Four Pillars: Australian craft gin in Beijing

Four Pillars gin tasting at Parlor Beijing China.jpg

I first tried Four Pillars ‘Rare Dry Gin’ on Wednesday night when I ran into Adam Gottschalk (ex-Dxcel) and Wendy Yang (ex-Q Bar / Q-Mex) who are working with the company. We met on a south Sanlitun side-street, they had an open bottle from a tasting earlier that night, and I sampled it there and then. I found it quite potent in terms of flavor and a bit phenolic. Admittedly, I’d tasted some 30 ice wines earlier that day so my taste buds might have been off.

The next night, I went to a trade tasting at Parlor and tried several cocktails made with Four Pillars. This spirit, made in the Yarra Valley in Australia, pours at 41.8 percent.

(I guess rounding up to 42 percent would be less sexy from a marketing standpoint.)

The best cocktail I tried was the Negroni, with this pretty punchy gin — some distinct citrus, bitter and spicy elements — embracing the vermouth and Campari in its grip. One of the company’s partners, James Gosper, said they use whole oranges in the process and that it works well in a Negroni. Sold me.

(To be honest, the most intriguing thing Gosper said is that he worked for Moet-Hennessy for over a decade, specifically on wine, and was involved with the Chandon bubbly project in Australia. That’s interesting because Chandon has just started producing wine in Ningxia and his former boss, Tony Jordan, was a big part of that project. It seems, however, the world of craft gin, with hundreds of competitors, is far more lucrative than that of wine, where you can expect to face tens of thousands.)

The gin and Watson’s tonic was good although using a spirit that costs rmb400-plus per bottle–I’m basing that on a retail price of almost 70 dollars at Dan Murphy’s in Australia–seems a bit excessive in such a drink.

Coming in third was the martini. I found those same punchy attributes made for a pretty intense drink. Maybe a different vermouth, one that involves whole oranges, would have worked better? Or perhaps I should have the martini before the Negroni.

Anyway, interesting times at Parlor, and it will be fun to try this gin at some venues around town. Also good to meet lots of people, including some I haven’t seen in ages, like Frankie Zou of Domus, Moto Ichuyama of Mokihi / Twilight,  Eric Li of Mao Mao Chong, event planner Ian Syer, and Ethan Liu of Diageo. Plus a few others whose names I had forgotten and, I believe, who had also forgotten mine. That doesn’t seem to matter, though, when you’re already on your third drink.

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