Tippling during COVID-19: 3 unique gins to order and drink at home
During these trying times, we could all use a drink – at home, of course. These gins offer distinctive styles that reflect their thematic and regional identities. Splash them in a cocktail or drink them neat!
You don’t usually hear gin producers using the word terroir. The phrase belongs in the wine domain; a connection as symbiotic as The Force is to Star Wars. For Denis S. Reinhardt, co-founder of Ferdinand’s Gin, the word isn’t used for marketing heft. There is, after all, some wine in his German gins, which hail from the Saar, a wine sub-region in Mosel known for its Rieslings.
Reinhardt, along with his brother and co-founder Erik J. Wimmers, comes from a family with a history of winemaking in the Saar. The family wine estate, Ziliken, has been around for more than 270 years. Ten years ago, after stints in the corporate world, the siblings returned to the family business, but wine wasn’t exactly on their agenda.
“We wanted to do something else instead of winemaking but with a terroir-driven concept,” said Reinhardt. “We started thinking of a spirit that would reflect what the region is about, in the same way a Riesling from the Saar would.”
For the gin’s botanicals, they decided to use a variety of local fruits and herbs. Citrus-flavoured herbs like thyme and verbena helped “reflect the primary aromas of Riesling”.
Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin, the company’s flagship, is pot-distilled from rye, wheat, and spelt, and macerated for three days with 34 botanicals that include sloe, thyme, rosehip, and apples. The distillate then undergoes a steam infusion with a basket of fresh botanicals in the pot still. A second maceration with Riesling wine and grapes from the Ziliken estate infuses the gin with the wine’s flavour. Because it is a dry gin production, sugar is filtered away from the wine component.
For wine lovers, Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin Goldcap should make a bigger impression: Riesling of Auslese quality (a German wine term used for wines made from very ripe, late harvest grapes) is used for its infusion, while the less ripe category of Spatlese is used for the Saar Dry Gin. The Goldcap’s name is a reference to the gold capsule that adorn the bottles of higher quality Auslese wines.
On the palate, the Goldcap offers the smoothness of a quality gin, and the citrusy and mineral fragrance that typifies Rieslings from the Saar. It shines as a Martini, but we’d prefer to savour this elixir neat.
Saar Dry Gin Goldcap, S$210, from maltwineasia.com
Homegrown micro-distillery Brass Lion Distillery, which barrelled Singapore’s first whisky last year, has collaborated with microbrewery-restaurant LeVeL33 to create the LeVeL33 Hopped Dry Gin, a beer-inspired gin.
The base of the gin is the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin, the distillery’s signature gin flavoured with 22 botanicals, including familiar Asian herbs and spices like galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. As its name suggests, the LeVel33 Hopped Dry Gin has an infusion of hops – the Citra variety, known for its citrusy notes, was used – to give the gin the right amount of savoury, hoppy accents.
“We tried an infusion of all the varieties [of hops] we use for our beers,” said Martin Bem, managing director of LeVeL33, on the making of the Hopped Dry Gin. “We also distilled our beers and blended those distillates with the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin. The distillates were delicious but their prominent chocolate and coffee notes didn’t work well with the gin. Infusing the hops worked much better, and the Citra hops complemented the gin best.”
The Citra hops were used to produce two separate distillates – one batch was macerated with the botanicals used for the Singapore Dry Gin and distilled; the other was distilled from the hops alone – and then blended. “We are able to have better control of the final product this way,” said Jamie Koh, founder of Brass Lion Distillery.
Bem says the best way to drink the gin is “neat with a little ice”. “It gives the gin room to develop its unique aroma and pronounced notes of hops.”
LeVeL33 Hopped Dry Gin, S$160, from www.level33.com.sg; to order, send a WhatsApp text to 8511 4613
While nowhere near the celeb status of their whisky counterparts, Japanese gins have made decent inroads in the international spirits market ever since The Kyoto Distillery presented the world with the first Nihon gin, Ki No Bi, in 2016. Suntory launched Roku Gin here two years ago, an investment that reflects the drink giant’s faith in the potential of gin.
The latest Japanese gin to land on our shores is Okinawa Gin. Produced under the expertise of Masahiro Shuzo brewery in 2017, it was the first gin from the tropical southern Japanese island.
The brewery has a tradition of making Awamori, an Okinawan spirit distilled from long grain Thai rice. Thus, the gin was made from a base of Awamori, which was macerated for 48 hours with six botanicals such as shekwasa (an Okinawan citrus), guava leaves, pipatsu (Javanese long pepper), and goya (a cucumber-shaped bitter melon) before distillation.
Expect a gin with a tropical, fruity character wrapped in delicate layers of floral and peppery notes.
Okinawa Gin, S$112, from shop.demajesticvines.com