Tuesday 11 February 2020

Distillery Tour #8: Two Moons Distillery (Hong Kong)

TimeforWhisky.com is, obviously, a whisky blog, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the occasional malternative, be it rum (including every Caroni I can get my hands on), brandy (especially Vallein Tercinier Cognac), and at times, gin (the "whisky drinker's white spirit").

(I stop short at Vodka, of course...)

Gin isn't something we'd typically feature here, but then when you live in HK, it's not every day that someone starts up a local distillery producing a fantastic product. Enter Dimple and Ivan, founders of Two Moons Distillery in Chai Wan, Hong Kong...

The idea for Two Moons Distillery came about in 2017, when Ivan and Dimple were creating their own gin infusions for cocktail events, but were never quite satisfied with the results. After gaining valuable insights from meeting and working with distillers abroad, they decided to set up their own distillery, despite no one else (at the time) having opened a gin distillery in Hong Kong.

Told by many it was "impossible", the duo reached out to HK Customs who more or less said "why not?", and together both sides embarked on a two-year learning journey. It was refreshing to hear Ivan talk of the collaborative experience they had working with Customs - a far cry from what you might expect when dealing with bureaucracy, particularly in the context of alcohol production.

Gin Ambassador course teacher Eddie Nara hearing about Two Moons Gin botanicals from co-founder Ivan Chang
The facility itself is small but smartly designed, with seating around a crescent-shaped bar overlooking the still and bottling facilities, which all sit in a bonded area (interestingly, in Hong Kong only authorised personnel are allowed to enter bonded facilities, and Customs must be notified of each and every non-authorised person who enters).

Speaking of stills, "Luna" (as she's known) is a 100L copper pot and column hybrid still, created by Müller Stills in Germany. Ivan tells a funny story of how Müller weren't sure if they should produce the still for Two Moons, as there was a concern that it may have actually been requested simply to copy and reproduce (because "who distills gin in HK?!"). After satisfying themselves that Ivan and Dimple were legitimate, Müller created the still and it now takes pride of place in the distillery.

Utilising a sugarcane-based neutral grain spirit from Holland, Luna churns out approximately 100-110 bottles in each batch, with 2-3 batches produced per week currently.

Seeking a "balanced, complex and sippable" spirit, the duo experimented with variety of botanicals before settling on 12 to provide citrus notes (Lemon peel, Rose, Tangerine Peel, Pink Peppercorns), Sweetness (Tonka bean, Madagascan vanilla, Chinese apricot kernels), London Dry tradition (Juniper from Italy, Cardamom, Coriander seed) and a slight bitterness on the aftertaste (Licorice root, Oris root). With no sugars or sweeteners, the gin is bottled at 45% (based on taste) in custom bottles which are then wax-dipped by hand.

There are a lot of craft gins out there, and not all of them are good, but I have to say, Dimple and Ivan nailed it with this one. It's one of the few gins I'd happily sip neat, and would make an excellent martini, given the complexity. I particularly like the way the citrus sweetness (never overpowering) balances with the juniper and slight bitterness on the finish.

As if it wasn't impressive enough to start a new distillery in Hong Kong, Dimple and Ivan have taken things one step further to ensure the facility has some serious sustainability credentials too - from re-use of water, to turning the composted botanicals into fertiliser for local community farms, the duo are giving back to the community in more ways than one.

Two Moons is not the only gin distillery in Hong Kong (the current count I believe is 3), but regardless, you have to hand it to anyone who decides to take the leap into distilling, particularly in a city with no recent history of it. Given the quality of the product, I have no doubt Dimple and Ivan will succeed.

Two Moons Distillery is located at the end of the Island MTR line, literally across the road from Chai Wan Station in Chai Wan, HK. Visits can be booked via their website.

A big thanks to Dimple and Ivan for their time and hospitality, and Eddie Nara of Barrel Concepts (and also Gin Ambassador HK teacher) for arranging the tour and introduction.