PS: Who’s behind Paper Lantern Gin and what’s the story behind the product?
S: Paper Lantern distilling is a company founded by myself and my husband, Rick. I’m the Managing Director, whilst Rick handles the Sales and Marketing. I left my corporate job and focus exclusively on Paper Lantern since 2015 and we launched our first product, Sichuan Pepper Gin, last year in 2016.
As a couple, we’re always interested in how things were made in drinks so we always knew this is something we wanted to do. Ever since we lived in the US around 2002, Rick took courses in distillery so we’ve experimented with home-brewed beers. We had a balcony so we grew plants and had beehives in our porch which we harvested honey to make honey liquor.
When we moved to the Middle East, it was something we couldn't really do there, so we spent time putting together a business plan.
In 2012, we moved to Singapore and were really inspired by the tropical fruits and spices that were available at the local wet market. There are so many beautiful options in Asia from dragonfruits, lychee, passionfruit and what surprised us was that there weren't any Asian Gins in the market. So we thought it would be a great time to start.
We raised money through an Australian crowdfunding campaign and shot the promotional video production ourselves. Through the platform, we hit our goal of $15,000 in 30hrs and doubled it by the end of the month. Launched in Singapore because this is where we live now and we find that Singapore is a great market for craft spirits. There’s so much enthusiasm and talent in Singapore in terms of the bar and spirits scene since 2012, so it’s a great launching platform for Paper Lantern.
PS: What makes Paper Lantern Gin unique from others out there in the market?
S: Even though it is a Singapore based company, it is produced in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We chose Thailand because of the readily available ingredients that we wanted to use in our gin. We use rice that is native to the region as a base, a lot of other companies would usually use neutral grain spirits. Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible, it makes a lot of sense to distill it in a place where ingredients are readily available. By purchasing a great amount of rice, juniper berries and Sichuan pepper straight from local farmers, it is our chance to give back to the community as a company. We know every ingredient in our gin; no flavourings, no colouring, no preservatives and those are important keys to making our product.
PS: Paper Lantern is dedicated to showcasing Asian ingredients. Have you had trouble incorporating any botanicals in particular?
S: Sourcing Juniper berries in Asia is a great challenge at the moment. Also, Sichuan pepper is a bit of a tricky spice to work with but we are determined to make Paper Lantern using 100% locally sourced ingredients.
My husband is well informed on the technical side of distilling, using rice as a base is unique but it was a nice R&D process for us to experiment with all these ingredients together. From going to the market, picking ingredients to try, interviewing bartenders, distilling them in small batches and to personally deliver products around Singapore.