Close Menu

The drinks business Asia’s Gin Masters 2020 results

Our annual blind-tasting competition showed that local producers in Asia have carved out a niche using indigenous ingredients that make their gins stand out from the crowd, as Alice Liang reports.

Gin is becoming increasingly popular in the Asian market, with many expressions tailored to suit local taste buds.

One of our Gin Masters judges, Mark Brough, owner of Ginsanity, a gin club and specialist retail store in Hong Kong, explained: “Consumers mainly buy their gin by country, and Japan’s gins are pretty popular. But people are always keen to look for new flavours and botanicals. Some of the most exciting examples are made with butterfly pea flower, calamansi, pandan and watermelon.”

The 2021 Asian Gin Masters competition gathered gins from around the world, to be judged by a top panel that looked at the products at various price points, according to their different styles. The judges were able to award Silver, Gold and – for truly excellent examples – Master medals.

Scottish gin producer Raven spirits bagged a Master in the London Dry category with its Hrafn Gin Valkyrie, which showed “a long decent palate with charming notes of blossom and citrus ”, as judge Eddie Nara, independent spirits educator and consultant, observed. Jara citrus is the hero botanical in this product, giving rise to an exotic zestiness on top of the traditional botanical mix. The same gin was also awarded a Gold medal in the Premium category for its excellent performance for its price.

Another Master went to Archie Rose from Australia. Brough noticed the “yuzu citrus freshness accompanied by pretty juniper notes” in its winning The Bone Dry Gin, priced at HK$500. Using coriander seed, Tahitian lime and lemon-scented gum as the side botanicals, the gin achieved a nice balance of citrus and herbaceous intensity. The distillery’s signature Dry Gin also received a Silver award, as it illustrated a standard London dry gin with beautiful juniper backbone.


The competition this year boasted international entries from all around the world, if there was any more evidence needed of the incredible pace at which the gin world is expanding.

In Asia, Japan is a credible powerhouse for craft gin distilling, with its gin having become a highly sought-after product. Hiroshima’s innovative Sakurao distillery, for instance, released a limited-edition gin made with Hamagou, a vibrant purple flower that grows by the sea. Our judge Gagan Gurung, founder of creative mixology bar Tell Camillia in Hong Kong, liked it for its “fresh fragrance and ample juniper notes with some underlaid spices”. The gin was awarded a Gold medal for its outstanding balanced palate. Two other expressions from the distillery won Silver medals in the competition. They were Sakurao Limited Edition Japanese Dry Gin, a product distilled with 17 specially selected botanicals from Hiroshima, and the signature Sakurao Original Japanese Dry Gin.

The panel discovered another impressive product, this time from India. Hailed as India’s first craft gin, NAO Spirits’ Greater Than London Dry Gin, sits in the price range between HK$300 and HK$350. It won a Gold medal for perfectly illustrating the typicity of a London dry gin.

“Simple and straightforward, this gin shows a very obvious citrus character,” said Nara.

Tanglin Black Powder Gin from Singapore took a Gold medal in the Navy Strength category. According to Nara, the gin had a very rich texture, with flavours such as cream soda and citrus.

The distillery also produces other gin expressions, such as Orchid Gin, a London dry, and Singapore Gin, a contemporary gin that showcases myriad spices including ginger, dried chilli seeds, orange peel and liquorice powder.

Moving on to Europe, BrandStar Alliance from Sweden did very well in the competition, coming away with three Golds. The products, namely Enastående (Magnificent), Stjärnklar (Starry) and Supermåne (Supermoon), each have a price tag of HK$635, but demonstrate distinctive characteristics.

Gurung enjoyed the “honey finish and generous amount of juniper berries” of Enastående; Nara applauded the “contrast between the nose and palate, which revealed a flush of juniper notes after” in Stjärnklar; Brough was impressed by the “pungent palate with a lingering finish” of Supermåne.

G’vine Floraison, from French brand Maison Villevert, was a popular Gold-medal winner. The grape-spirit-based gin displayed a vibrant and fresh profile filled with floral, minty and fragrant aromas. Gurung reckoned that a simple serve with tonic water would make it a real crowd-pleasing cocktail.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No