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Tanglin Singapura Aromatic Bitters, 44% ABV – Review

Tanglin’s pursuit of making a truly made-in-Singapore Singapore Sling has brought us to a new addition to their line of gins and liqueurs - the Tanglin Singapura Bitters. The distillers partnered with the mixologists at the Tanglin Gin Jungle, the distillery bar, to bring about a more potent, heavily flavoured bitters that incorporates local Singaporean palates and tastes. 

Source: Tanglin

This wasn’t Tanglin’s first foray into bitters - they’ve released a series of bitters before that infused botanicals in gin distillation tails. This bitters is a revamp of that project, with a much greater emphasis on locality. Philibert Gandy, the current distiller at Tanglin Gin, told us that the main inspiration for the bitters were the Chinese medical halls that dot residential areas all across the city. The bottle comes with a striking turquoise blue, adorned with Chinese words. 

Source: Thye Shan Medical Hall

The apothecary-looking establishments often have big, bold calligraphy words hanging above the main entrance. On the bitters bottle, the words “唐麟” translate to Tanglin in Traditional Chinese script. As the name implies, these medical halls dispense traditional chinese medicine (TCM) for aliments and general health, often in the form of whole dried herbs, pre-packed mixes, or sometimes in plastic bottle brews. There is always that distinctive herbaceous aroma that wafts out of the shops - anyone who has walked past one can attest to that. 

Keeping to the theme, most of the botanicals in the bitters are also inspired from TCM brews. Here’s a quick run down:

Liquorice root 甘草 (gān cǎo), Chinese rhubarb 大黄 (dà huáng), Chinese gentian 龙胆草 (lóng dǎn cǎo), monk fruit 罗汉果 (luó hàn guǒ), ginseng root 人参 (rén shēn) and angelica root 当归  (dāng guī). 

Other ingredients include: amchoor (dried green mango powder), green cardamom pods, cassia, vanilla, cinchona bark cloves and roselle flowers. 

Let’s give this a taste test!

Tanglin Singapura Aromatic Bitters, 44% ABV – Review

On it’s own, it’s delectably sweet - you still get that herbal, deep flavours from bitters, but this time, there’s a medicinal sweetness that backs up all those woody aromas. The sweetness does not feel out of place, in fact, it reminds me of monk fruit herbal teas, where that melon - caramel sweetness accentuates the drying, powdery astringent flavours of the other herbs. 

To fix up a quick beverage, I threw a few dashes of it (about 15-20 drops worth) into a glass of soda water. Here, you lose that bitterness, but interestingly you still get to taste some lingering aromas and the sweeter herbal flavours of the bitters - like Korean ginseng candies and dried mugwort. It’s surprisingly delicate with soda water, but still enough flavour that it keeps your palate from being bored. I had this when I was feeling particularly peckish, and I am happy to report that it works. 

Just as I was about to wrap up this review - the team came back to me and said I had to try their homemade recipe: the Lemon Lime Bitters. A favourite afternoon cooler of the team at the Creations Lab as well as the Gin Jungle, the specifics of the recipe is up to who’s making it that afternoon and what sort of mood they’re in. 

The rough recipe is as follows: equal parts lime juice and lemon juice, simple sugar syrup to your liking, topped with ice and soda water, and followed by however many dashes of bitters. I decided to give this a go, with:

  • 20ml lime juice
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 15ml sugar syrup
  • Topped with soda water
  • ~8 dashes of bitters (15-20 drops)

And I have to say… mmmm! This tastes like an adult, grown up version of 7-Up and Sprite. It’s refreshing, with the sweet-sour brightness of the citrus, followed up by that sweet medicinal flavours that you get in the bitters. The bitters aren’t exactly lost in this quick concoction, but more of amplifying the juiciness and even some pithy and zest flavours of the citrus. At the finish, the woodier flavours make a comeback, elevated by the simple sugar syrup. The aromas of the bitters linger long on the palate.

Absolutely give this a try!

Final Rating: 9.5/10 

I have to say - real good stuff! If I had to be nitpicky, I wish there was just a bit more bitter, maybe spicier flavours in the bitters. But these are strongly flavoured, hold their own in a cocktail, and continue to linger long in the afterparty. Heck, even on their own (i.e. throwing a few dashes of the bitters straight into your mouth - yes, that’s how I taste-test my bitters), they’re weirdly addictive. 

I genuinely think this could make for a great addition to a home bar.

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

 

Pick up a bottle at Tanglin's website, or head down to their distillery - go for a tour while at it!

@vernoncelli