Following on from the stratospheric growth of gin brands in the UK, the spirit is having a moment in Hong Kong, with local boutique gin distilleries beginning to make their mark.
Hong Kong is best known for its expensive rent, which is a major hindrance to new start-up businesses. Yet recently, some local young gin lovers have set up their own micro-distilleries amid the urban jungle and set about producing new spirits for a thirsty audience.
Upholding the philosophy of 100% made in Hong Kong, Two Moons distillery aims to bring a locally handcrafted premium sipping gin to the market. Run by two young local distillers, Ivan Chang and Dimple Yuen, it incorporates 12 different botanicals from around the world – one third of which are of Asian origin – from dried tangerine peel to fresh lemon peel and pink peppercorn. On the palate, sweet and nutty notes arise from Chinese apricot kernel, Madagascan vanilla pod and tonka bean, leading the gin to finish with flavours of juniper, coriander seed and liquorice root.
“Dimple is from a bartender background and I have experience in F&B management. Both of us are so attracted to gin due to its huge creative flexibility that we can play around with. Apart from juniper berries, we can put whatever botanical we want in the recipe and this can easily reflect our thoughts as distillers.” Ivan explains.
“We especially share our passion for London dry gins and hence since we initiated the project back in 2017, we have been visiting various distilleries in the UK the learn the production. One of the master distillers we met during the journey is still our mentor till now!
“The Two Moons signature dry gin is our first product and it fulfils our goal is to create a gin that is balanced, complex and sip-able. Besides the production side, we are also keen to build up a community for gin-thusiasts and spread out the distillation knowledge of gin which is actually achievable even in Hong Kong.”
At the moment, the spirit is created in small batches of only 100 bottles with a custom-built copper still from Germany and in an one-shot distillation method.
Also founded by a young duo, Jeremy and Nick, is N.I.P. The distillery boasts a copper pot-column distillation system custom made in Germany by Christian Carl, who was also responsible for the distillery hardware of international renowned spirit brands like Sipsmith in London, Four Pillars in Australia and Kinobi in Kyoto. Taking 16 months to design and manufacture, the still has a 220L capacity pot.
“We have known each other for a long time and whenever we hung out, we usually drank gin as both of us are big gin lovers, especially Nick who has collected over 100 labels at home. We came up this spontaneous project one night in 2017. Both of us were figuring out a start-up project that is fun and interesting. Since there was nothing like a Hong Kong spirit back then, from there we sprung up the idea of setting a micro-distillery in Hong Kong.” Jeremy explains.
Nick adds: “I used to be a lawyer and Jeremy used to be a startup entrepreneur in the F&B business – basically both of us are outsiders of the industry. However after we had this concept in mind, we worked on a lot of research and study trips to Scotland and Australia, hands on home distillation experiments. During the journey, I have attained my diploma in distilling from the Institute of Brewing & Distilling. Ultimately, we wish to prove to the world that even in Hong Kong, we can find our own way to produce our local spirits.”
As for the recipe, the gin is created using over 20 different botanicals, including some of the “city’s own flavour”, namely kumquat, shoumei tea leaves, aged tangerine peel (chenpi), goji berries and osmanthus. The duo says after trying out with numerous recipes, they landed on this version as the profile can express the “fragrant and light” style as they would like to seek for.
Jeremy says, “Education in gin is definitely needed in the city. By hosting distillery tour and gin tasting, we hope to engage more people to our industry and explore the craftsmanship of it.”
Crafted in small batch, there are currently 100 bottles of gin in the first batch.