Singapore’s microbreweries may be upping their game, but we’re taking a break from cheerleading craft beers today to talk about craft spirits. Thanks to a slew of new openings, local entrepreneurs with a passion for craft booze and two major spirit celebrations coming up in November, craft gins, whiskies and other goodies are in the limelight lately. Here are the highlights.
Singapore-made gins and all the martinis you can dream of
It’s a good time for gin lovers in Singapore. It started with the opening of Cin Cin. The wild-looking Oasia Hotel Downtown teamed up with Refinery Concepts (of Fat Cow and Bedrock fame) to turn their lobby bar into a gin-focused cocktail bar, boasting a (probably) unparalleled selection of 100 gins and dizzying combinations of gins, vermouths and tonic waters for the G&T or martini of your dreams.
Then there was the official launch of Singapore-based craft spirit company Paper Lantern Distilling’s first product, the Sichuan Pepper Gin, a rice-based craft gin distilled at a facility in Chiang Mai that uses ingredients like ginger, galangal, lemongrass, honey, the Thai spice makhwaen and of course, Sichuan pepper. You can try it at Long Chim, or order a bottle for $115 here.
Then, finally, combining gin love with street party is the fourth edition of East Imperial Gin Jubilee happening in Singapore Nov 20-26, after making the rounds in KL, Hong Kong, Phnom Penh and Bangkok. Apart from the masterclasses, tasting sessions, pop-ups and more, one of the bigger highlights is the Asia’s Best Gin & Tonic competition, which will see 80 bars from the participating cities vying for the title.
Great deals and endless choices for whisky
Whisky lovers should head over to the new Quaich Bar outlet over at the retail section of the exciting new South Beach development. There are over 500 whiskies that are available by the glass, such as the rich, fruity Springbank 16 Year Old Local Barley ($38), the spicy Kilkerran Calvados Single Cask ($37) and the creamy herbaceous Glenglassaugh 40 Years Old Vintage 1973 ($156). For beginners, the bar offers a number of tasting flights starting at $45 for four whiskies. As part of their opening celebrations, the introductory flight will cost just $25 until the end of October.
There are more great prices to be found at Mandarin Orchard’s Bar on 5 has some great one-off specials from time to time. They’ve just ended their Japanese whiskies month end specials, but this month, during their Whisky Festival happening on Sep 13-18, you can get four bottles of whiskies like Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt, The Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve, The Macallan Fine Oak 12 Year Old and more for $500 (before service charge and GST).
There’s also that Southeast Asia’ premier whisky and spirits show, Whisky Live, which returns to Capella Hotel Singapore for its seventh edition on Nov 12-13. (That’s right: it tag teams with Gin Jubilee.) This year’s showcase will see about 300 expressions and over 60 whisky and spirit brands for you to try, including The Macallan, which will be making its debut along with three other brands of single malt whisky.
New bars for other craft spirits
While most bars in Singapore carry a selection of rum labels in their arsenal, none can compare to the Caribbean themed bar on Jiak Chuan called Bago (pronounced “bay-go”). This extended bar above Lime House possibly has the biggest rum selection in town with over 150 labels covering pretty much every tropical colony you can think of.
Also recently opened is The Other Room, a new 700 sq ft intimate bar with no signages to tell you where exactly it is within Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza. Their menu offers a selection of 150 spirits to choose from, which includes rums, whiskys, gins, vodkas and mescals that have been blended and aged to their taste. They also offer a variety of more than 30 cocktail creations classified by eras such as Pre-prohibition, Prohibition, The Other Classics, as well as drinks like The Southern New York Sour ($21) layered with black tea and French oak smoke, The Bloody Grail ($21) which has a mix of sour, savory, salty and umami flavour from kimchi, and more.
Paper Lantern Distilling isn’t the only place in Singapore dreaming up craft spirits. There’s also a new brandy that just launched last week. Five XP is the world’s first “extra pure” brandy that’s conceived in Singapore by a group of five partners led by Richfield Brands & Services managing director Alan Wong. Made from Riesling grapes in Germany, and boasting 38% alcohol by volume, Five XP is a spirit that defies classification—it’s more broadly a digestif and more precisely a brandy with sweetness that would appeal to rum drinkers. Find out more about the process and where you can get it here.