At this point, there’s very little in the gin scene that hasn’t been done already. Botanicals from the far reaches of the world have found ways to play with the predominant juniper note, and some distillers have even deviated from the traditional wheat, barley or corn-based spirits to experiment with potatoes and sugar cane. But that’s the fun of gin; there are endless stories to be found in every bottle – and newcomer Zhen has a good one to tell.
Terence Loh, CEO and co-founder of investment vehicle Dorr Group and Novena Global Lifecare, found himself seeking shelter at a friend’s home after a typhoon interrupted a day of surfing in eastern Taiwan. The house was surrounded by rice fields. After learning that farmers discarded the plants that were too damaged to use for rice, he wondered if he could use the unwanted crops as a base to create a sustainable gin.
After almost a year of experimenting at his home in Sentosa Cove, Loh finally perfected his recipe for Zhen, and set up a small distillery in Yilan County – “where Kavalan Distillery is also because I want it to convey the spirit of authenticity. I want people to get together, have a drink, talk about their dreams and have their own voice.”
Proud of his ethnicity, Loh also wanted greater Asian representation in the spirits world, which is why, on top of having a rice-based spirit, he chose botanicals like Bhutanese juniper and Thai coriander seeds. “I want Zhen to be cocktail-friendly so I didn’t want to overload it with too many botanicals, but there will be a distinct umami flavor.”
Zhen will be available in limited quantities at www.zhengin.com
At Live Twice, Japanese-style bartending meets the hospitality of Singapore’s booming bar scene for something quite special. Inspired by “mid-century” Japan, Jigger and Pony group’s latest project is an eclectic mix of luxury and asceticism – think wood-and-washi paper-lined walls alongside disarmingly comfortable, mint-condition Falcon armchairs and stunning Kimura glassware. Helming the bar is Leow Yinying, who has worked with group beverage director Aki Eguchi to formulate a short 14-item menu of artfully elevated classics. Highlights include a silky-smooth, unctuous mizuwari – Japanese for “to cut with water” – achieved by blending Nikka Coffey grain, Nikka Coffey malt and Hokkaido soft water before ageing it for at least three days in an amphora. They’ve also revived the Vesper martini, made famous by a certain James Bond, using Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aero d’Or liqueur to replace the discontinued Kina Lillet.
SITTING IN AN ENGLISH GARDEN
There’s no need to wait for the sun at 1880’s Nyetimber Secret Garden pop-up. From now until February 29, the members club terrace will play host to a lush, garden-themed bar serving Nyetimber’s English sparkling wine. The house’s Classic Cuvee and Rose will be available by both the glass and bottle. There will also be bites by 1880’s head chef Colin Buchan, whose menu of bubbly-friendly, English-inspired dishes include mini fish and chips and oysters with shiso granita.
A DARKER SIDE OF GIN
Quinine, a bitter compound from the bark of the cinchona tree, historically had to be mixed with soda water, sugar and gin just to make it palatable as an anti-malaria potion. It played a vital role in creating the gin and tonic cocktail we know today, but it takes some confidence to bypass the tonic entirely to (re)introduce quinine straight into gin. Hendrick’s Orbium, which adds quinine, wormwood and blue lotus blossom to its standard recipe, balances that bitterness with enough sweetness to create a wholly distinctive gin. Recommended for martinis.
MINT CONDITION Lux Coin company has released the Cognac Coin, a collectible gold coin housing a capsule containing a droplet of Cognac Gautier 1762, the oldest cognac in the world. www.lux-coins.com
TEXT CHARMIAN LEONG & WEETS GOH