Japanese craft spiritsThe beauty of Japanese craft Gin and Shochu
Japanese craft spirits are on the rise these days. As you know Japan is famous for their brewed alcohol Sake already, but we shall not forget that this country with an ancient history also delivers unique and amazingly delicious craft spirits. “Craft spirits” is a wide category, so let’s give a spotlight to Gin and Shochu.
Japanese Gin: Rare Japanese botanicals and outstanding harmony in aromas
Gin is a distilled alcoholic beverage that derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries.
After juniper, gin is commonly flavoured with one or more aromatic ingredients so called “botanicals”. Botanicals are typically from natural sources, such as fruit, tree, herb, spice, and flower. The long drink “Gin and Tonic” is, as its name suggests, a mixture of gin and tonic water. The selection and combination of botanicals are unique product to product, and therefore gin offers a vast range of flavour and taste profiles.
Since Kinobi Kyoto Dry Gin was released in 2016, the popularity of Japanese gin has been growing worldwide.
Suntory introduced its Roku Gin in 2017, and this brand has been spread widely in bars and restaurants in Europe. The acceptance and popularity of Japanese gin in Germany is proven as some of the above-mentioned products are nowadays offered by a large supermarket chain.
Rare Japanese botanicals and outstanding harmony in aromas
There are a number of different gin products out there, and how do the “Japanese gin” stand out?
There are many attractive aspects in Japanese gin, but one character is very obvious: Japanese botanicals.
Japanese botanicals are for example, Yuzu citrus, Sansho pepper, green tea, matcha, Shiso perilla leaves, Ume plum, and so forth. Because of those rare botanicals, Japanese gin offers a new palate for Europeans.
Secondly, another character of Japanese gin is its harmony and delicateness in aroma and taste. Rather than making a strong impression with juniper berry or other vivid flavour component, Japanese Gins tend to offer a well-balanced and delicate flavour and taste with a less note of juniper berry. The AKAYANE Gin Heart series, for example, is the great example of such delicate Japanese gin.
AKAYANE Gin Heart
This high-end gin series are inspired by the Japanese four seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each season features eight botanicals, and each product makes you see the nostalgic sceneries of Japan in the specific season in your mind.
The point that makes AKAYANE products stand out among other Japanese Gin is their true craftsman spirit. Unlike other Gins, AKAYANE Gin Heart products are based on high quality Shochu, which they distill themselves. Their Shochu as the basis alcohol has a mild taste and a pleasant mouthfeel, while the commonly used neutral alcohol has a sharp and burning mouthfeel. The distillery owns eight different pot stills and selects the best combination of still and distilling method for each product.
AKAYANE Gin Heart “HARU (SPRING)”
HARU is distilled with cherry flowers and leaves, yuzu, matcha, sansho, kombu seaweed and juniper berry. Its unique and complex flavour of cherry trees and mathca reminds of Spring (Haru) in Japan.
AKAYANE Gin Heart “NATSU (SUMMER)”
NATSU is distilled with shiso (perilla), ume plum, cucumber, kombu seaweed, green tea and juniper berry. Its delicately refreshing taste of shiso and cucumber reminds of Summer (Natsu) in Japan.
AKAYANE Gin Heart “AKI (AUTUMN)”
AKI is distilled with shimeji and maitake mushrooms, kabosu citrus, sweet potato peel, vanilla and juniper berry. Enchanting note of wild mushrooms and vanilla with a hint of Kabosu citrus aroma. Reminds of Autumn (Aki) in Japan. Also, good for hot gin.
AKAYANE Gin Heart “FUYU (WINTER)”
FUYU is distilled with sakurajima- and tankan-orange, kumquat, yuzu, passion fruit and juniper berry. Complex and rich citrus flavours remind of Winter (Fuyu) in Japan.
AKAYANE Craft Spirits Series
The AKAYANE Distillery also produces the AKAYANE Craft Spirits series. Each of the eight products of the series is flavoured with only one botanical.
The only gin from this series is “Juniper Berry Only”, which highlights the flavour of juniper berry without any additional botanical.
Besides “Ume”, all products are based on sweet potato Shochu. Ume is distilled from mash of fermented Ume plum and aged in used cognac barrels. This series is also suitable for those who are curious about the pure taste of each “Japanese botanical” or juniper berry itself.
AKAYANE “Juniper Berry Only”
Made with finest natural juniper berries. The pure juniper berry gives a simple yet rich taste, perfect for Gin & Tonic.
This spirit is made from wine yeast and macerated plums used for making Ume liqueurs. It is aged in cognac barrels. Perfect as digestive.
The rich aroma oil from Yuzu peels refines the freshness of citrus. The Yuzu used for this product is cultivated without pesticides or fertilizers.
The striking taste of spicy Sansho (Japanese mountain pepper) and the mild aroma of citrus make you feel as if you were in the woods. Sansho has been cultivated without pesticides. Straight or in cocktails.
This fine distillate features an exquisite balance of spicy ginger and citrus fragrance. Gingers have been cultivated without pesticides or fertilizers. Very good for cocktails or with ginger ale.
This distillate features a bitter sweet taste on the tongue, which is harmonized with the fresh aroma of fine matcha. Excellent for cocktails or with ice cream.
AKAYANE “LXX SHOCHU”
Japan’s top-class craft shochu spirit with a very mild taste. The mash is produced in a traditional way and distilled by two distillation methods: direct heating and indirect heating, then blended with the ratio of 30/70.
Shochu: Many faces of the Japanese distilled delicacy
Shochu is a Japanese traditional distilled drink made from grains and vegetables. The most common base ingredients are barley (in Japanese “mugi”), rice (“kome”), sweet potato (“imo”), and sugar cane (“kokuto”).
Shochu (pronounced like “show-choo”) has an alcohol content of less than 45%, commonly between 25% and 40%. Unlike gin, Shochu is usually made without additional botanicals. The taste of its main ingredient is to be enjoyed. Honkaku shochu (authentic shochu) is a spirit made by single distillation, the traditional method from small producers.
At UENO GOURMET, we offer Shochu from all of the above mentioned four ingredients.
Mugi Shochu from barely is typically the lightest of the four types of Shochu. It has a slightly smoky aroma and a silky texture.
Kome Shochu at is made from the lees of Sake pressing. Sake Lees is the solid that is a by-product of pressing Sake fermentation mash. It has fruity notes and a clear taste.
Imo Shochu from sweet potatoes is rich in flavour and taste. It is slightly earthy and sweet in palate from the sweet potatoes.
Kokuto Shochu from sugar cane has rich and sweet flavours and a round taste. This type of Shochu is exclusively produced in the subtropical archipelago in the south of Japan.
At last but not least, Shochu can be served in many different ways: straight, on the rock, stretched with soda, cold water or hot water.
Try and compare four different types of Shochu and find your favourite, and enjoy it with your best way of serving!