‘Hong Kong’, in Mandarin, literally translates into the words ‘fragrant harbour’ in English. It makes sense if you think about the myriad aromas that effuse from the many temples, spice traders, and tea houses that dot the city.
So when mixologist Kit Cheung and practising nurse and a master of law graduate Joseph Cheung (no, they’re not related) decided to create Hong Kong’s first gin back in 2018, they knew the direction they wanted from the get-go, resulting in the award-winning Perfume Trees Gin we have today.
“Capturing the essence of Hong Kong has always been our dream,” says Kit, the main man behind Perfume Trees Gin. “Using the classical spirit of gin as a canvas, we have painted broad brush strokes of traditional fragrances and aromas, transporting you on a gentle breeze to a portrait of our Hong Kong.”
The aromatics Kit refers to include the likes of white champaca flowers (nicknamed ‘perfume tree’, thus the gin’s name), sandalwood, long jing green tea, 15-years aged tangerine peels, and Chinese angelica. These he finds are the defining ingredients within his gin, though other botanicals like orris root and juniper are used too.
The distillation process is an interesting one. In Hong Kong, within an old vernacular village house turned into an alcohol laboratory, you’ll find the apparatus used to distil just the white champaca flowers alone.
These flowers are sourced fresh from a farm in Taiwan, and because they wilt within just 6-7 hours, are quickly distilled in nearby Hong Kong while their aromas are at peak.
The floral distillate and the rest of the dried ingredients are then sent to a hi-tech distillery in the Netherlands, the historical birthplace of gin, for a final distillation. Once done, they are bottled in beautiful 500ml vessels adorned in Chinese calligraphy stylised into the shape of a tree.
The result is a gin that doesn’t disappoint. With a name like Perfume Trees, a highly aromatic bouquet is perhaps expected. And luckily, it thoroughly delivers in that aspect. On the nose, its delicate florals whiffs alluringly, underscored by woody scents and a hint of deep citrus.
Unlike most gins, juniper takes a backseat here, allowing the star ingredients representing Hong Kong to manifest potently. We also enjoy the silky texture of Perfume Trees when drunk neat. As far as sipping gins go, this one definitely doesn’t overpromise.
First launched in 2018 in Hong Kong, Perfume Trees Gin (S$125/bottle) has recently made landfall in Singapore, through distributors Pride of the East. Cocktail bars like Taylor Adam have them on their shelf, while retailers like Hong Zun Bottle Shop and Hong & Friends are stockists too.
If shopping online, bottles are available on Woodstock Beverages and via Pride of the East’s own e-store.
For more information on Perfume Trees Gin, head over to their website.