Distilleries that offer whole barrels of rum or whisky for sale are nothing new. Some of them even allow customisation of their product. Want to finish your sherry cask-aged whisky for another month in a sauternes cask? Depending on the level of tweaking allowed at said distillery, you might just be welcome to do so.
Singapore-based distillery Compendium Spirits however, has recently launched a groundbreaking service that has taken the notion of customising your own barrel of spirit to a whole new level.
Chartered by Compendium Spirits, as it’s called, is now the world’s first truly bespoke barrel ageing programme. Going beyond simple alterations, customers of the service are not only able to decide on the length of ageing and casks used, but even aspects such as bottling strength, label design, and type of base spirit. Yes, this means even the type of new make (the unaged base distillate) is yours to decide.
This is only possible because the entire production is done in-house in their Mandai facility in Singapore, including creation of the base spirits. While most distilleries procure ready-made neutral grain spirits (NGS) for redistillation, Compendium eschews this practice in favour of making them from raw base ingredients.
At launch, they are offering four base spirits to choose from for the Chartered service: Arrack, Honey Spirit, Rum, and Whiskey. All made from raw ingredients sourced from within Southeast Asia, each of them are unique in their own ways. The Whiskey, for instance, is made from Hom Mali rice grains sourced from Thailand, rather than made with conventional barley or corn.
Meanwhile, the Arrack is made using gula melaka from Indonesia, the Honey Spirit is made using wildflower honey from Thailand, and the Rum is made using molasses from Malaysia.
The idea is to imbue the end-product with a certain Asian flair, in line with Compendium’s ethos of edifying the bounty provided by the Southeast Asian region, rather than solely looking at already established ideals of spirit making for guidance.
Simon Zhao, originally a Chinese national, is the founder and distiller of Compendium Spirits. He envisions the service as a journey undertaken with the customer, rather than as a top-down approach. Entrusting lay customers with parts of the production process may seem like a bad idea, but for him, it’s about exploring the educational benefits as well.
“Chartered by Compendium Spirits is not a one-time effort, but a journey of understanding the beauty of crafting spirits with our customers.” He adds: “This is why with Chartered, we have used our knowledge to curate an experience that brings our customers onto a learning journey.”
Of course, certain set parameters are in place so as to maintain a level of quality. Zhao will be with the customer every step of the way, so he can better recommend from his experience and research how a certain input might turn out before it is implemented.
The Chartered by Compendium Spirits programme works by first having the customer pick a base spirit: Arrack, Honey Spirit, Rum, or Whiskey. A tasting of their aged form can be arranged so you can better understand the potential flavour profile of each before committing.
Next, you pick a barrel size. Available in 4L, 8L, 16L, and 32L sizes, the barrels are all sourced from a cooperage in Spain and are made of new American oak. The programme recommends a minimum ageing period of 3, 6, 9, and 12 months respectively, based on Zhao’s research findings.
Though the ageing periods may seem short in comparison to the likes of Scotch, it should be noted that Singapore’s tropical ageing climate accelerates the process by a lot, akin to the practices of many Taiwanese whiskies. The much smaller barrel sizes (in Scotland, 200L barrel sizes are common) also means an increased ratio of liquid contact with the inner surfaces of the barrel, further accelerating the process.
Customers may then arrange on-site tasting sessions of their barreled spirit during the maturation process, and tweak it to their liking if they so desire. Then comes the bottling of your own bespoke barrel of spirit, which you can choose to have at cask strength (68% ABV), or diluted down to any other preferred proof. The bottle label design is also completely up to you to provide, or Compendium can have it sorted out at your behest.
If choosing to bottle at the universally acceptable 40% ABV, a 4L barrel will net you around 13 full 500ml bottles of spirit, after accounting for Angel’s Share (the amount of spirit lost to evaporation during ageing).
The filled bottles and even the barrel are now yours to keep. Yet, the Chartered programme takes this a step further by allowing refills of the barrel. This has got to be one of the most distinct facets of the service, since the barrel used to age your spirit remains in your ownership after bottling.
This opens up doors to further combinations and sequences for your second filling onwards. For instance, if you chose rum as your first fill, you now have an ex-rum cask to play with for your next filling. You could even charter multiple barrels and do blends of your own – it’s your call and the possibilities for creativity are endless.
The Chartered service is the latest in a line of unique offerings launched by Compendium Spirits. For those unfamiliar with them, the Singapore-based distillery specialises in producing spirits and liqueurs made using raw natural ingredients sourced (as much as practicable) from within the Southeast Asian region.
This means they first ferment sugars like honey, molasses, and gula melaka to create an alcoholic beverage – as opposed to just procuring NGS – before turning those into their respective spirits by distilling them in copper pot stills with various botanicals and ingredients native to the region.
They launched their flagship spirit, the Rojak Gin, back in 2019, and most recently debuted Singapore’s first single grain whiskey at the end of 2021. Other products in their lineup include spiced rum made using kampot peppers, and vodka distilled from fermented honey.
Chartered by Compendium Spirits is priced based on the type of base spirit chosen and the size of the barrel used, ranging from S$1,188 for a 4L barrel of rum to S$8,888 for a 32L barrel of whiskey. For further details, head over to their website to get in touch.
See what our friends over at Spirited Singapore think about the Chartered by Compendium Spirits programme.
Disclosure: The author of this article, in his other capacity as a home bartender, is in close partnership with Compendium Spirits for their cocktail related products.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.