Gin can be made using some of the most commonly found ingredients, such as grains, grapes or potatoes. However, the key component to craft the spirit is juniper berries, which are blended with the other ingredients to make one of the best spirits known to mankind: gin. With such room for experimentation, it’s little wonder that Asian distilleries too have created their own versions. Here are some of the best.
Many distilleries have sprouted over the years to create some of the finest gin in various styles, such as barrel-aged, London dry and contemporary. The Asian gin brands have taken this route to create some of the smoothest variations of the spirit, infused with locally grown botanicals and herbs that add a range of flavours — from spicy and sour to sweet and bitter — to every sip you take.
What’s even better is that these gin labels make some of the most refreshing cocktails that you can enjoy any time of the year.
Here are some of the best Asian gin brands to stock up now
Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin
ABV: 43 percent
Hapusa, the Sanskrit word for juniper, is one of the most interesting gin brands in India for many reasons. It is crafted by Nao Spirits, which is well-known for selling gin within the country and abroad.
In 2018, Hapusa was launched as the world’s first dry gin that is made with the Himalayan juniper. The premium spirit is also enhanced with key Indian botanicals such as turmeric, cardamom, mango, ginger, gondhoraj limes, coriander seeds, and almonds that are privately sourced from the banks of the Hooghly River, as well as Tamil Nadu and Goa.
The ingredients are collected in a 1,000-litre copper pot for distillation. The first sip brings a tart taste, owing to ingredients like lime and coriander, which is balanced by floral notes. The aftertaste is somewhat smoky. It is best served frozen or straight up and can be garnished with mint or holy basil.
The gin was awarded a gold medal at the 2021 International Wines & Spirits Competition Awards.
Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin
ABV: 45.7 percent
Ki No Bi is The Kyoto Distillery’s major contribution to the gin industry. After two years of research and improvements, the company went from producing whiskies to launching their flagship gin in October 2016.
The dry gin is made by passionate artisans in Kyoto who craft the spirit with 11 locally sourced ingredients. These include a high-quality rice spirit and key botanicals such as sanshō pepper, yuzu, lemon, ginger, and gyokuro tea.
The botanicals are divided into six elements and are soaked in the rice spirit before blending them. This unique distillation process balances the flavours in the premium gin, making it stand out from the rest in its range.
The limited-edition, artisanal dry gin has distinctive Japanese flavours and accents. You can enjoy it neat, use it to make the classic Gin & Tonic, or make your desired cocktail with it.
The Japanese gin has received many awards in renowned spirit competitions worldwide, including the IWSC International Gin Producer of the Year in 2021.
Bee’s Knees Dry Gin
Created by Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila, the Bee’s Knees can be an exclusive addition to your bar at home. It is distilled and stored in-house at the Gin Laboratory in The Back Room, which is a speakeasy on the hotel’s property.
It takes about eight days to make the rich dry gin, which uses a combination of cold compression and vapour compression distillation methods.
This Filipino spirit features juniper along with local fruits and spices, including horseradish tree, Philippine orange, Philippine jasmine, chrysanthemum, and ginger, which is sure to tickle your taste buds.
Bee’s Knees has floral and citrus notes and pairs wonderfully with other citrus flavours and tropical juices.
Iron Balls Gin
ABV: 40 percent
This is one of the most popular gin brands from Thailand. Launched in 2015, Iron Balls Gin is distilled by A R. Sutton & Co Engineers, which were already known for their innovative cocktails that were sold at their bar in Bangkok.
While wheat or barley is mostly used to prepare the base spirit for the gin, this contemporary variation also includes freshly cut pineapple and coconut. These ingredients are chopped by hand and fermented for seven days to accentuate the distinctiveness of the gin. Once the base spirit is prepared, it is distilled again with citrus fruits, ginger, lemongrass, coriander seeds, and juniper to produce the final product.
The process results in a sweet and tropical palate that’s also spicy on the nose, and finishes with a lingering juniper and lemongrass flavour. Iron Balls Gin blends well in martinis, Gin & Tonic, and aviation cocktails.
The gin bottles’ unique shape and the name inscribed in Thai catch the attention of many.
ABV: 42 percent
Tanglin Distillery was the first gin distillery that was established in Singapore, and was named after Tanglin, an area known for its botanical gardens in Singapore. In 2018, the company launched the country’s first gin, which truly reflected its rich heritage and diversity.
Its official website states that the modern gin’s “herbaceous flavour notes come from the classic gin botanicals with the addition of Vanilla Planifolia Orchid and an unexpected spice: Amchoor.” This recipe also includes coriander seeds and liquorice.
This flavoursome spirit is smooth and creamy to taste and is balanced with herbal and citrusy notes. But what lingers is its delicate peppery warmth after every sip. If you are making Gin & Tonic with Orchid Gin, garnish it with cinnamon sticks, orange wheels, and lime or orange bitters for the perfect flavour profile.
Tanglin Distillery’s Orchid Gin also earned a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2022.
Stranger & Sons
Stranger & Sons is one of most talked about Asian gin brands. Crafted by Third Eye Distillery in 2018, the gin pays homage to its Indian — and more specifically, Goan — roots, and leans more towards the London dry gin style because of ingredients like Juniper and Angelica that are used during the distillation process. Most ingredients are procured at the farms along the Malabar and Konkan coasts.
Infused with nine botanicals, including Gondhoraj limes, coriander, black pepper and cassia bark, spices like pepper and nutmeg lend a warm and comforting taste to the gin.
Its cinnamon finish and a citrusy aroma lingers long after the first sip, a distinctive flavour that’s led to its meteoric rise to fame. This refreshing gin also has a distinct taste of mace and cassia.
We suggest mixing it with an infused tonic, or making Negronis or martinis with this. Add some ginger or pickled onions as garnish.
The award-winning label is China’s entry on the list of the best Asian gin brands. It is crafted by Peddler’s Gin Company, which aims to create gin for the ‘most discerning and adventurous drinkers’.
In fact, Shanghai Gin is carefully made using eleven ingredients from Sichuan, Yunnan, Xinjiang and Gansu. The recipe includes herbs and botanicals such as juniper berries, Sichuan peppers, Buddha’s Hand, lotus, liquorice, and Tianshan almonds, creating floral and fruity notes that enhance the taste of the botanicals.
The premium gin brand has won many awards at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards and CWSA since its launch.
While South Korea is known for Soju, another distilled alcoholic label, Buja Gin Distillery took matters into their hands to launch the country’s first craft gin in 2020. They prepare small batches of the spirit by using only Korean ingredients.
The result is the pink-coloured Omija Gin, loaded with 16 native botanicals that include omija berries, pine, mugwort and the Jeju Hallabong citrus fruit.
This highly complex gin imparts salty, sweet, spicy, sour and bitter notes, and serves as a fantastic base for any cocktail.
(Hero and Featured Image Credit:Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin/ Instagram)