We all pretty much have bought into the (well deserved) hype of Japanese whiskey. But what many people are not talking about YET is the fantastic Japanese Gins that are becoming more and more popular. I can tell you now that @suntory_rokugin is not your dad’s Seagrams “bumpy-face” gin. Along with your traditional gin botanicals like juniper, coriander, and citrus peels, Roku has some fascinating Japanese ingredients such as sakura leaf, sakura flower, sencha tea, gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, and yuzu peel. It all lends for a blend of aromas and flavors that make Roku very distinct from other gins on the shelf.
ON THE NOSE
I will relate the aroma to more typical scents that we can easily recall since the gin uses some very unique Japanese botanicals that may be unfamiliar. The most upfront scent is of cherry blossom flower. While this isn’t too foreign, it is hard to recognize because of the strong ethanol/alcohol on top notes. After this, it’s a sharp peppercorn scent that adds to the heat or burn on the smell. You do pick up juniper, yet the more expressive floral notes overshadow it. I would lastly say there is a lot of lemon peel essence (oil), like when expressed over an Old Fashion or other heavy spirited cocktails.
ON THE PALATE
Much of the citrus oil and peppercorn comes through on the palate. It has an interesting mouthfeel that coats the tongue and leaves a tingle on the back end. In addition to the Szechuan pepper tingle on your tongue, you taste a very herbal, vegetal flavor before a zesty sweetness comes through. This is probably evidence of the Yuzu peel. Once chilled, the gin is one of the smoothest I’ve ever had. I can’t really compare it to your more traditional London or Spanish gins. It plays in between the two.
For someone who typically gravitates to more floral and herbal gins, the Roku takes it to another level by using some very unusual botanicals. It introduces quite a few new notes that I don’t get from my ‘go-to’ gins. The additional layers of flavor dramatically changed my favorite gin cocktails like a gin old fashioned or white lady.