Brass Lion Distillery launches whisky made in Singapore
Brass Lion Distillery has launched its first whisky, distilled, barrelled and aged in Singapore and fermented at the island’s local ambient temperature.
“Creating a whisky was always part of the plan,” says Jamie Koh, Brass Lion Distillery‘s founder. “When I first decided to open a distillery in Singapore over 10 years ago, I wanted to create not just Singapore’s first gin but a range of different spirits Singapore could call its own.”
Koh launched the distillery in 2018, releasing the Brass Lion Gin. However, a year after the launch, “our first batch of Brass Lion Whisky was already in the barrel”, she says, as her sights were always set on expanding the range of made-in-Singapore spirits.
“We had the resources to create a whisky, so why not?”
Brass Lion Distillery worked with The General Brewing Co. to tailor-make a wash that would accommodate Singapore’s high humidity and equatorial climate.
“Experimentation is at the heart of everything we do. Whether it’s through flavours or technique, we always try to push the boundaries of what local distilleries can do,” Koh says.
Maris Otter malt was selected, and thermotolerant yeast was used during fermentation to withstand the local ambient temperature.
Two thousand litres of wash then underwent double distillation to obtain just 180 litres of new-make spirit, which was poured into a bourbon barrel to mature for over three years.
Choosing not to control the environmental temperature, Brass Lion Distillery has allowed Singapore’s natural climate to shape the whisky. The island’s tropical conditions, with both high temperatures and humidity, accelerate the ageing process due to the increased contact between air, cask and spirit, making for a more mature whisky in a shorter period of time.
Koh explained: “Making whisky in Singapore, where it had never been done before, is an exciting new experience since the climate conditions are so different from the traditional sources of whisky. Unique climates in different regions significantly influence whisky maturation. Singapore is positioned right on the equator, with high temperatures and humidity all year round.
“These conditions speed up the ageing process due to the accelerated contact between air, cask and spirit. The result is that the whisky will mature faster, in a much shorter time frame, with a depth and nuance in its flavour profile that’s often found in whiskies that have aged for far longer in temperate climates.”
Singapore as a region is yet to produce any guidelines on distilling, as the industry is so young. Koh instead followed certain guidelines used for Scotch, including the minimum ageing time.
“We wanted to create a product that would do the title of Singapore’s first whisky justice and be internationally recognised,” she said.
Brass Lion Whisky has been drawn from a single cask for this limited-edition release, with only 427 bottles available, of which 70 of those bottles will be drawn at Cask Strength. The topographic lines of the area around Brass Lion in Alexandra Terrace has been used as motif for the whisky’s packaging.
The distillery has also experimented with making rum, thought with no current plans to launch it commercially as “our focus right now is on our range of gins”, Koh says.
Singapore’s distilling scene is far from established, but Koh believes that if more players enter the market, “I would expect the scene to become even richer and more dynamic, with more distilleries launching products with their own unique takes and interpretations”.
“Singapore is a melting pot of cultures and flavours, and I’m sure we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg of what local distilleries are capable of,” she says.
Brass Lion Whisky has an ABV of 48% and retails for S$328 (£196.73). The 70 bottles of cask strength whisky, with an ABV of 65%, are on sale for S$468 (£280.70).