Review: Zeiver

Zeiver is an international gin launched just this year here in Japan. Created by James Bilson and Clayton Patterson, the slogan is “A Gin, Unique.”

But Zeiver isn’t an entirely Japanese gin. Japanese gin is distilled in Japan and usually involves Japanese-sounding botanicals like sakura, yuzu, or matcha… none of which you’ll find in this bottle.

Then what’s it even doing on this site?

I’d call Zeiver partially Japanese because it uses Japanese rice for its NGS base. In fact, it uses polished rice only from the rice kingdom of Niigata, which is then flown (yes flown) to the UK for creation of Zeiver.

The Niigata rice is subsequently distilled into NGS and finally gin by Dr John Walters and the team at English Spirit, “the UK’s only super-premium contract distilling service.”

Indeed, it’s a contract spirit, but it seems like a great fit — English Spirit also does stuff like cucumber spirit, and had the UK’s first rum distilled and marketed domestically. Zeiver also stresses that they use RO water for maximum purity.

I find the logistics here quite intriguing. I’m not aware of any other spirit in the world that exclusively uses Japanese rice but is made entirely outside of Japan. While pretty much all Japanese whisky uses malt imported from the likes of Crisp, Zeiver is the reverse: Japanese grain is exported to be distilled outside of Japan.

So, the process used to make it is unique. And a look in the botanical basket helps nail the point home. Instead of good old angelica root and licorice and such, we get a basket similar to what you may end up with should you find yourself in the produce aisle of a Wal-Mart at 1AM on a Sunday: peach, pistachio, aloe vera, apple, juniper berry, cherry, lime, macadamia, and grapefruit.

Here in Japan, Zeiver has recently been picked up by Scotch Malt Whisky Sales, who also handles brands like Wolfburn and Koval. So you should be seeing it quite often in the future.

Let’s give Zeiver a try!

Review: Zeiver

Nose: Warm, striking a good balance of lemon-lime and juniper. Slight nuttiness comes through towards the end.

Palate: Plenty of dry, peppery juniper off the bat, with some heat as well — it’s 47% abv after all. We then find grapefruit and lime coming through. Velvety, light and smooth.

Finish: The fruits stick around for the finish, inviting cherry then peaches to the party. Things close out with pistachio and side of cacao.

Score: A

Price paid: 0 yen, this bottle is a sample unit provided by Zeiver. 47% abv, 700ml.

The Zeiver team set out to create a unique gin, and they’ve certainly accomplished it. There’s the dryness that you would expect from a London-style gin sitting right alongside the smooth citrus zest of a rice-based Japanese gin. It’s complex, yet they’ve done a great job assuring that no particular element overpowers the others. If you see it on a shelf near you soon, definitely give it a try.

Disclaimer: Apart from the above production bottle, I met with James & Clayton a couple times over the past half year to give them my feedback about pre-production versions of Zeiver. The production one is definitely far improved. 

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