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The brainchild of wine importer and distributor Alan Wong and four collaborators, Five XP (which is an acronym for Extra Pure) defies description. Technically a brandy, it’s made with Riesling grapes and has a slightly lower alcohol by volume of 38 per cent, versus the 40 per cent typical of most brandies.
Adding further to its uniqueness is its tall, slim 500ml bottle that is reminiscent of those that contain dessert wines.
Best served in a white wine glass and without mixers or ice, its nose has an oaky richness not unlike some whiskies, though on the palate, it’s unmistakably a brandy.
That said, instead of the unguent mouth-filling richness one normally associates with most brandies, Five XP is a distinctly lighter experience, possibly as a result of the lower alcohol by volume and its distillation process. Priced at S$300, its first run is limited to 10,000 bottles.
The most unusual thing about Paper Lantern’s Sichuan Pepper Gin isn’t the way it’s distilled with a delicate infusion of a host of Asian botanicals, including Sichuan pepper, makhwaen (sourced from Chiang Mai and a close relative of Sichuan pepper), ginger, galangal and lemongrass.
Nor is it the way its base is made of hand-picked Thai rice, which breaks with tradition from most gins which are malt-based. All those factors make Paper Lantern’s gin a bit of an anomaly, though most unusually, the spirit was launched by a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign, raising over S$35,000 in its first month.
Given its ingredients, the gin promises a delicate tipple, pairing well with classic mixers such as soda or tonic water. More adventurous drinkers could also consider Paper Lantern’s take on a Gin Smash, with Thai basil complementing the Eastern flavours of its gin.