Singapore distillery offers world’s first bespoke barrel ageing servicejessie tan
As a species obsessed with leaving our personal mark on things, it’s a little surprising no distillery has yet offered a bespoke barrel ageing programme quite as comprehensive as the one Compendium Spirits just rolled out.
The homegrown firm, which won fans with its flagship mead and Asian-inspired spirits like Rojak Gin and Gula Melaka Arrack, claims to be the first in the world to let customers customise their own spirits from base to bottle.
Launched as Chartered by Compendium Spirits, the foundational flavours of this barrel ageing service are fun from the get go. Rather than purchase neutral grain spirits, founder Simon Zhao made his own — and added a Southeast Asian twist.
There are four options to choose from: A honey spirit made with wildflower honey from Thailand, a gula melaka arrack, a rum distilled with sugarcane molasses from Malaysia, and a jasmine rice-based whisky.
Once you select a base spirit, you can choose a 4L, 8L, 16L or 32L cask to age it in. Because of Singapore’s tropical climate, the comparatively small cask sizes (big-name distillers typically use 200L casks), and high cask strength (barrels are filled at 68 per cent ABV instead of the usual 55 to 65 per cent), the time needed for ageing is greatly reduced.
A 4L cask requires only about three months, and a 32L one needs just a year. The casks are made from virgin American oak, but Zhao is open to special requests for different cask types.
At tasting sessions, Zhao offers guidance on whether a spirit is ready for bottling or needs a bit more time in the barrel. Once you’re satisfied with the flavour, the spirit’s bottled, labelled (with a customisable design) and delivered.
But this isn’t the end. The real fun begins if you’re game for a second, or even a third fill. A cask used to age a rum the first time, for instance, may impart different flavours to a second fill of say, a honey spirit. When you’re finally done with a cask, you’re free to take it home.
Rum and rice whisky are already part of Compendium Spirits’ product lineup, should you want a preview of what your own judgement could yield, but the honey spirit and arrack have never before been sold as an aged product.
From the former, expect an aroma of orange blossoms before herbal spices linger on the palate, while the buttery arrack delivers on its promise of gula melaka flavour, without the sweetness.
Since its founding in 2015, Compendium Spirits has taken care of everything in-house, from mashing and fermenting to distilling and packaging. All ingredients – save the juniper berries – for its gin are sourced locally or regionally, and artificial additives are not tolerated, making its drinks ideal for folks who light up at the thought of small batch, handcrafted, made-in-Singapore goods.
Distillery tours are available by appointment only, and include a sampling of four Compendium Spirits products. Contact [email protected] to register interest.