After four long years, I was finally able to return to Singapore in January. The country may be known to most as a place for great and diverse food, but I also see it as a great place for learning about – and drinking – booze. Because I stayed there for a week, I thought I had time to document and share enough about my trip.
To those who are unfamiliar with what Singapore is to Asia: companies not based in the region usually set their regional headquarters there when wanting to enter the market. It’s one of the reasons why (booze) trends tend to start there. This leads to the locals usually having easier access to the new releases designated for the region. My last trip there was in February of 2019. Even then, I already started noticing that rum was becoming popular. So, it was nice to see it garner more interest over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A good indicator of the rise of rum is the opening of rum bars. This isn’t a new concept in Singapore. There already were a couple I could think of that were present back in 2017, which was when I first visited Singapore to explore the scene. These are Lime House (original location & second location) andSugarhall. Sugarhall is a bar I give credit to for getting me more interested in rum, as the old location was where I had a Samaroli Jamaica Rhapsody. The first location closed in 2018 due to rent issues but was reopened by the same owners in 2022 in a different location.
Today, there are now more rum bars to be found. Two of the notable ones would be Shangri-La’s Origin Bar and The Capitol Kempinski Singapore’s The Bar at 15 Stamford. Popular whisk(e)y bars such as Swan Song and Auld Alliance have also stepped up their rum selections. Cocktail bars are no exception too. I won’t be able to talk about Origin Bar, as I didn’t have time to visit it. I’ll be putting more focus on The Bar at 15 Stamford, largely because the bar manager, Edriane Lim, is someone I’ve known for a few years. Despite his busy schedule, we managed to catch up during my trip.
Image from 15 Stamford Bar Instagram
Malt: Hi Ed, could you introduce yourself to us?
Edriane: My name is Edriane Lim, I was born in the Philippines and grew up in a Chinese family. I moved to Singapore last 2011 and I have been in Singapore ever since.
Malt: I’ll admit that I had no idea The Capitol Kempinski Singapore Hotel existed until you moved there. What’s the genesis of The Bar at 15 Stamford?
Edriane: The hotel itself is a heritage building and, looking into its history, we have discovered many stories about this area. Back in 1840’s this area used to be a pineapple and sugarcane plantation. When the plantation was then moved, the building that we see today used to house sailors that are passing through the island. This building has a lot of history that ties it to the spirit of rum, that is why we decided to choose rum as the main focus of the bar.
Malt: The Bar at 15 Stamford seems like a long name for a bar. Is there an official nickname for the bar?
Edriane: We would sometimes call it 15 Stamford Bar. Our IG handle is @15stamfordbar.
Malt: What brand or style of rum has been your favorite so far?
Edriane: This is a very good question. I am unable to say which rum exactly, as each style has a very unique taste to it. It really depends on how I feel and what sort of flavors I feel like drinking at the moment. If I feel like something sweet, Spanish style rums are always best. English style rums are good in cocktails and some of them are good to sip as well. Agricole style rums, I always love them in a daiquiri or any refreshing style cocktails.
Malt: How about your favorite rum-based cocktail?
Edriane: Everyone loves a Daiquiri or a Mai Tai when we talk about rum-based cocktails. Personally, I love making rum negronis. Replace the gin with a nice Jamaican rum, the drink evolves to a whole new cocktail.
Malt: In terms of spirits, rum has slowly been getting more love and understanding in Asia. After being looked down on and misunderstood by most for so long, it’s nice to see a lot of whisk(e)y drinkers open up to rum, but there is always a learning curve. Which brands or styles have been received more warmly at the start? Which brands or styles do you hope that more would be open to?
Edriane: Based on my experience in working with rum for the past four years, consumers tend to have a mindset that if they are going for rum, they are expecting sweetness. I would usually suggest immediately the Spanish styles like your Diplomatico, Abuelo, or Zacapa. Once they have had their rum, I would then slowly talk to them about the other styles and give them a taster. This is how we convince some consumers that rum is no longer your usually sweet style spirit. We have to educate them that there are different styles of rum and that there are rums that are almost comparable to a whisky. The Agricole style of rum is less appreciated by consumers, but those who have tasted more rum than others are getting more and more interested in agricole.
Malt: How do you get those who say they don’t like rum to try rum?
Edriane: The easiest way is to pour them a taster of a rum and talk about it. Another way is to offer them a cocktail that is more on the sour side in case they do not like sweet ones. The best way is to really talk about rum, educate the consumers, and to always be ready with a tasting glass.
Malt: It’s safe to say that a lot of consumers still think that rum is naturally sweet, right? So, they like the easily more popular sweetened and adulterated rums. How do you get them to try the honest rums?
