Gin is the current darling of the drinking world. It has more prestige than vodka and tequila but is less exclusive compared to the likes of wine and whisky. Gin welcomes everyone with open arms to try its herbaceous botanicals with cocktails that can be as simple as a gin and tonic to stronger ones such as Negroni. Unlike cognac, scotch, bourbon, and wine, there isn’t a wrong way to make gin. Sure, juniper berries may be the dominating flavours in what makes a gin, but the other complementing botanicals are completely up to the distiller.
That said, there are some unusual gins out there that toe the line on funky flavours used in the distillation process. When we say funky, we mean it. There are small batch distilleries out there that produce unusual gins that include jackfruit, galangal flowers, bamboo leaves, and even seaweed. Trying these out will test the boundaries of your palate and perhaps even everything you thought you knew about gin. Read on to find out more about them.
The name should already give this gin’s botanicals away. G’Vine, as it suggests, uses vine flowers and grapes as part of its botanical flavours. Calling itself the “original French gin”, the spirit has 10 botanicals including juniper berries, green cardamom, cubeb berries, liquorice, lime, coriander, quassia Amara, nutmeg, vine flower, and ginger root. What makes this gin so exceptionally smooth in mouthfeel is thanks to the grape spirit, which is apparently a rare ingredient for gin.
The first independent Scotch bottler in Malaysia has branched out to produce her first line of gins using iconic Malaysian flavours. Eiling Lim currently has three types of gins: Pandan Predator, Gawky Galangal, and Nasty Nangka. While pandan and galangal are somewhat acceptable in terms of flavour, not many locals are able to stomach the taste of jackfruit, also known as nangka in the Malay language. Other than the predominant jackfruit in the spirit, there are also other botanicals, including the mainstay juniper, coriander, cardamom, orris root, iron heart, black pepper, and cinchona.
“I found that jackfruit is also another favourite ingredient as it has a very pungent sweet aroma and it tastes like a ripe pineapple. I have seen bartenders infusing gin with pieces of jackfruit and I decided that should be one of the botanicals in my gin,” mentioned Lim in an interview with a local daily.
Yet another gin championing the use of its native ingredient is Dà Mhìle, a Welsh gin brand. The marine algae are sourced from the Celtic coast, which the distillery then infuses with the gin, resulting in the Dà Mhìle seaweed gin. Naturally, the spirit has umami, salty taste that reflects the ocean. Now, doesn’t that sound like it would make a great Martini without needing the olive brine?
You hear a lot about gins that use citrus in its botanicals, but you will rarely hear of one using apples. For the Never Sink Spirits gin, it utilises apples only from upstate New York. It also uses another interesting flavour in its distillation — liquorice. This results in the Never Sink Spirits gin tasting of warm apple spices, as well as a lush mouthfeel that can only be achieved thanks to the apple base.
Ki No Bi gin is Japan’s first artisanal gin produced in Kyoto, inspired by traditional craftsmanship. This Kyoto Dry Gin is made using various botanicals, including some interesting local ingredients such as hinoki (Japanese cypress), yuzu, bamboo leaves, green sansho and gyokuro tea. The ingredients have been categorised into six groups — base, citrus, herbs, spices, fruity and floral, and tea. Each group is individually distilled before being blended together and creating the Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin. As a whole, the gin is recognisable as a typical dry gin, but the subtle Japanese nuances can also be tasted.
Sipping on this gin is like taking a historical tour back in time to the spice route taken by the English. While it is still a London Dry Gin, it utilises Asian spices as its prominent botanicals. You have Malaysian cubeb peppers, Indian cardamom and Tellicherry black peppers, Turkish cumin seeds, juniper from Venice, Moroccan coriander, and Spanish oranges. It’s an exotic gin that’s bound to pique some familiar taste buds.
While this gin does not originate from Southeast Asia, the region inspired the makers of this gin to use flavours and ingredients that hail from this part of the world. Among them are calamansi, Kampot pepper, Thai sweet basil, and galangal. This citrusy gin is named after the Philippine tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primates — you can see the critter on the label of the bottle. The makers suggest sipping this gin neat or with a splash of tonic water and a slice of lime and ginger.
Plants native to Australia are not necessarily recognised worldwide. But perhaps with the West Winds Gin hailing from Australia, the world may know them soon. The Sabre, in particular, is an Australian take on the London Dry Gin and uses native aboriginal botanicals such as toasted wattleseeds, and lemon myrtle, to name a few. The wattleseeds apparently introduces a creamy mouthfeel to the gin, alongside depth of flavour. According to the brand, this is a great gin for a classic gin and tonic.