Last Updated: December 13, 2018
Singapore has no shortage of unique cocktail bars but a distillery on our sunny little island? Now, that’s the first of its kind.
Brass Lion Distillery is Singapore’s first micro-distillery that brews a distinctly Singaporean dry gin. Always ready to #supportlocal, I couldn’t wait to sample what it had to offer.
Snuggled along the quiet streets of Alexandra Terrace, one can’t miss the clean white-washed building with slate grey accents, guarded by a majestic brass lion at the front of the distillery.
Brass Lion Distillery is split into two floors, the first floor being the distillery and the second the bar and drinking area. As I pushed past the vast mahogany doors, I was greeted with a view of the room where the magic happens.
I’ll admit, I never thought much about spirits or other forms of alcohol before this, but after going through a Gin Tour (S$40) with Jamie Koh, owner and creator of Brass Lion Distillery, I began to understand the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into a bottle of gin.
To make a good quality gin, one needs a good still. Brass Lion Distillery has affectionately dubbed theirs ‘Nala’ after the fiercely independent lioness in beloved Disney film, Lion King. Handcrafted by German master coppersmiths, Nala was a gorgeous beast of a still, her copper pipes shimmered in the mid-afternoon sun.
A crucial element in the gin-making process are the botanicals. The main botanical in any gin would be juniper berries, which gives gin that trademark floral perfume, and Jamie’s vision incorporates it with an Asian twist.
To start, Brass Lion Distillery hand crushes their juniper berries and macerates them for 36 hours to get the maximum flavour of the berries.
Now that the juniper berries are settled, this is where it gets interesting. What differentiates one gin from another is the careful selection of botanicals.
Ever the intrepid creator, Jamie gathered about 40 herbs and spices she could find in wet markets and TCM shops, chucked it into her luggage and jet-setted off to Germany to work with a master distiller.
To understand the flavour profile of the herbs and spices, Jamie and the master distiller distilled each individual ingredient for four days — an arduous and tedious process but essential in building Jamie’s Singaporean dry gin.
After about four days of distilling, Jamie and the master distiller settled on 22 herbs and spices, including tamarind, torch ginger flower and mandarin orange peel.
Jamie shared that she uses the “one-shot distillation” method to produce her gin; a traditional method of making gin but also the most laborious.
This method of making gin involves carefully measuring out the botanicals, followed by steeping them in a neutral spirit to extract their essence. As the liquid vaporises and makes its way through the copper distillation column, Jamie would use the handles at the side of Nala to carefully adjust the quantity of each botanical.
Whew! That was a lot of information. After all that work, a beautiful bottle of gin is born. To keep things interesting, Brass Lion Distillery also incorporates butterfly pea, which comes in a pretty cobalt hue and Pahit pink variation.
This is the part we have been waiting for: finding out what does a Singaporean dry gin taste like.
It is more refreshing than other gin brands I’ve tried before, I suspect it’s the inclusion of dried mandarin orange peel that lifts the spirit. I also detected a hint of spiciness in each swig, which I reckon are the juniper berries peeking through. Overall, a bright-tasting spirit that would revitalise anyone after a long workday.
There is a very slight earthy flavour to the Brass Lion Butterfly Pea Gin, but otherwise, it tastes pretty much the same as the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin. But imagine all the gorgeous cocktails it will make.
While the Brass Lion Pahit Pink Gin might look like a sweet tasting gin, it is anything but. Historically made with Angostura bitters, there is an astringent flavour to this rose-coloured tipple.
The bar area (second floor) of Brass Lion Distillery subtly pays homage to Asian culture with rattan lamps and Peranakan-style tiles. One can’t help but feel like you’re being transported back to colonial Singapore.
Brass Lion Distillery also lets you join the fun with their R&D lab where you can concoct your very own gin. The room comes equipped with baby stills (adorable!) and a wall of different botanicals where you decide how you want your gin to taste. A fun date idea perhaps?
It was a truly informative and delectable trip to Brass Lion Distillery. Learning how much effort goes into a bottle of gin has definitely enhanced my entire experience with this spirit.
This bottle of gin is clearly Jamie’s love letter to Singapore. This affection permeates every corner of Brass Lion Distillery and is evident from the effort and dedication that goes into making every bottle of Singapore dry gin.
While the location is not the most convenient, Brass Lion Distillery is definitely on the list for unique bar experiences.
More than your average watering hole, Brass Lion Distillery offers an immersive and interactive experience into the world of gin and is worth the trip down.
Expected Damage: S$88 (per bottle), S$18-25 (per drink), S$40 (gin tours)
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
Brass Lion Distillery
40 Alexandra Terrace, Singapore 119933
40 Alexandra Terrace, Singapore 119933