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In recent years, Japanese whisky has garnered an almost cult-like status amongst connoisseurs. So much so, in fact, that its stock is depleting at an alarming rate. And now, the country is applying its meticulous know-how in distilling to gin-making, and gin lovers around the world couldn’t be happier.
There are several reasons why Japan is naturally gifted when it comes to making gin. Firstly, there’s the foundation. Gin may be a new foray for many of the long-established distilleries in Japan, but it’s often made from a base spirit that the distillery has perfected through generations. The high-quality rice or sweet potato shochu often produces a gentler gin that has a beautifully soft mouthfeel.
Next, there’s the botanicals. Though juniper is the dominant component, gin is open to wide interpretations when it comes to the inclusion of other ingredients. Japan has a bounty of unique produce that have cemented themselves in the world’s collective palate – think yuzu, green tea and sansho pepper – and these help create gins that are immediately familiar yet still distinctly Japanese.
These days, we’re also seeing artisanal Japanese gins breaking new ground by championing unusual, but still native, ingredients such as umbrella pine, kombu (seaweed) and shiitake mushrooms, thus creating new types of gin unlike anything you’ve tasted.