Outstanding Indonesian ingredients matched with top-shelf talent and a world-class facility make spice island distilling co. a winner in so many ways.
For the discerning drinker, mass market brands just don’t cut it these days. Consumers are looking for something ethical, sustainable, authentically produced in small batches with high-quality ingredients, they want a story and a connection to the producer. More than just a tipple, consumers want something which speaks to their lifestyle, values and ambitions. This is the world of craft spirits, a category which has seen monumental growth globally over the past 10 years as consumers trade up for something more authentic.
Currently, when people think of Indonesian spirits they are unfortunately more likely to think of cheap hooch and hangovers than world-class craft spirits, but thanks to Spice Islands Distilling Co. this is changing. The boutique distillery, based in Gianyar on Bali, is committed to producing world-class spirits by combining the archipelago’s best flavours with authentic production methods to make a range of craft Indonesian spirits.
“We’re on a mission to raise Indonesian spirits – plain and simple,” says Spice Islands Distilling Co. GM, Richard Irving. “There’s no technical barrier to making world-class spirits in Indonesia. If anything the incredible array of flavours and botanicals mean it’s a distillers paradise. Combine that with the world’s best stills and a world-class distiller and the sky’s the limit.”
At the heart of the distillery is “Gede”, a 550-litre copper still hand-made in Germany by CARL GmbH. Considered by many to be the Rolls Royce of stills, Spice Islands spared no expense. “If we want to compete on the world stage there can be no corner-cutting, and that starts with having the best stills,” says Mitch Hayhow, Master Distiller.
This unrelenting commitment to quality seems to be paying off. In the short two years since the distillery opened it has already received five gold medals, two silvers and a bronze at several prestigious awards including the International Wine and Spirits Awards in London and World Spirits Awards, beating well-known brands in the process.
The first release was Nusantara Cold Brew, a deep, rich and luxurious coffee liqueur. Founder Audrey Purwana explains: “We want to produce truly Indonesian spirits, and our sister business is a coffee business. Coffee is something we are already passionate about, so making a coffee liqueur seemed like an obvious first step.”
With hand-selected Arabica beans from the finest growers in Toraja, Aceh Gayo, Kintamani and Java, the beans undergo a rigorous selection process before roasting and cold brewing which produces a less acidic and less bitter coffee and allows the more interesting fruit and chocolate notes to really shine through. With half the sugar of commercial coffee liqueurs and 10 times the coffee, this award-winning coffee liqueur is already the coffee liquor of choice for most of Indonesia’s top bars and restaurants.
The latest release from the distillery, East Indies Gin, is already an overnight hit. The first authentically distilled gin to be made in Indonesia, East Indies Archipelago Dry Gin set out to make something which is instantly recognisable to gin lovers, but with a distinctive Indonesian twist. This is achieved by overlaying a classic ‘gin profile’ of juniper, angelica root and coriander with exotic Indonesian botanicals. The star of the show is kecombrang (aka ginger torch flower). Using the stem rather than the petal, it adds a citrusy aroma and a distinctive confectionery flavour on the palate which really sings. Indonesia is home to 10 percent of the world’s flowering plants, and East Indies plans to expand its gin range to further showcase some of these incredible flavours.
Looking forward to 2023, the distillery intends to make Indonesia’s first authentically distilled and barrel-aged rum. True to Spice Islands charter, this rum will be made from scratch at the distillery using only the finest Indonesian sugar cane. Everything from fermentation to distillation and barrel ageing follows an authentic process. Mitch explains: “What makes rum interesting is that there’s so many variables . . . yeast selection, fermentation temperature, where you make the cuts when distilling . . . and then there’s the barrel program. It’s really an art and a science and it takes a lot of passion and perseverance to create a great rum.
Spice Islands Distilling Co. has big ambitions and will be exporting to several markets including Italy and Singapore by the end of 2022. Despite these ambitions, the distillery treads very carefully on the delicate ecosystem of Bali. “This island is our home and we need to take care of it. This is why we’ve launched several sustainability initiatives, one of which will see us carbon neutral by 2023,” explains Founder Victor Purwana. As a locally made product, the carbon footprint of the distillery’s products is already much smaller than imported spirits. To further reduce carbon emissions and reduce glass waste, the Spice Islands Distilling Co. has already initiated a bottle collection program with several key customers in Bali. In 2023 the distillery will also be upgraded with solar panels and thermally efficient materials to greatly reduce the net energy consumption of the plant. It’s enough to raise anyone’s spirits.