Lifestyle / Alcohol

Refresh your liquor cabinet with some botanical flavours

Treat your sense to a delight with bespoke produce infused with specialty ingredients including cherry blossoms, “yuzu” citus fruit and sacred plants.

May 11, 2018 | By Shirley Wang

Based on grains, Gin obtains its characteristic flavors and aromas in a traditional concoction consisting of juniper berries, fruit peels, spices during the distillation process.

As a craft gin craze catches on in Japan, produce flavoured with a Japanese flair are becoming increasingly popular. Distilleries infuse their gins with local specialty ingredients such as cherry blossoms, “yuzu” citrus fruit and other botanicals such as bamboo leaves and red perilla.

Roku Gin refers to the six Japanese botanicals that are used in its distillation process.

The Japanese are fairly well-known for their quality whisky, with the international Japanese gin market mainly dominated by two long established whisky heavyweights, Suntory and Asahi Breweries.

Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin

The Kyoto Distillery, a relatively new upstart based in the ancient capital of Japan, is Japan’s pioneer distillery dedicated to domestic craft gin. In 2016, it released Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin, which is flavored with 11 types of aromatic ingredients, including a high quality grade of green tea from Kyoto called Gyokuro, and yuzu. The product, available for 5,400 yen ($49), including tax, won a gold medal at a competition in Britain.

Roku Gin

From the same folks who’ve brought you the award-winning Hibiki and Yamazaki whiskies, comes a gin 80 years in the making. For decades, the Suntory Spirits distillery in Osaka, Japan has been perfecting their very own gin. “Roku” means six in Japanese and represents the six unique Japanese botanicals that go into this complex yet harmonious gin. These botanicals are harvested in accordance with “shun”, the moment of peak flavour: yuzu peel in winter, sakura flowers and sakura leaves in spring, sencha and gyokuro teas in summer, and sansho peppers in autumn.

Nikka Coffey Gin

Asahi Breweries’ debut gin is distilled in Coffey stills, a method first developed by Irishman Aeneas Coffey in 1830 that revolutionized the whisky industry. Infused with a blend of 11 different botanicals, among them yuzu, sansho pepper, kabosu, amanatsu and shequasar, this gin has a piquant scent but is soft on the palette, mellowing sweetly with fruity notes. Bottled at 47%, with 12,000 bottles available globally.

The six Japanese botanicals that are used in Roku Gin. Image by Duty Free Hunter.

Gin movement gains momentum across Japan

Beyond exports and major beverage companies, the growing popularity of gin within the Japanese crowd has also reflected in other smaller domestic distilleries – here are some of the exclusive ones that might otherwise be elusive.

Okayama Craft Gin

Following the successful footsteps of its domestic counterparts, Miyashita Sake Brewery soon launched their own craft gin. A distillery based in Okayama, western Japan, MIyashita has a long history of more than 100 years. Using 10 botanicals, such as Japanese peach, grapes and coriander, with a rice shochu alcohol base, the gin is aged in oak barrels for completion. The results is a beautiful amber hued liquor with a smoky fragrance and soft, sweet finish.

Kokoro Gin, Nagano Prefecture

Perhaps the one with the most interesting story is Kokoro Gin, founded by Englishman James Nicol last year, one of the pioneers that livened up the Japanese gin market. Although the gin is technically produced back in the UK, the ingredients are mostly of Japan origin. The self-taught distiller was inspired by a visit in 2014 to his uncle living in the Japanese Alps of Nagano Prefecture, central Japan.

Kozue, Wakayama Prefecture

Produced by Nakano BC Co., typically a producer of “umeshu”, Kozue contains leaves of a conifer is deemed sacred at the Koyasan Buddhist temple, located at the in the same prefecture where the distillery is based. Other additions to the gin include “satsuma” orange peels and other locally produced aromatic ingredients.

Sakurao Gin, Hiroshima Prefecture

A venture by Chugoku Jozo Co. based in Hatsukaichi, this gin contains 17 ingredient blend purely of local origin, such as oyster shells and lemons.

The huge variety of Gin available at The Good Meals Shop, a speciality craft gin bar that opened in Shibuya, Tokyo.

“Japan has soft water and a rich variety of botanicals, plus superb craftsmanship, so Japanese gin is going to get a lot more exciting in the coming years,” says Mr Takeaki Miura, the owner of a speciality Japanese Craft Gin bar.

The increased attention to Gin has also seen its potential expand beyond its previous identity as a mere cocktail base. More speciality craft gin bars are popping up on the scene in Japan, with one of them being ‘The Good Meals Shop’, opened by Mr Takeaki Miura in Shibuya in 2014. From its original menu of 30, the shop has expanded to 230 types of craft gin, including an original in-house creation.

While more of these unique blends foraying into the export market, you can browse the tip of the iceberg available on Dekanta.

If you want more ideas for a cooling drink to tackle the recent warm weather, head here for some ideas for your next glass.

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