From jungle beginnings to spice plantations, and now Singapore’s first gin distillery, experience the taste of the Tanglin region with co-Founder Charlie van Eeden.
THE SPIRIT OF SINGAPORE
When Tanglin Gin entered the Singapore spirit market, it was a first for the drinks industry on the island country and city-state in Southeast Asia.
Materialising from the vision of four Western expats, Charlie van Eeden, Chris Box, Tim Whitefield and Andy Hodgson, Singapore’s first gin distillery opened in 2018.
One of the co-Founders discovered a surprising revelation after a night out on a rooftop bar, where there were no local gins available. Moreover, Singapore has been connected with gin for hundreds of years.
As a global trading port and an important part of the ancient Spice Trade Route, the spices travelled from the Far East to Europe, into the stills that created some of the UK’s best-known gins.
With this in mind, the Tanglin Gin Distillery was developed, along with The Jungle Bar. Both are located on Dempsey Hill, a former nutmeg plantation and barracks for British troops, in the verdant and fecund area of the Tanglin district, near the Botanic Gardens.
“The idea of the name for our brand came from one of our founders who used to live in the Tanglin neighbourhood. In the 1700s, this was where the spice plantations were located, one of which was a pepper plantation, an ingredient we often use in our gins,” details Charlie van Eeden, co-Founder of Tanglin Gin.
Along with the name, the brand’s tiger logo is inspired by the area, hailing back to when Singapore was a dense jungle, and small villages were abandoned due to attacks from these majestic striped animals.
“The brave pushed forward as they had visions of growing spices such as sireh, pepper, nutmeg and ginger, under the waving coconut palms and secret gardens filled with lush orchids and botanicals. Tanglin Gin emerged from the same desire to pioneer, create and take a chance,” explains van Eeden.
Two historically significant buildings were repurposed to house the distillery, which includes the Tanglin Creations Lab, the gin experience centre, and The Gin Jungle which is a retail space with a seven-metre-long gin bar.
The company recoups extra revenue with the Tanglin team offering weekend tours of the premises, so guests have the opportunity to see how the gin is made, try the results and purchase merchandise.
TANTALISING THE TASTEBUDS
The location has always had a rich heritage, and now it is a place where good times and gin meet nature and the wilderness.
Since the first batch of Tanglin Gin, the quality ingredients have been inspired by the colourful flavours of Singapore, meaning that the spirit is truly unique.
To expose the optimum intensity of the flavours, the modern stainless steel still has two packs of Raschig rings which are found below and on top of a series of glass botanical baskets.
The process, wedded to the wealth of botanicals, creates a taste which puts the international award-winning brand on the world map.
By blending Asian ingredients such as Angelica root and dendrobium orchids with a more traditional essence, many different notes are released.
Drawing on its natural surroundings, the distillery infuses its products with local botanicals, punctuated with spices sourced from around the region, such as kaffir limes, chilli, orris root, vanilla and amchoor. Although the exotic recipes are inspired by stories from all over the world, the first batch was brewed closer to home.
“Our very first gin was named the Orchid Gin, inspired by Singapore’s national flower and its use of vanilla, an orchid of the genus Vanilla planifolia,” van Eeden informs us.
Another cornerstone product is Black Powder Gin – Tanglin’s Navy Gin, and very fitting considering Dempsey Hill’s military history. It ties in with its 58 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) navy strength, which is thought to originate from the idea that when high proof alcohol spills on gunpowder it would still light.
GINTERESTING GLOBAL PLANS
Expanding into the international spirit arena has been an ambition for van Eeden from the beginning.
“Seeing a bottle of Tanglin Gin on the shelf of a cocktail bar in New York City is the best feeling you can have,” he says enthusiastically.
Strategically and organically growing the company into a globally recognised brand, Tanglin Gin is looking for partners who are excited about its story and products.
“Since we are not only a brand but also a thriving cocktail bar in Singapore, we can offer more than a bottle of gin.
“I am based in Amsterdam at the moment to support our European and US exports. We are currently available in Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US. We will start to export to Europe this year,” he adds.
The distillery is fast approaching its fifth anniversary, and plans are underway to focus the celebrations on a new drink to pay homage to the iconic national cocktail – the Singapore Sling.
“We will launch an interesting new product, not a gin and not a liqueur, but something that will complement our offerings whilst making a great Singapore Sling cocktail. We will also have celebrations in our Tanglin Gin Jungle throughout the month of July.”
With an endless supply of interesting cocktail recipes, the Tanglin Creations Lab invents new products every few months, such as Tanglin Triple Tangerine.
Despite the bootstrapped business being unable to escape the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was forced to navigate its own deliveries as its logistics partner stopped its operations, however, this turned out to be a positive move.
“It allowed us to meet all of our customers in person. Many of them were very happy to see us, and more importantly our gin, during lockdown. This gave us the energy we needed to keep going,” concludes van Eeden.
Tanglin Gin is going from strength to strength – sorakan to that!