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Gin Reviews

Drinking the Catnip: NIP Rare Dry Gin, NIP Exotic City Gin, Catnip Gin No. 1 & 2


What is the beauty of Hong Kong? For N.I.P. Distilling’s founders Nic Law and Jeremy Li, it’s the ability for anyone – regardless of status or importance – to make an earnest effort and have a shot at achieving their dreams and passions. Despite the common refrain of a persistent conformist Asian mindset in Hong Kong, it is paradoxically also a place that values grit, persistence and self-belief.

This philosophy was the genesis behind the creation of N.I.P. Distilling, an acronym for “Not Important Persons”. Self-identifying as N.I.Ps themselves, the duo came from humble backgrounds, but set out to create and distill a gin that could encapsulate Hong Kong’s flavors and spirits and represent the city on a global stage. Their thesis: even not important persons can make things happen.

N.I.P. Distilling Co-Founders Nic and Jeremy (Image source: Tatler)

Taking the leap of faith, Nic and Jeremy visited and apprenticed at distilleries in Scotland and Melbourne, learning the ropes and picking up tips from the pros. Once they had a plan mapped out for the kind of gin they would be proud to call their own, the duo took out a space in an industrial area in Hong Kong’s Quarry Bay, purchasing a 220 liter pot-column still from the famous Christian Carl distillation system manufacturer in Germany. The still itself took 16 months to design and manufacture, and included an alembic helmet and botanical basket for distillation and vapor infusion. 

As for the botanicals in their flagship product, the NIP Rare Dry Gin, the team curated 21 botanicals that would together evoke the essence and flavors of Hong Kong. Among the line-up included regional and culturally-relevant botanicals such as aged tangerine peels, kumquat, osmanthus, Shoumei tea and goji berries.

More recently, N.I.P. Distilling has also launched the second of its flagship gins: the N.I.P Exotic City Gin, which features locally grown perfume lemons. Apart from their core range, however, NIP Distilling has been no stranger to unique collaborations and limited releases. A popular gin series from NIP Distilling was their Catnip Gin Series, which aims to showcase the diversity and flavors of premium Chinese teas. Catnip Gin No. 1 uses a Pheonix Honey Orchard tea as a hero botanicals, while Catnip Gin No. 2 uses Da Hong Pao tea. 

I recently got a chance to taste all four N.I.P. Gin expressions, from the Rare Dry Gin to the Exotic City Gin, to the two Catnip Gins that have been released thus far. So let’s dive in and see what these gins have to offer!

N.I.P. Rare Dry Gin – Tasting Notes 

 

Aroma: There’s a citrusy brightness to the aromas – I get fresh oranges and lemon peels, complemented by notes of juniper, angelica, and cardamom, and a touch of fruity goji berries.

Palate: The palate is quite silky with notes of citrus akin to Sicilian lemon peel and dried tangerine. There’s some juniper, and a savoury touch of rosemary and thyme thrown into the mix as well. On subsequent sips, I also pick up some light tannic accents of green tea, bringing a nice herbality and earthiness that balances the citric qualities of the gin.

Finish: Short, with a nice gentle puff of tangerine and pear.

N.I.P. Exotic City Gin – Tasting Notes

Aroma: At first whiff, I pick up a strong citronella oil aroma – with dense lemongrass and grassiness. The lemon aroma then softens into a subtle sweetness, like lemon verbena. Some herb aromas come through, such as savoury, sage and fennel.

Taste: Quite herbaceous and sweet. While not very acidic or sharp, there's a piney and lemon forward flavour still, reminding me of coriander seeds and lemon verbena.

Finish: Tails off being relatively sweet. There is a lemon basil and thyme herbaceous that continues to develop on the palate, with a subtle liquorice sweetness.

Catnip Gin No. 1 – Tasting Notes 

Nose: Light and crisp, with notes of oolong tea leaves, and light orange citrus.

Palate: The palate is quite bright and elegant – definitely lighter and more crisp than the Catnip Gin No. 2 (see below). I get notes of grapefruit and tangerine peels, with a creamy, sweet accent of vanilla.

Finish: Medium, and ends with a pithy, bitter note akin to pomelo peel.

Catnip Gin No. 2 – Tasting Notes  

Aroma: The aroma of this is deep and rich, with fruity-herbal sweetness of osmanthus and goji berries and the citrus undertones of orange blossom cardamom. 

Taste: The texture of this gin is thick and chewy – slightly heavier than Catnip Gin No. 1. This is accentuated by a pleasant sweetness of orange candy and caramel.

Finish: Medium. It ends with some subtle orange pith notes, rounded by a vanillic body. As it sits, I pick up some light prickling cooling menthol on the back palate.

Overall Thoughts:

I really like what N.I.P. Distilling is all about, and the brand’s central philosophy that anyone of any background can make an earnest effort and create something of impact. And I’m happy to conclude that I enjoy their gins just as much as their message!

The flavour profile of NIP gins are truly quite unique. Some common themes I noticed across the four expressions is the presence of a citrusy backbone (primarily kumquat, tangerine and orange leaning!) to the gin, that are commendably nuanced by the presence subtle herbal flavours and slightly tannic tea accents that makes it quite nostalgic as a flavour profile. 

There’s enough balance and complexity to these gins that it can be good enough for sipping on its own. That said, I can foresee a fun way of using these gins would be to mix them with a bit of tonic and a bit of cold-brewed tea – playing up the floral and fruity accents of the tea leaves.

 

@lotusroot518