What did you do before setting up Tanglin Gin Distillery?
I grew up in Dorset, did all the normal things a country kid does growing up like collecting sloes for my dad’s Sloe Gin. When I was about thirteen I went overseas for the first time and realised the world was a bigger place than Dorset. I went to college, became an Architect, travelled a lot, spent 5 years living in Hong Kong, nearly moved to Canada, before finally settling in Melbourne, Australia. Life was normal until 2009, when the Black Saturday Fires, the biggest fires in Australia’s history up to then, gave my life’s direction a little nudge. A series of events led me to sell my company and start working internationally again, which is what led me to Singapore and meeting Andy, Charlie and Chris, the other founders of Tanglin Gin.
What made you decide to set up a distillery?
A casual remark in a conversation in a bar with Andy and the others, about how Singapore didn’t have a Gin Distillery, over a few months we kept coming back to this conversation. This led to 18 months of research and business plan writing and looking for a place to make gin.
How did you get from the idea to beginning to make Tanglin Gin?
We had a go at making a little test still, gave up on that, then I got hold of a little pressure cooker still and we started experimenting. Andy started digging into the regulations, Charlie started looking at Branding and Chris explored the capital and recurrent costs and company structures. Almost 18 months after the first conversation, in July 2018 we started making Gin.
What’s happened since we last caught up in 2021?
It was a mad two years during ‘peak’ Covid and like most businesses we had to adapt or whither. At the beginning, orders from our biggest customer, Duty Free @Changi, disappeared overnight only to be replaced by a surge in online sales which triggered new logistic challenges and the team having to learn new skills. Amongst all this mayhem we found a new home for our distillery when we won a tender to lease 2 heritage buildings at Dempsey Hill, originally the British Army Camp in Singapore. We are now on 1 Acre of land with our own piece of jungle with some interesting wildlife, we also have a tennis court!
Can you tell us more about your new distillery?
So Tanglin Gin is now in Blk 26a and 26b, Dempsey Hill. One building is our Distillery which we call The Creations Lab, we host tours on the weekend, these are really popular and we recommend booking. The other building is The Tanglin Gin Jungle, our Ginexperience and Event Centre, we squeezed in a 7m long Gin Bar and our own Gin Shop, open 6 days a week with a gin-influenced food menu. We are now hosting parties and will have our first wedding in a few months. The best part is that Dempsey is located in the area of Tanglin, so it feels like Tanglin Gin has come home at last.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
Singapore is a small country and covid has confirmed this for us - we need to be an international brand. Whilst Covid hit travel retail hard, it is bouncing back and we have found an advantage being a local brand, with the ongoing global supply chains experiencing delivery delays we can supply without any delays. With Changi being a large Regional Travel Hub we have a loyal local travelling fan base and a fast growing international fan base. Lotte took over Changi Duty Free right as covid shut the skies, but we have now have an amazing partner with the team at Lotte.
What have been the biggest acheivements so far?
We’ve had some amazing Awards success since we last spoke, we picked up back-to-back Awards as Winners of the Traditional Gin category of The Gin Guide Awards, our Black Powder Gin won Taste Master, which is the Best Spirit in Asia 2021 with The Spirits Business, and then earlier this year Black Powder brought home its 3rd successive Double Gold at San Fransico World Spirts, which gave us a rare Platinum Award - we think this is the first Platinum for any Spirit Class in Asia.
We have had success in Australia with a National Listing with First Choice Liquor, covering almost every State and Territory (sorry Tasmania!) and have been selected for the Gin Specialist, Dan Murphys Stores. We picked up Distribution in New York and New Jersey and expanded into a few venues in Florida. The UK remains an elusive market, still frustrating having so many fans of the gin in the UK and not being able to supply them.
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
Unexpected, Adventurous, Explorer.
What’s your favourite way to drink your gins?
I designed all our gins to be consumed in 3 ways; first to drink neat without burn, so a smooth long finishing gin, robust-flavour forward gins that work with a variety of tonics, though we do have recommendations. Second in a negroni, in my opinion a great drink to test flavour-forward gins, will it be drowned by the vermouth and Campari. And finally as a Martini, this is a classic test you must pass.
Orchid Gin is a perfect Negroni Gin with 40/30/30 ratio’s, Singapore Gin makes a stunning contemporary Martini with a lime twist, and Black Powder Gin for me is perfect in both a Negroni and a Martini, you can choose an olive or a lemon twist, my preference is for the lemon.
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
When I last thought about this is I said ,The Farmers Wife, Fossey’s Gin and Conker Gin, but because these are all now empty bottles I’d replace with a bottle of HM Rare Dry, a little new start up from Victoria in Australia, stunning gins from such a new distillery, a bottle of Seven Seasons Gin, a First Nations produce gin, the Green Ant is interesting and the Bush Apple is a lovely flavoured gin, and for my third I’d pick up a bottle of Brighton Gin, just because I love coastal gins.
What’s next for Tanglin Gin - any exciting plans?
We’ve spent the first 10 months at Dempsey Hill settling in and making some tweaks, but there’s more to do, like installation of a new botanical experience garden. We have the advantage of not needing green houses, we have plans for improving our carbon foot print, including reduced glass use, solar power and an amazing water system that will give us the purest water that will be a carbon zero water, improving the quality of our gins at zero cost to the environment.
In the pipeline for the next 12 months is a new core Gin, some amazing collaborations a special travel retail project, initial planning for an Regional Gin Extravaganza that we will host at the Distillery, and fingers crossed we can secure European and UK distribution.
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