Founder of Brass Lion Distillery
Singapore’s cocktail scene has come to be recognised as one of the world’s best. With Brass Lion Distillery, we finally have award-winning locally distilled products that we can showcase in Singapore and to the world.
Tell us your story, how did you get here?
I was in my early 20s when I started my first business, Chupitos – a shooters bar in Clarke Quay. At that time, the industry was dominated by local, middle-aged male bar owners. This concept was the first of its kind in Singapore and naturally, they didn’t take me seriously. Some even told me directly that I should expect to close my doors in six months.
Chupitos is 13 years old now and I view the longevity of the concept in such a fickle industry as a real achievement. It speaks volumes about the effort made toward building the brand. After my first concept, I knew what I enjoyed was creating new concepts and bringing new experiences to people.
Brass Lion Distillery was conceptualised in 2012. The dream was to create Singaporean spirits that feature botanicals native to this region. Nothing like this had ever been done before in Singapore. I knew I had to master the art and science of distilling before opening the distillery.
So I wrote to distillers all over the world (over 500 of them), convincing them to take me on as an unpaid intern to gain the necessary know-how. Less than 1% responded, and when they did, it was to turn me down. Eventually, through personal contacts, I secured internships with various distilleries in the US and Europe, allowing me to gain much-needed experience.
It was also extremely challenging getting the relevant licenses to open Brass Lion Distillery. There was no precedent. The process of opening turned into a six-year journey to get the proper licenses and approvals with no clear knowledge of whether the business would actually come to fruition at all.
The biggest breakthrough for me was finally seeing our bottle as a finished product on the shelves in restaurants, bars and hotels all around Singapore. It wasn’t an easy journey. Having an actual physical product that I can proudly say is made in Singapore is in itself an achievement.
What impact have you made in Singapore?
Over the years, Singapore’s cocktail scene has come to be recognised as one of the world’s best, and it was a pity we didn’t have a spirit to call our own. With Brass Lion Distillery, we finally have award-winning locally distilled products that we can showcase in Singapore and to the world.
As Singapore’s first full-fledged micro-distillery, we provide visitors with a holistic experience: with our distillery tours, tasting room and gin school, where you can distil your very own bottle of gin. It’s an experience unlike any other in Singapore.
What does 2022 look like for you?
Our goal is for Brass Lion Distillery to be a world-renowned brand. With the recent disruptions caused by the pandemic, our goal for international expansion was paused. Now, as borders are opening up, we’ll be starting up our engines and working towards bringing our brand to the world.
What do you love most about Singapore?
Having lived abroad for a number of years, I’ve come to appreciate how convenient Singapore is. From amazing food and drinks to beaches, parks, museums, and meeting my friends and family, practically everything is easily accessible and within a 20-minute ride.
What are your first and last drinks of the day?
I start the day with coffee. No instant coffee as I enjoy grinding the beans, pulling the espresso shot, and foaming the milk to make a cup of piccolo latte. For the last drink of the day, it’s either hot tea or a negroni – depending on the kind of night!
Who is your Local Legend, and why?
Marcia Tan brings cool experiences to Singapore and makes our city a more vibrant one. From being the woman behind the team successfully running St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Singapore, to staging an all-female music festival (the Alex Blake Charlie Sessions), to taking over and retrofitting the amazing Pasir Panjang Power Station space (which is right next to our distillery!), I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeves once restrictions are lifted.