The land of the rising sun is famous for many things; its amazing landscapes and temples, its stellar hospitality, and the aim to achieve perfection in everything they do.
In the past few decades, Japanese whisky has become an international phenomenon, with many releases beating Scotch whisky in global spirits competitions, and other rarer bottlings reaching astronomical prices at high-end whisky auctions.
Check out the Yamazaki 12 year-old, the final entry on our epic whiskey/y guide, if you want the perfect bottle to start your Japanese whisky adventure.
After reaching the top of the whisky industry, the Japanese are now venturing into the production of artisanal gin, at the perfect time too, as gin sales have been skyrocketing in recent years amidst a craft gin movement occurring all over the world.
Quality is at the forefront of this movement, with distilleries using unique botanicals, high-quality ingredients, and special distillation methods to create deep, complex gins. “Local craft” is in, and Japan is entering the scene with some exciting new products, featuring some wonderful Japanese ingredients.
Ah, the great Suntory. They are the largest whisky producer in Japan, and owner of the Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Chita distilleries.
They’re also the 3rd largest drinks company in the world and own some pretty major brands, including Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Laghroaig, Bowmore, and Maker’s Mark. Yep, they’re huge, so their new Suntory ROKU gin will probably make a big splash when it comes to the U.S. and Europe nearing the end of 2017.
Image via dekanta
Distilled using 6 different Japanese botanicals (Roku means six in Japanese), including cherry blossom leaves, yuzu citrus, and green tea, this gin is our favourite of the bunch.
Citrus and pepper rise first and intensely on the nose, and continue on to the palate, accompanied by hints of nutty chocolate and buttery pastry. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy, with a warm spiciness throughout. The whole experience is surprisingly aromatic and light for a strong gin of 47% ABV.
NIKKA COFFEY GIN
Nikka is the second largest whisky company in Japan, and creator of many world-renowned whisky ranges including the Yoichi, Taketsuru, and Miyagikyo. The Nikka Coffey Gin is the most recent addition to Nikka’s extremely popular Nikka Coffey series, which includes a malt whisky, a grain whisky, and a vodka.
Image via Bar Times
The nose is dominated by delicate citrus notes, while peppery spice and a refreshing fruitiness blend beautifully on the palate. At 47%, the alcohol is evident, yet the mouth feel is full and thick, leaving you satisfied after each sip.
KI NO BI DRY GIN
The Kyoto Distillery is Japan’s first artisanal gin distillery and is based in Kyoto, home of Japan’s most popular temples and shrines.
The Ki No Bi is the company’s flagship product, and is distilled using ingredients local to Kyoto. Rice spirit is used as a base, and water is taken from a famous sake-brewing in the area.
Image via dekanta
While the Ki No Bi may be available somewhere near you, the Nikka and Suntory gins won’t be available in the West until later on in the year.
If, after reading this, you just need to have a taste of them right away, the gins are currently available for global shipping on dekantā, the Japanese whisky and spirits specialist.
Try each gin on the rocks to really recognize the subtle, delicate flavours, and then with some tonic for a refreshing summer drink. Once you know what you’re having, get to experimenting with some awesome cocktails.