Japanese Craft Gin Tsukusu from Nishi Shuzo

Another Kagoshima-based shochu maker is joining the Japanese craft gin movement. This time around it’s called “Japanese Craft Gin Tsukusu” and comes out of Nishi Shuzo, a fairly well-known maker with a history going back to 1845.

As we discussed a few weeks back, Kagoshima is basically the birthplace of distillation on mainland Japan. Nishi Shuzo here has been at it for around 170 years, so easily blowing past the 135 year history of nearby Kanosuke Distillery owner Komasa Jyozo. Nishi Shuzo’s main brand of shochu these days is called Houzan, and it’s widely available at pretty much any izakaya in Japan.

尽くす (“tsukusu”) is a Japanese verb that means “to devote” or “to exhaust,” depending on the context. And exhaust they have, since Japanese Craft Gin Tsukusu here contains a whopping 24 different botanicals. Obviously more botanicals don’t necessarily make a better gin, but just going through the ones they’ve disclosed, we find:

  • Juniper berry (probably imported, since they don’t specify)
  • Yuzu
  • Kabosu
  • Sudachi
  • Shekwasar
  • Meyer lemon
  • Angelica root
  • Lemon peel
  • Mint
  • Coriander seed
  • Liquorice
  • Cinnamon
  • Chinese cassia

The gin goes through two distillations in a process designed to “exhaust” the botanicals of their essence. The first is a run with low-alcohol shochu-based spirit and 13 botanicals, then a second run is done with high-alcohol shochu spirit and an additional 11 botanicals.

But things take a turn for the… Japanese? after that. Post distillation, the gin is matured for 30 days in a tank that features a layer of volcanic rock from Sakurajima on the bottom. Volcanic rock gives off far infrared radiation — this is supposed to make the gin smoother and more round.

The final result is bottled at 47% abv, 720ml, and costs 4320 yen after tax.

As it turns out, Nishi Shuzo was a bit late with their announcement, since Japanese Craft Gin Tsukusu was already released on March 18.

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