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Gin is In: Japanese Gin Makers Introduce Regional Botanicals into Flourishing New Domestic Market

Custom-blended regionally-sourced botanicals are introducing a fresh local approach to a traditional craft.

Hiroiki Hashimoto reports: While gin is widely used at bars in cocktails in Japan, sipping the tipple only at counters would not lead to an explosive surge in consumption.

So, domestic beverage makers such as Suntory Spirits Ltd. are seeking to entice more drinkers to enjoy gin within households and casual restaurants by introducing reasonably priced products.

Suntory unveiled its new gin bottle named Sui on March 3 that features “yuzu” citrus, green tea leaves and ginger so its clean taste will pair well with food. The product can be combined with soda for a highball.

The 700-milliliter bottle went on sale across Japan on March 10 for 1,380 yen ($12.86), excluding tax …

[Read the full story here, at asahi.com]

… Buoyed by the growing popularity overseas, exports are brisk of luxury craft gin characterized by carefully selected materials and delicately created flavors are inspiring distillers to try to reimport the boom of Japan-made products.

In 2017, Suntory Spirits released another bottle of domestically distilled gin of the same size called Roku for 4,000 yen.

It gained instant popularity since its unique flavor marked by cherry blossoms and leaves–as well as the “gyokuro” top-quality green tea and “sencha” mid-level green tea–was difficult for overseas makers to reproduce.

The gin’s unit sales increased more than 40 percent year on year in 2019, with more than 90 percent of shipped bottles consumed outside Japan … (read more)

Source: asahi.com

Here’s more on the gin revolution outside Japan …

It’s Not Your Father’s Gin And Tonic Anymore: How Local Botanicals Are Transforming Gin.

Joseph V Micallef reports: Gin is on a roll. With more than 6,000 different expressions, the number of different gin brands exceed the number of whisky and the number of vodka brands in the world. It is also the fastest growing white spirit.

The UK, the epicenter of the gin revival, has more than 600 domestic gin brands. Since 2017, sales have increased by more than 25%. The gin boom has sparked almost a quadrupling of UK distilleries from around 140 to more than 500.

The US is behind the UK in the gin boom, but not by much, and is on the same trajectory.

At the heart of the current gin revolution is the trend of using local botanicals to enhance and expand the aroma and flavor profile of gin. This practice has seen the introduction of hundreds of new botanicals in the production of gin and resulted in a huge assortment of differently flavored, “non-traditional” gins.

One of the factors driving the gin revival has been the meteoritic rise in craft distilleries. It’s not clear whether the gin boom drove the expansion of craft distillers or the expansion of craft distillers drove the gin boom.

Certainly, for craft distillers, gin, which is relatively easy to produce and which requires virtually no aging, is critical to ensuring the distillery’s cash flow. Vodka plays the same role, but it’s hard to differentiate a vodka from the mass of competitors whereas gin, with its mix of botanicals, makes it easier for a distillery to craft a unique product.

There are now more than 500 different botanical compounds used to flavor gin. No one really knows for sure, so the actual number is probably much higher. Black Gin, Distiller’s Cut, a German gin, utilizes 74 different botanicals. The Botanist, Bruichladdich Distillery’s award-winning gin, was one of the first to use local botanicals. It has nine classic gin botanicals and 22 botanicals native to Islay, the Hebridean island off the west coast of Scotland, where the distillery is based.

glass of gin tonic
A splashing gin and tonic Getty

Historically, gin has been based on a core of a dozen or so botanicals: Juniper berries, coriander seeds, Angelica root, citrus peel (principally lemon and orange), Orris root, cassia, cinnamon, almond, cardamom, cubeb berries, grains of paradise, ginger, licorice and nutmeg.

There is no universally enforced definition of what constitutes gin. Regulatory authorities in many countries, including the US and the EU, define gin as an alcoholic spirit “that tastes predominantly of juniper berries.” As the number of botanicals used in gin has increased, and the aroma and flavor profile has become more varied, the distinction between gin and flavored spirits has become more complex and harder to define.

One way to both define and understand gin is to think of its aroma and taste profile as consisting of a four-fold matrix of citrus, spicy, floral and sweet aromas on a base of  juniper infused spirit. The intensity of any particular aroma can vary at the discretion of the distiller. As long as juniper and aromas from each of the four matrices are present, however, the resulting spirit can be considered a gin … (read more)

Source: forbes.com

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