Sông Cái

Sông Cái is the first gin to be produced in Vietnam and is a boldly spiced, exemplar of Southeast Asian flavours.

Price: ~ £42
ABV: 45%
Known Botanicals:
Black peppercorn
Cassia bark
Cassia leaf
Coriander seed
Đia Siêu wood
Diễn pomelo peel
Mắc Khén jungle pepper
Mắc Mật berry
Mắc Mật leaf
White liquorice

California-born, Vietnamese-American distiller Daniel Nguyen founded the Sông Cái Distillery in 2018 to produce the country’s first ever gin. Working with foragers and farmers in the Northern Highland regions, the distillery aims to protect and preserve the culture, practices and of course botanicals native to Vietnam, as well as working with rural communities and ethnic minorities, with indigenous women making up 60% of their team, meaning that sustainability is central to what they do.

Sông Cái comes from the Vietnamese term for “Mother River” and this bottle was the Craft Gin Club offering from January 2022. Currently it is only available in Vietnam and the USA, or directly from Craft Gin Club.


The bottle is a standard shape, round with sloping shoulders to the neck and topped with a wooden stopper. On the front is a fairly small label in deep indigo with the name of the gin beneath a logo that appears to be a knife and sickle crossed with leaves around them. On the back is a larger label that has been back printed in white and decorated with colourful motifs in the native Vietnamese painting style, which is a nice touch. The label otherwise gives a little info about the gin and the usual info.

A quick look at their website however, and you’ll see a different bottle both in shape and back label design, which is no doubt an indication of their success. It looks fantastic.


A fresh, green, and tropical aroma leaps from the glass, busy with aromatic spices and a burst of tangy fruit. The cassia and ginger are strongly present, rich and sweet with a pleasantly dry note, it smells strongly of bubblegum at times, which I personally love. There are undertones of gin and coriander, but they are more like tourists in what is clearly a very heavily Vietnamese based list of botanicals! Overall I find it sweet, aromatic, fruity, and very enticing, but by no means a typical gin profile.


Neat, there’s a massive hit of smoky cassia, along with a slightly sour green note giving it a fruity taste rather than a dry one. I get a bold and aromatic peppery kick that’s delightful, followed by citrus that starts out quite sharp but moves towards a pleasantly sweet and tangy flavour. Delving a little further, there’s an earthy, slightly smoked wood element that from my reading I think is the Đia Siêu wood, and for me it’s that smoky undertone that’s the star of the show. The flavour is bold and aromatic, and obviously very proud of its origins.

Water at first seems to do very little to the flavour, including diminishing it which is impressive in itself, but beyond that familiar flash of flavour up front sits more vegetal, woody, and smoky tones, along with dried berries, like hawthorn, and spice. There’s loads of pepper, but it’s fruity and flavoursome rather than dry and sharp, but I do think that the fruit and citrus has diminished, leaving little beyond the spices.

Finally, a G&T (3:1 Mulberry Creek Tonic with star anise, allspice, and a lemon wheel to garnish, because I figured I’d go all in with the spice, but wanted a little extra citrus too!). The result is absolutely fantastic. I confess I was concerned that there was just too much spice in this gin for it to work well in a G&T but this is really delicious. I think the saving grace here is that though there’s a lot of spices present, they’re fruity, aromatic, rich, and flavoursome, rather than dry or powdery, so they work with the quinine well. Yes, this is still an aromatic G&T, with the cassia, peppers, and ginger taking the lead, but if you’re a fan of those flavours, like I am, this cannot fail to impress.


Sông Cái is a borderline gin. For many, I’m not sure they’d consider it to a true gin at all, but for those who enjoy contemporary gins that aren’t afraid to push boundaries and, in this case, go all out on celebrating native botanicals, I think this would make a fantastic addition to anyone’s gin collection. I’ve had a number of gins that I’ve felt were cinnamon/cassis forward, and few have done it as well as this, mostly because there’s just so much more here that the cassia doesn’t interfere with. It’s all about the aromatic spices in my opinion, but every element here is complimentary, and that’s where this gin excels. Highly recommended.

4 / 5 Feathers

Add half a feather if you love aromatic spice. Remove a feather if you don’t!

Sông Cái is available online via Craft Gin Club, or in Vietnam / USA


All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.

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