Lion Distillery
There are 3 Brass Lion gins available for sale now: What common flavour profile gives each a unique Singapore character?
The Singapore Dry Gin – Crafted with herbs and spices that were carefully selected to represent the cultural melting pot that is Singapore. Staying true to the traditional method of pot still distillation, we combine classic gin botanicals with Asian flavours such as the aromatic torch ginger flower and citrusy lemongrass to produce a smooth, vibrant spirit that is the quintessential expression of The Singapore Dry Gin.
Butterfly Pea Gin – A harmonious blend of classic gin botanicals and aromatic Asian flavours. Lavender, known for its calming properties, adds a floral top note to the gin. The gin’s deep, rich blue hue is derived from an infusion of the Butterfly Pea flower, a staple in local Peranakan cuisine.
The Pahit Pink Gin – Known in the Malay Archipelago as Gin Pahit (or “Bitter Gin” in Malay), this classic recipe has been updated and brought into the modern ages. Using The Singapore Dry Gin as its base, our version is enhanced with the addition of our very own house bitters made with 12 botanicals. Best enjoyed old school: on the rocks with an orange twist, or simply with your favourite tonic.
What Singapore food goes well with a Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin & Tonic?
Singaporean food generally pairs well with our Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin & Tonic because our cuisine is full of flavour and spices, and the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin & Tonic is citrusy and refreshing, which provides a nice counterbalance. Dishes like black pepper crab, rendang or laksa would all pair very nicely.
How do you relax after a hard day at work?
I usually end the day with just one drink.
What advice would you give a young student who wants to create homegrown liqueur and a distillery like you have?
I would advise them to do their homework and research before embarking on the project, as a project like this requires a significant amount of time and resources.
A team of expats creates the first Made-in-Singapore gin that pays homage to the city with its orchid botanicals
NESTLING IN THE LEAFY SUBURBS of Mandai you may catch the intriguing scent of juniper and orchid wafting in the air. Those are the botanical scents that come from the distillery of 100% Made in Singapore Tanglin Gin. Tanglin Orchid Gin was awarded Silver Medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC), where more than 3000 spirits were judged. The Gin also picked up the Silver Medal at the 2018 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition.
Expat founders Tim Whitefield, Andy Hodgson (both British), Charlie van Eeden (Dutch) and Chris Box (Australian) realised their dream and created Tanglin Gin, named after the neighbourhood with roots as a spice growing area.
We wanted to feature botanicals that were a mix of Chinese, Malay, Indonesian and Indian, with the obvious European Juniper. We initially shortlisted about 20 botanicals, narrowed it down to 15, swapped a few in and out and finally settled on 11. This took about 18 months, and at last count about 90 or so tests to get the right balance. The next flavour profiles are coming together a bit quicker, now that we’ve established our general flavour and distilling guidelines.”
First batch Tanglin Orchid Gin is a wonderfully complex, yet balanced and harmonious distillation that includes juniper, unripe mango, two forms of orchid – Dendrobium Nobile Lindl and vanilla bean, the fruit of the orchid vanilla planifolia – and organic oranges.
A chat with Tanglin Gin founders and creators
ANDY HODGSON, CHRIS BOX, TIM WHITEFIELD AND CHARLIE VAN EEDEN
A gin that is 100% distilled in Singapore is exciting for gin lovers all over the world. What makes Tanglin Gin ‘Singapore’?
We drew inspiration from Singapore’s history and its ties to the spice trade. When you think about Singapore’s connection to the spice route and how many botanicals would have passed through here on the way to London to make gin, it’s really amazing it has taken this long for Singapore to introduce its own gin! Our mix of botanicals sets Tanglin Gin apart from others – we call it an old world modern gin, as we’re combining traditional gin botanicals found in the oldest recipes with new flavours which truly represent Singapore, such as orchid.
What Singapore food goes well with a nice cold Tanglin Gin & Tonic?
A nice refreshing drink like a Tanglin & Tonic pairs well with spicy, flavourful food like laksa, mee goreng, chilli crab, curry – the possibilities are endless in Singapore.
How do you relax after a hard day at work?
Sit back, breathe and put our feet up, with a Tanglin cocktail of course! Our founding team are all naturally big fans of gin, and enjoying a Negroni or Tanglin & Tonic is a great way to unwind at the end of the day. We all love to try new gins as well – being knowledgeable about the category is hard work and involves a lot of tasting!
What advice would you give a young student who wants to create a homegrown liquor like you have?
Be prepared to spend time understanding the rules and regulations involved in creating a spirit. Be patient – it won’t happen overnight, but if you really want to make it happen, you’ll make it happen. If you have a dream, follow it. And get in touch with our team, we are happy to help! We got so much good advice from gin makers the world over, so we’re happy to pass it on.
Story by Carol Kraal. Feature photograph: ATLAS Gin Tonica courtesy of ATLAS BAR. Respective photographs courtesy of Compendium, Brass Lion Distillery and Tanglin Gin