At this point, there’s very little in the gin scene that hasn’t been done already. Botanicals from the far reaches of the world have found ways to play with the predominant juniper note, and some distillers have even deviated from the traditional wheat, barley or corn-based spirits to experiment with potatoes and sugar cane. But that’s the fun of gin; there are endless stories to be found in every bottle – and newcomer Zhen has a good one to tell.
Terence Loh, CEO and co-founder of investment vehicle Dorr Group and Novena Global Lifecare, found himself seeking shelter at a friend’s home after a typhoon interrupted a day of surfing in eastern Taiwan. The house was surrounded by rice fields. After learning that farmers discarded the plants that were too damaged to use for rice, he wondered if he could use the unwanted crops as a base to create a sustainable gin.
After almost a year of experimenting at his home in Sentosa Cove, Loh finally perfected his recipe for Zhen, and set up a small distillery in Yilan County – “where Kavalan Distillery is also because I want it to convey the spirit of authenticity. I want people to get together, have a drink, talk about their dreams and have their own voice.”
Proud of his ethnicity, Loh also wanted greater Asian representation in the spirits world, which is why, on top of having a rice-based spirit, he chose botanicals like Bhutanese juniper and Thai coriander seeds. “I want Zhen to be cocktail-friendly so I didn’t want to overload it with too many botanicals, but there will be a distinct umami flavour.”
Zhen will be available in limited quantities at www.zhengin.com.
(Related: 6 new craft gins to try in Singapore)