Japanese craft gin
The Japanese are known for producing fantastic spirits. We are used to great care, innovation, precision and attention to detail in Japanese whisky and shochu. It is therefore definitely worth taking a look at Japanese gin, as it offers a diverse and exciting world of aromas. Japanese gins shine in all variations, whether in gin & tonic, in cocktails, with soda (Gin Sonic) or pure.
The history of Japanese craft gin is still very young. There were already gins produced in Japan in the 1970s by large companies such as Suntory (e.g. Suntory Dry Gin) or Nikka (e.g. Nikka Wilkinson). The craft gin scene, on the other hand, has only really developed in recent years, but is now showing a truly extraordinary dynamism. In contrast to many a newcomer from other countries, the new gin producers in Japan usually already have many years of experience in the production of alcohol, often the companies have existed for centuries. They have previously produced shochu (Japan's national spirit), whisky or sake, and often in the third, fourth or even fifth generation. So there is an extreme amount of knowledge and artistry involved, and you can taste it clearly! Japanese gins are usually very mild and mellow, yet strong in alcohol with often 45% vol. or more. The obligatory juniper is joined by exciting botanicals such as ginger, local herbs, rare citrus fruits like dai dai, yuzu and kabosu, green matcha and gyokuro tea, stem, blossom and leaves of the cherry blossom, or often parts of conifers or mountain shrubs. The alcoholic basis of gin is often shochu, while in Germany grain or vodka are usually used. What they all have in common is an unusual bottle design and a multifaceted and very round taste.
The first new generation Japanese gin was launched in Japan in June 2016. This was the KOONN Japanese Gin, produced by Hombo Shuzo, who became famous beyond the borders of Japan for their famous Mars Whisky. However, it was only produced in very small batches and has not been on the market since 2018. Its successor was Wa Bi Gin, a spicy gin from the Nagano prefecture. Shortly after the KOONN the KI NO BI Gin followed in 2016. At the end of 2017 the Nikka Coffey Gin and Suntory's Roku Gin surprised the Japanese gin scene with new flavours. Meanwhile, there are about 94 different Craft Gins from more than 30 producers on the Japanese market (as of June 2020). Most recently, the great JIN7 Series 00 and 01 from Oyama Shuzo came onto the market, as well as the YASO Gin from Echigo Yakuso or the 424 Gin from the Wakashio Distillery.
A really outstanding representative is the Kanomori from Yomeishu, which saw the light of day last summer. Translated the name means "forest of flavours". The manufacturer, who has actually been producing a medicinal herbal liqueur since the 15th century, uses many extraordinary botanicals that are actually reminiscent of a walk in the forest. The fireworks of aromas as well as the many possible applications make it a typical representative of the new Japanese craft gin community.