The Six Traditional Japanese Botanicals That Elevate Roku Gin
In recent years, opportunities to visit Japan have been limited to say the least. But there are ways to experience Japan’s unique culture and natural bounty without flying into Narita Airport, and that brings us to Roku Gin.
Roku comes from the house of Suntory, which should require no introduction to anyone who has ever enjoyed a Japanese whisky. However, few realize that Suntory has also made gin for most of its history and launched its first brand of gin in 1936. Roku, introduced in 2017, is a fresh take on the category that uses two distinctly Japanese characteristics in its production. : to avoid and monozukuri.
To avoid (pronounced “shoon”) is a culinary philosophy prescribing that foods and beverages should be enjoyed when they are in season, and only when the ingredients needed to create them have reached their peak of flavor. In other words, it’s not too different from the concept of “seasonality” championed by your favorite neo-American restaurant (although Japan was doing it long before it was cool).
Monozukuri, on the other hand, combine the word mono, meaning “things and products” and zukuri, which can be translated as “process of manufacture or creation”. Although these terms may seem trivial on their own, together they embody the quintessentially Japanese drive to achieve excellence in a craft while continually striving to improve and innovate.
About to avoid, Roku embodies the concept using six quintessentially Japanese botanicals: beautifully aromatic sakura flowers and leaves, slightly bitter sencha tea, umami-rich gyokuro tea, spicy sansho peppers, and Japanese citrus yuzu. Additionally, each is only harvested at the time of the season when its freshness and taste are at their peak. This means spring for sakura blossoms and sakura leaves, summer for sencha tea and gyokuro tea, autumn for sansho peppers, and winter for yuzu.
However, harvesting an ingredient at the peak of its powers only makes sense if the other ingredients and methods used to create the final product aren’t also sourced and executed with the utmost respect for craftsmanship. And that brings us to monozukuri, first in the excellence of traditional plants, but not specific to Japan, which are also used to make gin: coriander seeds, angelica root, angelica seed, cinnamon, cinnamon seed, lemon peel, lemon peel bitter orange and juniper berries grown in Tuscany.
Moreover, when the time comes to add the botanicals to the gin, each is prepared and treated differently to play on its specific strengths. In the case of Roku, four different distillation methods are used to extract the freshest flavors from the ingredients. For example, a copper pot distillation with special settings for yuzu helps extract the deep, rich aroma and flavor of winter citrus fruits, while a specially designed vacuum distillation for sakura helps extract the elegant aromas of the flower.
Roku’s dedication to to avoid and monozukuri are even displayed by its hexagonal bottle, whose six-sided shape recalls the Japanese plants used in its creation. Last tribute to craftsmanship, its label is made of traditional washi paper and marked with Japanese calligraphy.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with Roku itself, let’s draw your attention to the infographic sorted by season below to better understand how these six Japanese herbs contribute to its flavor.
This article is sponsored by The House of Suntory.
Roku® Gin, 43% Alc./Vol. ©2022 Beam Suntory Import Co., Chicago, IL