Japan's famous medicinal liqueur maker, Yomeishu, jumps into the Japanese craft gin scene with an herb-lover's dream of a gin. It uses kuromoji, an aromatic shrub native to Japan, as the prime botanical.
When Kanomori was announced back in January of this year, I scoffed at the marketing spiel that said we would be left "speechless" by the aromatic nature of the gin.
Having the actual gin in front of me now though, I will have to pedal those comments back a tad. I may not be speechless -- in fact it's my job at this site to not be -- but they have given us a wonderfully thick gin that isn't reliant on juniper to get the job done.
Instead, kuromoji takes center stage here. Kuromoji, a shrub native to Japan, has been used in Japan for centuries for a wide variety of aromatics, like soap and especially toothpicks. Prior to the introduction of toothbrushes to Japan during the Meiji era, toothpicks of various sizes made from the wood of the kuromoji shrubs was the country's primary method of tooth care. Spicebush is a related shrub found in much of the eastern US. Yomeishu says that in order to highlight the kuromoji the best, they are using the leaves, smaller branches, and larger branches to varying degrees.
The company doesn't give us an exact breakdown of the other 18 botanicals that go into Kanomori. But it's clear there's some more traditional ones like lemon peel, coriander, as well as spices like anise and angelica. Nor do we know their sources -- Yomeishu's distillery shares a location at the base of Mt. Komagatake with the Mars Shinshu Distillery -- though there's no telling how many botanicals are sourced locally. In any case, let's drink it!
Review: Kanomori Craft Gin
Nose: Head-first into a forest rich with herbs, greenery, and a hint of spicy wood.
Palate: Take juniper and mash it together with black licorice and you may be getting close to the palate of kuromoji. I also get anise, allspice, and some citrus. At 47% abv it's also got some great heat!
Finish: Short but spicy, leaving me with plenty of that sharpness of freshly cut wood.
Price paid: 4860 yen
As pictured, this one went into a gin & tonic as well. It sprang into action with the tonic brightening the kuromoji even more, creating a very welcoming yet complex vegetative gin & tonic that I will likely be drinking all summer.
Without much juniper going on, this isn't a very dry gin. But instead we get a wonderful blend of botanicals that whisks you deep into the mountain forests of Nagano prefecture. If you're looking for an herbal gin with a standout Japanese accent, you need to try Kanomori.
Whiskey Richard is the founder of nomunication.jp, and has been saying he has lived in Japan for ten years for the past four years. He enjoys drinking basically anything except straight-up Campari.