Guide to Japanese Gin

Having only been in the business of making gin since 2016, Japanese distillers have a lot to prove against the more well established gin industries in Britain and wider Europe.

For a full history of how gin first made its way into the roster of Japanese distillers, read this interesting article.

Whilst Japan is perhaps more well known today for its growing whisky market and more traditional Japanese sake, umeshu, and shochu bottles, gin in the island nation has a definitive oriental touch to it, with many distilleries using botanicals native to the region, including yuzu, sakura blossoms, green tea, and sansho pepper.

As is common in Japan, quality and attention to detail are paramount and this is evidenced in the craftsmanship of the distillers who make an expanding list of incredibly flavoursome, well balanced, and unique craft gins.

Map of Japanese Gin Distilleries & Brands

Japanese Gin Distilleries Map

The Kyoto Distillery can lay claim to being the first Japanese artisanal gin maker thanks to the launch of their flagship product the Kinobi Kyoto Dry Gin in 2016.

Since then, they have launched another gin, the Ki No Tea, and the two large Japanese distilling groups Suntory and Nikka have both entered the gin market with their own bottles.

Thanks to the huge success of these gins, craft distilleries are also popping up across the country, launching in major cities including Okinawa, Osaka, Sendai, Miyazaki and most recently Hiroshima, meaning consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting bottles of Japanese gin.

Starting with one of the largest distilling companies in Japan, Suntory launched their gin, the Suntory Roku Gin, as the first gin in their growing list of distilled spirits.

Made from six Japanese botanicals grown across all four seasons in Japan, and in conjunction with other botanicals commonly found in gins, the Suntory Roku Gin contrasts sublime notes of citrus with a slightly spicy finish to make for a highly refreshing and distinctly Japanese drinking experience.

Nikka, not to be outdone by others in Japan, launched their first gin, the Nikka Coffey Gin, to grow their own stable of other Coffey or column distilled spirits.

Made using eleven carefully selected botanicals, the gin contrasts strong citrus flavours with a subtle spicy finish that still manages to be unlike anything made elsewhere in the world.

Beyond these, the Japanese gin industry is constantly expanding, making it possible for consumers to find new tasting experiences every time they revisit Japanese gin.

For a greater explanation of some of the flavours found in many of the previously mentioned bottles, reach this article.

Pairing Food with Japanese Gin

Japanese bars and distilleries are famous for producing some of the most inventive and unique drinking experiences thanks to their attention to detail and access to a wide variety of natural ingredients.

Not only does this translate into some exquisitely flavoured gins, it also allows bartenders in Japan to craft cocktails that won’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Japan continues the tradition of mixing gin with tonic water in the classic Gin & Tonic, however, distillers encourage consumers to garnish their drink with ginger to complement the botanicals commonly found in many Japanese gins.

Other notable examples include the Japanese Gin Martini, which again uses ginger as the garnish, and is expertly made in bars and restaurants across the country.

Pairing Food with Japanese Gin

The easiest way to pair food with Japanese gin is to stick closely to the local cuisine when looking to match a meal with your drink.

As many of the botanicals used in the distillation of the gin are also found in many recipes across the country, finding dishes that complement the flavours existing in each bottle can be easy.

When looking to pair, always consider the main flavour profiles of the gin chosen, which can easily be determined from the main botanicals used.

In the Nikka Coffey Gin, for example, Japanese citrus is the dominant flavour thanks to four of the Japanese botanicals used, and it is recommended that these citrus-forward styles of Japanese gin be matched with seafood dishes or those dishes possessing a similar citrus-dominated character.

Craft Japanese gins, such as the Ki No Tea, which has a strong character of both sweet green tea and traditional juniper, are difficult to pair with food thanks to the highly nuanced flavours, and so it is best to pair these incredibly craft and delicately flavoured gins with neutral foods, such as light canapes or desserts.

There's a bottle of Japanese gin out there for everyone. Here are some of the brands and bottles that we recommend you look out for the next time you're browsing gin online or in-store.

Roku Gin Tasting Notes
Soft & rather citric in taste, this gin finishes somewhat peppery, making it perfect for refreshingly dry summer-friendly cocktails.



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