The Gin With Vietnam’s Rich Biodiversity In Its DNA

Founded in 2018, Sông Cái Distillery is Vietnam’s first ever gin distillery on home soil. Handcrafted in small batches in a direct fired copper still, their Sông Cái Vietnam Dry Gin is bold, complex, and smooth. 

Boasting rare botanicals, and techniques that are as much magic and alchemy as they are an analytical science, Sông Cái Vietnam Dry Gin is distilled using 16 wild hand-foraged ingredients including fruits, flowers and wood unique to Vietnam’s highlands. Sông Cái Distillery produces terroir-driven spirits that capture the flavours and provenance of Vietnam and its biodiverse highlands and deltas. 

Sông Cái’s name derives from the Vietnamese term for “Mother River”, and speaks to Vietnam’s agricultural roots, and the metaphor that all forces of life, nature and spirituality stem and flow from a holistic “Mother River”.

In 2018, after six years of researching the biodiversity and ethnobotany of rural Vietnam, California-born Vietnamese-American distiller and founder Daniel Nguyen partnered with multigenerational foragers and farmers local to northern Vietnam, and they began sourcing botanicals for what would become the first gin ever distilled in Vietnam. 

Now, Sông Cái Distillery is a family of more than 70 families, hailing primarily from Red Dao, H’Mong and Nung communities, and gives rural communities incentives to preserve and plant botanicals and heirloom grains native to the region. Thus, Sông Cái Distillery is central to the protection of centuries-old traditions for future generations. 

Guided by the Vietnamese culinary philosophy of balancing hot and cold energies, the Sông Cái Vietnam Dry Gin draws its flavour from all across the palate spectrum, with a harmonious fusion of 16 Southeast Asian botanicals including jungle pepper, black cardamom, green turmeric, licorice, and heirloom pomelo, and has earned them awards. 

Another one of their offerings, a Vietnam Floral Gin, a testimony to the mountains and deltas of Vietnam, using five flowers: dragon claw flower, ylang ylang, jasmine, michelia alba, and pomelo, resulting in a stunning bouquet of fresh flavours. 

Sông Cái Distillery’s roots are steeped in Vietnamese tradition - direct fire, hot and cold flavour energies, small batches and small stills - but still draws influence from the West with its copper pot stills, wood barrels and juniper berries. 

Sông Cái bottles’ labels are inspired by Hàng Trống, an ancient painting style native to Vietnam. Le Dinh Nghien, the last remaining Hàng Trống artisan, was commissioned to bring these motifs to life on their bottles. 

Each and every stage of its creation, from the farming to the distilling and bottling, is a labour of love and cultural pride. Sông Cái Distillery hopes to expand on its founding vision by encouraging other Vietnamese entrepreneurs to create quality products that pay tribute to the country’s agrarian heritage.