Late last year we talked about Chugoku Jozo's first foray into distillation of spirits at the newly opened Sakurao Distillery. It looks like that distillery is now fully armed and operational as the company announced March 5 as the release date for their first spirits, Sakurao Gin.
Yes, spirits. It turns out there are two gins that will be released by the company, both set to debut on March 5. They are using only botanicals sourced locally in Hiroshima -- even the juniper -- making this one of the first entirely Japanese gins. While we saw plenty of new Japanese gins last year, in most cases, at least the juniper was imported from overseas. But not here! There's attention to detail: to get the most out of each botanical, Chugoku Jozo is either let them steep or putting them in botanical basket. For the first year the company plans to make 80KL of gin, half of which is already earmarked for overseas markets. Let's look at 2018's first new Japanese craft gins!
Sakurao Gin Original
Here we get 9 botanicals all sourced from Hiroshima. Chugoku Jozo hasn't provided the entire basket, but we do know it's mostly citrus (lemon, yuzu, mandarin), and that it's a "traditional" style, so probably dry from the juniper. It's one of the most affordable Japanese craft gins we've seen thus far at 2000 yen per 700ml bottle before tax. 47% abv.
Sakurao Gin Limited
This might be the one that everyone ends up talking about. Here we get 17 botanicals including Hiroshima's famous lemon and oyster shells, hinoki, citrus, wasabi, and even a hint of sakura. But again they aren't giving the entire botanical basket! The Limited is also 700ml at 47%, but at 5500 yen before tax, it's even more expensive than the craft gin offerings from the big boys.
The Limited certainly sounds very adventurous and flavorful! But at 2000 yen, the Original is also very competitive for shelf space in a mid-range bar in Tokyo. That's less than half the price of many other Japanese craft gins currently on the market. Looking forward to trying both of these out!