Pay no attention to the far-right’s remonstrations: when it comes to consumer goods, globalism has been an absolute boon. Freedom of movement, affordable travel, and instantaneous communication means we’re seeing more cultural exchanges than ever before; and the net result is a win for those passionate about well-made things that are the product of dynamic interactions. Case in point: Procera Gin. Variously described as one of the “best craft gins in the world” — a gold medal at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition certainly doesn’t hurt — Procera is the world’s first truly African gin, distilled in the Kenyan highlands using ingredients that are quintessential to the region. It’s already stocked in some of the best bars and members’ clubs in London. And now, it’s making its Far Eastern debut in Hong Kong.
Founded in 2017 by ex-fund honcho Guy Brennan, Procera gets its distinctive flavour (and name) from Juniperus Procera — a juniper variety that is indigenous to Nairobi. The Procera tree only grows at altitudes above 1,500 metres, helping its berries to develop distinctive nutty and savoury characteristics. This in turn makes Procera ideal as a high-end sipping gin or for use in classic, spirit-centred cocktails. Brennan has made no bones about just how solid he thinks the product is. “Unlike bigger brands that buy their juniper dried from a commodities broker we are one of the only distilleries to harvest our own juniper and use it green (we flash freeze it so it stays fresh). We partner directly with our mace, cardamom and juniper farmers and produce only 1,000 bottles a month. In that sense, we don’t consider ourselves competitors in the ‘gin’ category.”
This aggressively finite supply is a direct result of the various quality controls Brennan & co have implemented. Beyond the unique, small-batch botanicals which must go into the mix — think Selim pepper, Swahili lime, cardamom from Pemba Island — the process by which Procera Gin is made flies in the face of large-scale distilling. The various botanicals are put through a custom-made still that is manufactured by the Muellers — a family who’ve been crafting ‘the Rolls-Royce’ of pot stills for over four generations. Their chief innovation is the aromat: a continuous 20-metre spiral of copper that attaches to the top of the still. Thanks to its shape, and the addition of upward rising steam, the aromat helps to produce a gin that is both delicate and far-reaching in its aroma. Along with the unmistakable handblown bottles — produced by Kitengela Hot Glass expressly for the brand — this is why Procera Gin is being sold at HK$300 a nip. By all accounts, it’s a price people are willing to pay.
For his part, Brennan has already managed to get Procera Gin into the hands of London’s top hotels and mixologists — a useful gauge for how well the brand will do going forward. “I was particularly proud,” he says, “when [legendary bartender] Alessandro Palazzi started serving us in his famous ‘Duke’s Martini’. That’s our trump card.” A slew of allocation followed; and nowadays, it’s not uncommon for some of Procera’s bigger clients to move a dozen bottles of the stuff each month. Small wonder then that Hong Kong bars are lining up to get their hands on the brand. After all, one imagines they’re likely to take notice when even the man behind “the best Martini in England” is impressed.