Japanese Craft Gin, local distillers' latest thriving venture
An acclaimed expertise in various distilled drinks
For the spirit-connoisseurs most partial to Japanese sake, it seems obvious that the country’s centuries of distilling expertise leaves no doubt to the quality of the local craftsmanship.
For the others who have a preferred taste for more Western beverages, it is no secret Japan also offers some of the finest liquors, and most noticeably, whisky.
Since the early 2000’s, single malt and blended whiskies from the archipelago have caught everyone’s attention. More than mere mass-producers, the best Japanese distilleries have been cleaning out the most prestigious awards against age-old competition several years in a row, winning for the fruit of their labor worldwide recognition, while taking over the international market.
Yet again, these past few years have proven that there is more than one foreign spirit Japan can not only master, but also make its own.
The quest to the gin of tomorrow
Derived from a herbal medicine introduced to England in the 17th century, the story of gin as a liquor starts in parallel with the explosion of the spice trade. As opposed to most other alcoholic beverages, based exclusively on the local ingredients the distillers had at hand at the time, gin found its soul by embracing the newly available scents and flavors which gave the spirit such a fresh and distinctive character.
As in many other fields, the trend is lately reversing from global to local. Among the gin distillers’ avant-garde, what originally started as a blend of exotic aromas, is now headed toward a much more locally sourced endeavor.
The finest craft Gin of late
Using the finest Japanese botanicals from local producers, KI NO BI by The Kyoto Distillery series of premium craft gins is the torchbearer of this movement. Launched in 2016 as the very first premium Japanese craft gin, it won only two years later the International Gin Producer of the Year 2018.
Following by a hair’s breadth, the major players in the Japanese whisky industry, namely Suntory and Nikka, released in 2017 their own interpretation of the liquor, Suntory Roku Gin and Nikka Coffey Gin, each of them with their unique recipes. Even the smaller-scale distilleries all across the country, traditionally crafting sake, have been going with the flow, producing smaller volumes, but sometimes very unique flavors.
With the advent of Japanese craft gin, from the main alcohol industry producers, to the more modest distilleries, Japan is once again bringing to the world spirits of exceptional quality, born of the marriage of two secular traditions.