Out of all the spirits, gin has a remarkable ability to carry nuanced flavours and capture the terroir of a place, which, combined with laissez-faire regulations defining what the spirit is, and the speed and small physical footprint of distillation, has primed it for the global moment in the spotlight that it is currently enjoying.
Asia is where this versatile spirit really meets its match, where hundreds of different locales with their thousands of indigenous botanicals have expanded the scope of gin beyond recognition. From malunggay oil and gunpowder tea, to orchids and Buddha's hand, anything goes when it comes to Asia's vast pantry of herbs, fruits, flowers and spices.
As you might expect, this has led to a flourishing of new gins across the region, featuring seemingly innumerable permutations of botanical blends that, during these strange, home-bound times, act like a postcard from faraway places. Here, the Tatler Dining team spotlights 15 Asian gins that capture the essence of their birthplaces, creating utterly unique flavours in the process.
Eiling Lim's Small Batch Gins
Although Malaysia encounters more red tape when it comes to alcohol production, one woman has found a way to make it work. Eiling Lim’s three types of gin are distilled in Belgium, but their star ingredients such as nangka (jackfruit), pandan (screwpine leaves) and galangal are grown in Malaysia.
While gins aren’t made for sipping, Lim’s are so fragrant that the temptation is strong. “Each gin consists of 17 botanicals and all the ingredients are steeped for 36 hours before being distilled in a Holstein still, resulting in a more ‘rounded’ spirit,” explains Lim.
Unique ingredients aside, Lim’s small-batch gins (an annual output of 30,000 bottles in contrast to the million cases released by Hendrick’s) are coveted for their rarity and recognisable labels; the latter was realised through a collaboration with Malaysian designer Tintoy Chua and evokes comic book illustrations of supervillains.
“I wanted a villain or a monstrous character to represent the main ingredient in each gin,” laughs Lim. “I know it's not common to see that on a gin label, but that's the direction I wanted to go to differentiate my products from the rest.”
—Samantha Lim, Dining Editor, Malaysia Tatler