In case it’s not already on your calendar, the second Saturday in June — June 8 this year — is World Gin Day. I tend to get cynical about “days” like this, figuring it was something contrived by Beefeater or Tanqueray to sell a few more bottles of their product. But World Gin Day was in fact dreamed up by two British gin enthusiasts (we salute you, Neil Houston and Emma Stokes!) who were merely looking for an excuse to get together with their friends and have a tot or two. From its humble origins in 2009, it has since grown into a legitimate event celebrated by millions all over the world. And honestly, any excuse to have a martini or a gin & tonic is a good one, in my opinion.
Japanese gin is an even newer animal than World Gin Day, with the first bottlings only hitting the market in 2017. But the distilleries that produce it — including names familiar to Japanese whisky fans — have made up for lost time, creating gins using native Japanese botanicals that can stand proudly beside their British and American counterparts, while also tasting uniquely Japanese. Japanese gins are still relatively hard to find around the globe, but of course here at dekanta, we’ve got the situation well in hand, with plenty of bottles in stock to help you commemorate the occasion.
The Kyoto Distillery is the first in Japan dedicated primarily to producing gin. Its flagship product, Ki No Bi Dry Gin, is a distinctly Japanese affair, from the base spirit (distilled from rice!) to the botanicals, which include Japanese cypress (hinoki) wood chips, gyokuro tea, bamboo, and yellow yuzu. The result is a big, fruit-forward gin that’s beautiful in a gin and tonic or on its own with just a couple of ice cubes for company. Kyoto has also launched a navy strength gin (bottled at a hefty 54% ABV), and a sweetened Old Tom expression, among others.
Suntory, Japan’s best-known whisky producer, got into the gin game with Suntory Roku. In addition to juniper and traditional botanicals, this mellow, buttery gin features six botanicals native to Japan, among them cherry blossoms, yuzu, and green sencha tea. It’s so smooth and subtle that it’s one of those rare gins that’s delicious served neat, although I prefer it in a martini.
Nikka’s famed Coffey (column) stills, imported from Scotland, make terrific whisky — the Coffey Grain and Coffey Malt expressions are proof of that. But they’re also perfect for making gin, as evidenced by Nikka Coffey Gin. The clean, crisp base spirit is augmented by Japanese citrus fruits like amanatsu and kabosu, resulting in a tart, dry gin that’s perfect on a hot summer’s day in a long drink like a Tom Collins.
The gins I’ve mentioned just scratch the surface of the Japanese gin scene. The category is growing fast, with dozens of bottlings and myriad botanical variations stretching the boundaries of what gin can be, not just in Japan, but worldwide. It’s an exciting time to be a gin lover — and dekanta is the perfect place to find out more, with one of the widest Japanese gin selections available outside Japan. So let’s all lift our martini glasses for World Gin Day and let forth with a hearty “Kanpai!”