When they first opened and gifted us with their flagship Singapore Dry Gin in 2018, the folks from Brass Lion Distillery made history by being Singapore’s first micro-distillery. It remains the only distillery here the public can visit, go on tours, have a tipple, and even make their own gin. Not resting on their laurels, they’ve now embarked on a very sacred quest to produce Singapore’s very first whisky, a single malt no less.
On a hazy September 14, 2019 Saturday afternoon, an ex-bourbon barrel specially imported from Four Roses in Kentucky was filled with new-make spirit, and thus the ageing process in Singapore began.
To make this a truly Singaporean endeavour, Brass Lion partnered with The General Brewing Co., a local brewery where familiar brands like Daryl’s Urban Ales and That Singapore Beer Project is made, to have the wash produced. The wash (made from malted barley mash and fermented using a special yeast blend) then goes through pot still distillation at Brass Lion, resulting in roughly 180 litres of new-make spirit. This is the colourless (but already super tasty) liquid that goes into the barrel for ageing.
The people from The General Brewing Co. and Brass Lion Distillery posing for a photo on Sep 14, 2019, when the barrel was filled. The other barrel will be used to age gin.
They’re letting it age in a non-controlled environment, meaning Singapore’s climate and all its ambient features—a Singaporean terroir, if you will—will affect how the whisky will eventually turn out. It’s slated to age for about three years, though “it’s ready when it’s ready,” says the organisers. It should be pointed out that ageing in a tropical climate means maturation in the barrels is accelerated, so a three-year age statement in Singapore’s terms shouldn’t be interpreted the same way as Scotch.
As for how it will taste like, nobody really knows, as this has never been done before. But distiller Javin Chia (the one squatting in the photo) hopes it’ll adopt a similar flavour profile to Ben Nevis Scotch, a favourite of his. No name has been given to the Singapore-made whisky yet.
Given the evaporation (aka Angel’s Share) after said amount of years, only about 300 500ml bottlings will eventually emerge, making this a very exclusive product. Plus, only one barrel is being produced right now, with no current plans to increase production. We’ll just have to longingly await the birth of Singapore’s first whisky come 2022.