Edriane: One way is to offer them a rum flight. Some people would like us to create a special rum flight for them, so I would usually put all three styles of rum inside and let them experience the differences side by side. Another way is to really talk about the spirits itself and have them taste it.
Malt: Any specific goals for the bar that you’d like to share?
Edriane: I would like The Bar at 15 Stamford to be a place where people get curious about rum and to continue educating consumers about it. The collection may increase or not, but we are now running at 300 different labels of rum, and I am sure there is enough there for each type of consumer.
Malt: You were part of the team that got Atlas into the 8th place in 2019’s World’s 50 best bars, right? Since Atlas’ theme is gin. 15 Stamford’s theme is rum. Are we seeing a trend here? Do you see yourself moving on to a different themed place like agave spirits or brandy in the future?
Edriane: Atlas was definitely a highlight in my career. The amount of gin that we had there was mind blowing. Although gin was easier to understand, we did have a hard time at first with regards to picking the gins and choosing which one best suits our guests. I think that the best thing I have taken from Atlas is that I am able to actively choose different rums in a day for me to push for the guests. It keeps me on my feet and makes sure that I get to review the profile of the rums behind my bar while I am educating my guests. I always believe that the trends in the bar community always start because of us. We set the trend and we push for what we know can be amazing. Being able to use The Bar at 15 Stamford as a platform to highlight the category of rum is enough for me to enjoy my work. To be able to increase the curiosity of more people to rum is also a great thing to achieve, rather than it becoming just a trend.
Malt: You mentioned that you’re this year’s organizer for Rum Fest Singapore on July 8 and 9. What made you go for this idea?
Edriane: Rum Festival is being held in Europe. It is a common event for them and that is why the category is being more appreciated in that part of the world. If we really think about it, sugarcane came from Asia and we should be able to appreciate this spirit as well. My motivation for the rum fest in July is to promote awareness for the rums that are available in Singapore. I want to put all the rums that are accessible in Singapore in one room and just educate consumers on how we can appreciate each rum style side by side. Then from there, hopefully we can grow bigger and have more international influence in the future.
Malt: I look forward to hearing the good feedback after the Singapore Rum Fest. Thank you for putting in the effort to make rum more popular and understood. Also, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Any message for those who will read this?
Edriane: Every spirit is amazing, and it really depends on you on how you want to enjoy it. The people working behind the bar will always have an influence on the consumer but at the end of the day, every human being has their own preference. For me, as I am now dwelling deeper into the rum world, I can say that rum is always going to be fun. Whether it’s for cocktails, shots, or just to sip to end your night, the rum category has a lot to offer. Just ask, I will always have a tasting glass ready.
Just to show a bit of how good the bar’s selection is, I’m reviewing a limited expression from Mount Gay. I’ve wanted to try this Mount Gay Port Cask since it was released in 2020 due to only hearing good things about it. I was extremely glad to find out they had this at the bar.
To share more information on this limited release: this was Truddian Branker’s second release in the Master Blender Collection series. Truddian is Mount Gay’s first female master blender. She blended column distilled rum aged for five years in ex-Tawny Port casks with 14 year old pot distilled American oak-aged rum and finished them in ex-Tawny Port casks for one year. Only 6,570 bottles were released.
Mount Gay The Port Cask Expression – Review
Caveat: I reviewed this rum at the bar, after just checking in my hotel upon arriving in Singapore. Add that I was also interacting with the bartenders, so these tasting notes aren’t my best.
Color: Brown with a pink hue.
On the nose: I get medium, round, and lasting aromas of cherries, strawberries, strawberry syrup, marzipan, Pochi candy, vanilla and honey. Hints of smoke, caramel, burnt caramel and sakura flowers come out later on.
In the mouth: I get mild and not-s0-lasting tastes of Pochi candy, strawberries, strawberry syrup, cherry syrup, honey, vanilla, caramel, and plastic balloons. At the end are rounder and shorter tastes of orgeat, more strawberry syrup and more plastic balloons.
This is more expressive on the nose. It seems more complex for me there. The aromas are more elegant while I get a rougher feeling in the mouth. To be honest, I was disappointed as I expected this to be better. But then, I’m also not surprised as most ex-wine cask matured spirits don’t really appeal to my senses.
Lead image courtesy of Changi Recommends.
I haven’t been to Singapore in over 10 years but required stops were Quaich Bar for a dram, the Yard for a pint of London Pride and Hill Street Char Kway Yeow.
Hi Stretch, the Quaich bars are still around! Not sure about The Yard and Hill Street food. There’s just too much good eats and drinks when in Singapore. Youre gonna suffer from having good choices