Review: Roku Japanese Gin
Suntory gets into the gin world with the launch of Roku Japanese Gin, a spirit designed to “embody Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii’s philosophy of monozukuri craftsmanship: a relentless pursuit of perfection, meticulous attention to detail and commitment to quality.” Some details:
Roku, which translates as “six” in Japanese, is made with six traditional Japanese botanicals that are infused, distilled and blended by the Japanese artisans of Suntory Spirits in Osaka, Japan. The premium craft gin’s flavor profile is achieved by balancing six unique Japanese botanicals with eight traditional gin botanicals. The Japanese botanicals – Sakura flower, Sakura leaf, Yuzu peel, Sencha tea, Gyokuro tea and Sansho pepper – are harvested in accordance with ‘shun’, the tradition of enjoying each ingredient at its best by only harvesting at its peak of flavor and perfection. It is then distilled using a selection of different pot stills, each chosen to ensure the best flavor is extracted from each botanical. The result is a complex yet harmonious gin with a smooth and silky texture.
Its bottle and label have been carefully designed to appeal to the Japanese sense of aesthetics and beauty. Roku’s bottle is cast in a hexagonal shape, representing each of the six uniquely Japanese botanicals inside, and is finished with delicate embossing. The Japanese kanji symbol for six is printed on the label, which is made of traditional washi paper.
Let’s give it a try.
The nose of the gin is fragrant with citrus — that yuzu making itself known — while light pepper notes (think white pepper) make an appearance. Juniper is present but restrained, along with some of the earthier and dried floral components typical in London dry style gins — though the more this sits in the glass, the more traditional it seems to become. The palate comes off as a bit exotic, heavy with mixed flowers plus notes of coconut, brown butter, and a hint of sage, before settling into a more iconic evergreen-and-citrus-peel groove. I’m not entirely sure what Sakura leaf (aka cherry blossom) tastes like, but I can at least imagine hints of it here, particularly on the lively, fragrant finish.
All told this is a highly versatile gin that’s just unique enough to come across as something special, while keeping enough of a toe-hold in tradition to please purists. A little something for everybody, I’d say.