Japan has made a firm entrance into craft gins, and the results have been wonderfully unique each time. Each new gin from that land has proved fresh, delicate and citrus-driven, making us want more.
Beam Suntory’s recently launched Roku Gin has answered our pleas. Roku (‘six’ in Japanese) is the first craft gin in the company’s portfolio. While the company has been making gins since 1936, this is set to be the most well known.
The gin is made by Kazuyuki Torii, Suntory’s senior specialist for gins and spirits. The master was recently in Singapore to take us through his concoction. He explained that Roku is made according to the philosophy of shun.
There’s no direct translation for the phrase, but loosely termed, shun refers to the tradition of harvesting ingredients when they’re at their peak.
Roku applies shun through its use of six core Japanese botanicals. Aside from the eight usual spices that compose the spirit, Roku includes yuzu peel, sencha, gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, sakura flowers and leaves to balance out the flavours. Torii and the other Suntory specialists were meticulous with selecting ingredients. They would isolate a region that produced the best yuzu peel or sansho peppers, and sample each one until they found the best component to suit the gin.
Every botanical is harvested according to its seasonal peak, before being made into individual distillates, stored and later blended to form Roku. This timely approach is essential because sakura flowers only bloom two weeks a year.
Cherry blossom, yuzu and green tea make up the liquor’s bouquet. Give it a sip, and Roku elevates gin’s distinct taste with a snap of yuzu, tapering off into a spicy, slightly bitter finish from the sansho peppers. At 43 percent ABV, Roku is best enjoyed on the rocks, or with a dash of tonic and some ginger slices. It’s highly unique, cementing Japanese craft gins as a definite player.