In his Indiegogo campaign, Steven Newton, the founder of Hong Kong Distillery and “Hong Kong’s first gin”, used the platform to crowdfund his endeavour to produce gin by “infusing the complexity of Hong Kong into every handcrafted small batch”. Turns out, none of this was true.
Screenshot from Indiegogo
Also on the crowdfunding site, the gin, which retails for HK$480 per 750ml bottle, is detailed by Newton as such:
“Handover Gin has been in progress since 2014, when I took delivery of our first custom test equipment and built a small test lab in an unused unit upstairs from my apartment to work on the recipe for Handover Gin, including researching licensing, meeting with various government departments and working closely with a consultant to confirm the requirements for setting up Hong Kong’s first craft distillery.”
“Such is the story of Handover Gin, the first Hong Kong gin. We earned that distinction by building the first distillery in the Pearl of the Orient and then infusing the complexity of Hong Kong into every handcrafted batch. Classic ginseng (人參) lends a luscious earthiness, balanced by the delicate citrus notes of bitter orange (酸橙). Chinese cinnamon (肉桂) has a warming effect, while the effects of horny goat weed (淫羊藿) are legendary. In all, 11 organic botanicals complement the fundamental essence of fresh juniper, resulting in a gin that honours a past tradition while establishing a new one. This is gin by our rules. As rich and vibrant as the culture that inspired it, Handover Gin is the spirit of Hong Kong.”
It seems Newton’s rules were different to the legal ones that govern Hong Kong. The distillery in Tsuen Wan was raided by customs officers last Wednesday, and the gin was found to be imported from the founder’s home country of New Zealand and then relabelled with the above claims that it was both distilled and bottled in Hong Kong. The stills were not in use and were covered in dust when customs officers raided the location last week, and the distillery was also found to not possess the licensing required to make gin in the city. SCMP reported that the 40-year-old founder and his girlfriend have both been arrested.
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