Top 10 award-winning Asian spirits
Asian spirits are taking off across the world as consumers seek new flavours and experiences. Here, we reveal some of the region’s most acclaimed bottlings.
Asian spirits producers are putting their spin on products that are commonly associated with the West, such as gin, vodka and rum. Distillers have experimented with exotic ingredients native to their countries to create high-quality spirits that are making waves in markets across the world.
This year’s Asian Spirits Masters competition sought to put a spotlight on the excellent products being produced in the region.
Among the judges for the 2023 blind tasting were: Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business magazine, and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions (The GSMC); Jamie Rowe, bar manager at Gouqi; Ruchira Neotia, partner – Collectivino; Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co-founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog; Dr Winnie Bowman, Cape wine master, wine and spirits judge and writer; and Bryan Rodriguez-Curtis, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols.
The panel sampled spirits from every corner of the region, including Japanese whisky, vodka from the Philippines, Indian gin and Cambodian rum.
Read on to see the 10 bottles that scooped a Master or Gold medal.
135° East Hyogo Dry Gin
The Gold-winning 135˚ East Hyogo Dry Gin stormed to success in the Gin Made in Asia flight, with one judge praising the product’s “fresh and vibrant on the nose with plenty of zest on the palate”.
Produced at Kaikyo Distillery, the Japanese gin includes local botanicals such as sencha, yuzu, shiso leaf, ume and sansho pepper, alongside angelica, coriander and juniper.
Kaikyo Distillery is based on the same site as the Akashi Sake Brewery in the city of Akashi, in the southern Hyōgo prefecture.
Cream Liqueur Chocolate with Baijiu Concept
Looking to liqueurs made in Asia, and business-to-business liqueur manufacturer Creamy Creation took home the top award for its Cream Liqueur Coconut with Baijiu Concept.
The expression was lauded for its product’s “indulgent creaminess and vibrant coconut flavour, complemented by subtle baijiu, which adds depth to the liqueur”. The producer also received a Gold medal for its Cream Liqueur Chocolate with Baijiu Concept, with its “rich, luscious” palate.
Earlier this year, Creamy Creation launched a new range inspired by Asian spirits.
Tanduay Double Rum
Philippine brand Tanduay Double Rum was one of three worthy Gold medallists in the rum flight.
The rum reminded the judges of a barrel warehouse with its “oaky, vanilla” aroma. Tasting notes included “a touch of cinnamon, caramel ice cream, and light spice”.
Tanduay is among the top-selling spirits in the world. Tanduay owns and operates the biggest distillery in the Philippines, with more than 120,000 barrels totalling a capacity of 24 million gauge litres, allowing it to ‘meet the demand of different markets worldwide’.
Trading Tides Gin
Master medallist Trading Tides Gin by Third Eye Distillery was described as “light, bright and fresh” on the nose, with “a hint of Parma Violets on the palate”. “Complex and well made,” one member of the panel noted.
India’s Third Eye Distillery worked with Four Pillars Gin to create Trading Tides gin, inspired by the latter’s Australian home.
The gin draws from the flavours and botanicals found in Australia.
Archipelago Barrel Reserve Gin
Another Philippines-based distiller was successful in securing a medal in this year’s tasting. Family-owned Full Circle Craft Distillers Co scored the top Master accolade for its Barrel Reserve Gin, enjoyed for its “white chocolate, almost fudge-like” notes on the nose.
“The palate really shines with citrus, lime and lemon zest, pine aromatics, and a long and spicy finish,” one judge said. “It shows a good barrel-aged gin.”
Full Circle also won a Master medal for its Archipelago Navy Strength Gin during the competition.
Full Circle was co-founded in 2018 by husband-and-wife team Matthew and Laurie Westfall on the foothills of Mount Makiling in Calamba, Laguna. The company recently rolled out its Archipelago gin brand in the US.
Yoshino Spirits Co’s Kamiki Whisky was celebrated for “orange notes on the nose with a slight ‘meaty’ smokiness”, resulting in a Master medal during a tasting of Japanese whiskies.
One judge noted how the “peatiness doesn’t detract from the other tasting notes”, creating a “perfectly balanced whisky”.
The 48% ABV expression is a blend of Japanese malt whiskies, malt whiskies from the rest of the world and spring water from Japan. It claims to be the world’s first whisky finished in Japanese cedar casks.
Hayashi 8 Years Ryukyu Whisky
The second Master winner in the Japanese whisky flight was Hayashi 8 Years Ryukyu Whisky, described as “very multi-layered” with “lots of aromatics and some salinity”.
“I love Clynelish, and this reminds me slightly of that salinity,” one judge said. “It’s the kind of whisky that if I heard about it and didn’t have it, I’d go somewhere that did – it’s delicious.”
The single grain whisky was aged for eight years in Bourbon casks and bottled at 43% ABV.
Short Story Grain Vodka
Third Eye Distillery grabbed a Master medal for Short Story Grain Vodka, which impressed the panel with its “aromatic and savoury” aroma, “some lime peel, hints of clove and warming spice” on the palate.
The Indian vodka was triple distilled and filtered through charcoal.
Released last year, the Short Story spirits range also includes an Indo-Caribbean white rum and a London Dry gin.
Samai Gold Rum
Cambodia also proved that its capable of producing high-quality spirits. Phnom Penh-based Samai Distillery received a Gold medal for its namesake gold rum.
Judges enjoyed its “Jamaican-funk-like aroma” and “ripe tropical fruits” on the palate.
The molasses-based rum is made with a drop of local organic honey and aged for two to four years in French and American oak barrels, ex-Bourbon barrels and Sherry casks.
Archipelago Lava Rock Vodka
Full Circle Craft Distillers grabbed a Gold medal for its “vibrant, creamy” Archipelago Lava Rock Vodka.
The vodka was copper distilled in small batches, and naturally filtered over lava rocks from the volcanoes of Taal and Mayon.
The Archipelago (Arc for short) range also includes Botanical Gin, Barrel Reserve Gin, Black Bamboo Gin and Navy Strength Gin.