With a name like Singapore Distillery, you’ll be forgiven if you’d think they have been around a long time.
But the fourth and newest entrant to the local distilling scene is a mere two-weeks old (at the time of publishing this article). They have come out swinging, debuting with not one, not two (not even three), but six craft gins to make up their core initial lineup.
Distilling from a compact space in Ang Mo Kio (with a warehouse in Jalan Senang), Singapore Distillery’s debut range is definitely making an impression. Each of their bottle’s colourful, expressive and eye-catching labels surely adds to that.
And given how the other distilleries in Singapore all launched with only one flagship gin when they first started, it’s certainly a bold move. But does more mean better? And why six?
“These six gins represent the core of what we want to do,” explains Ashwin Sekaran, the man behind Singapore Distillery. “When someone tries our gins, they have a variety. And let’s say they think one is not for them, now they’ve got another gin to try. There’s a gin for everybody.”
The former business manager who was doing a “9-5 job” in an unrelated industry, took the leap to open his own distillery here because of his passions. When the right investors came along, he dedicated roughly three years to study all about the trade, taking on two apprenticeships (in the UK and in Australia) along the way to get to where he is today.
Singapore Distillery’s setup in Ang Mo Kio
He is now a certified distiller, taking on the roles of General Manager and Head Distiller at Singapore Distillery. It also became apparent to him during his time overseas, that distilling in Singapore has its advantages.
“Fresh oranges, spices and limes are so common in Singapore. In the UK, sourcing for fresh ingredients can be hard and only when they can get their hands on them. So it just made a lot of sense to be making full use of Singapore’s abundant access to fresh ingredients,” he said, as he poured out a sip of his Lime Garden Gin.
It’s one of his core products, one that proudly makes use of three different types of limes to make. Tasting it, you get a big citrusy lime punch, but still nuanced with layers of botanicals to balance things out. The Lime Garden Gin is great for making a Gimlet with, Ashwin points out.
But it’s his Singa Gin, his take on the classic London Dry style, that he worked hardest on to get right. Afterall, classic styles are often the most demanding.
“This gin is very classic London Dry, but I made it a little stronger so that when you use it to make a Negroni, or make a Gin & Tonic with a lot of tonic in it, you can still taste the gin. It’s quite citrus forward, so I think it’ll go well with a Negroni as it blends well with Campari,” he adds.
Ashwin emphasises that his other five gins “are not simply variations of my London Dry.”
“They are all unique formulations, standalone products in their own right. The only similarity they share are the core ingredients, like juniper, angelica, liquorice root. Everything else is different.”
It’s also interesting to note that all his gins are bottled at 42.5% alcohol by volume, a proof level high enough to carry aromatics and flavour, but which he finds low enough to not give an unpleasant ethanol burn.
He goes on to explain about his other gins. The curiously orange and boldly-named Singapore Sling Gin stands out. It’s made specifically to be great in a Singapore Sling recipe, thus the name.
What every Singapore Sling needs
“We’ve worked the proportion of the botanicals such that when used in a Singapore Sling, it better complements the pineapple juice and the grenadine.”
He also explained that he rests the gin in oranges and pineapple, which gives it its vibrant colour and freshness.
We found the Singapore Sling Gin to be a refined, potent spirit full of citrus freshness and juicy aromatics. It’s arguably our favourite, and might perhaps be the remedy that bars need to fix their often-one-dimensional (and saccharine) Singapore Slings.
When asked which is Ashwin’s favourite gin however, he couldn’t choose, saying he likes them all. But if he had to, he said the Singapore Sling Gin was definitely one of his top choices.
His gins are all very dissimilar, perhaps adding to why it’s hard to pick out one that you can outrightly like. The Japanese-inspired Kyuri Gin (Kyuri means cucumber in Japanese), for instance, is great for those who enjoy more delicate, but still poignant flavours.
“Singapore Distillery is also created to show off Asian ingredients, not just Singaporean and Southeast Asian. So with the Kyuri gin, you get a nice, cucumbery gin that’s very refreshing. It’s made using Japanese cucumbers and dried sakura flowers.”
He adds: “This was very difficult to get right, because it’s very hard to distill cucumbers without having the spirit taste like cucumber soup.”
And thankfully, it didn’t taste anything like that. In fact, we can see ourselves drinking the Kyuri Gin the most. Its lively, refreshing quality makes it highly moreish, especially in a spirit-forward cocktail like a Martini.
Also on the lineup are the very aromatic Coconut Pandan Gin and the elegantly floral Stolen Roses Gin. The former has been a “sleeper hit”, reveals Ashwin (“who doesn’t like pandan or coconut?”), while the latter was made as an ode to a popular Singaporean beverage (you guessed it), the bandung.
“We all grew up having bandungs. It’s such a delightful drink, the smell, the taste. When my friends come over, I always made them a bandung, with a shot of vodka or gin added into it. So why not have a gin already with rose in it. Rose is not an unheard of flavour in Singapore, so I thought why not,” he says playfully.
The intrepid distiller’s long-term goal is for Singapore Distillery to be a full-fledged distillery that makes all kinds of spirits and not just gins. Already, vodkas and liqueurs are in the pipeline. Distillery tours and tasting rooms are also being explored, though not confirmed.
The Merlion Vodka and Hornbill Vodka are akan datang
What’s really setting Singapore Distillery apart from the other local distilleries however, is its market positioning.
“It’s a lot less costly than what people usually pay for craft gins,” Ashwin notes. “We just do really good gins and work harder while making less margin.”
“But this means we have craft gins that more people can have more regularly, as opposed to just having them once in a while. Everyone can afford it and make that their go-to drink.”
And he’s right. His gins all go for just $69.90 per 750ml bottle, available directly online via their website, Shopee or Lazada. Other Singapore-made gins generally hover around the $100 mark, and in 500ml or 700ml bottles.
With prices like that, it’s something any consumer can get behind. Smells like Singapore spirit indeed.
Try Singapore Distillery gins at bars like Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall and Flying Monkey, or buy them directly online from their website, Shopee or Lazada.