Brass Lion is a dry gin from Singapore’s first full-fledged micro-distillery, and features a combination of classic and Southeast Asian botanicals.
Price: ~ £45
Makrut lime leaf
Torch ginger flower
Founded by Jamie Koh, a Singaporean entrepreneur and spirits enthusiast, Brass Lion gin is the product of her six year journey to learn and experience the art and science of distilling. During this time, Jamie visited and worked in distilleries in the US and UK, as well as Austria and Germany’s Black Forest, where she met master distiller Frank, who went on to help with the creation of Brass Lion gin. Eventually, they settled on a recipe that featured 22 botanicals many of which Jamie selected to reflect the cultural melting pot that is Singapore, the Lion City.
To make the gin, the juniper is added to the neutral spirit 2 days before distillation, with most of the other botanicals added around half a day before. Finally the more delicate botanicals are added to the basket to be vapour infused during distillation, which takes approximately 8 hours.
The bottle is a very rounded cuboid with a slight outward taper from bottom to top, medium length and wooden stopper. It’s what I would call fairly hefty, though it is certainly not without elegance. The label wraps around the front half of the bottle in a rectangular shape outlined in gold, but the design also incorporates a diamond shape in the centre that extends beyond top and bottom. Within the diamond is the name of the gin in white on matt black, beneath a gold crest formed of two lion heads either side of a still. Around the diamond, the botanicals are illustrated in various forms, as well as nods to the Samsui women and labourers, who immigrated to Singapore in the 1920’s-40’s and helped shaped the nation of today, and the city’s Boat Quay, symbolising the spice trade. On the back is a smaller label with some info about the distillery and the usual info. It’s a bold design, but has lots of detail for anyone who wants a closer look.
The first thing to notice on the nose is how well balanced and classic the profile is. Given the list of botanicals, in particular the amount of citrus peel and spice, it might be reasonable to expect a distinct punch in the olfactory, but that’s certainly not the case here. There’s a heady warmth to the slightly dry pine, and though the citrus is definitely there, for me it’s soft and fragrant. Cinnamon, Coriander, Cubeb, Ginger, and Galangal all combine to form a lovely haze of warm spice that I adore, and the sweet, syrupy notes remind me a little of cola. It’s surprisingly restrained, pleasantly so, and is very inviting.
Neat it’s a very different story. I find it surprisingly dry and far less sweet and fragrant than expected from the nose. The citrus adds a great deal of bitterness, and odd though it may sound I find the taste extremely ‘green’. Much of the subtlety of what I got on the nose has been replaced by much more sharp notes of pepper and citrus, though there is a backdrop of some richer, slightly earthy flavours with a touch of sweetness.
Water does a lot to dampen down the dryness and temper some of the citrus and pepper, though the overall sensation of bitter, green flavours presides for me and while the whole thing is a lot less sharp, it is no more enjoyable for me, and in honesty I am struggling to get past this in order to seek out other flavours. The lime leaf is quite heavy though, and for me is a bit too much.
Finally, a G&T (1:3 Ridge Valley Indian Tonic with dried pineapple and pink peppercorns to garnish). The result is a wonderfully refreshing, flavoursome drink that’s a complete transformation. The citrus works well now, having made space for other flavours to shone a little more brightly, though I confess I think the pineapple is adding a much needed degree of sweetness to the mix. There’s a pleasant fruitiness, with a dry tang at the back and some sweet, fragrant flavours. It all works really well and is a pleasant surprise.
I had high hopes for this gin when sampling the nose, and was disappointed with the flavour when drunk neat, but this is a gin that is clearly meant for mixing, and with a sweeter tonic it makes a really great G&T. I do think it needs sweetness though, at least for me, so I would worry how well this would fare in say a Negroni, which I can see being far too bitter for my tastes. Otherwise it’s a tricky one as my overall impression is that it may not be as versatile as one might want in a gin. I’m glad to have had the chance to try it, and will no doubt enjoy it in a G&T, but I worry I might struggle to find another drink for it to shine.
Add half a feather if you love bitter citrus. Remove if not!
Brass Lion is available online via Craft Gin Club
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.