Review: The Ethical Spirits & Co Cacao Éthique

Tonight we sit down with a bottle from right here in Tokyo: The Ethical Spirits & Co's Cacao Éthique. The distillery focuses on creating spirits from byproducts.

We recently visited the company's Tokyo Riverside Distillery in the "Brooklyn of Tokyo" Kuramae to see and hear from them first-hand. That article contains many more details about the "world's first recyclable distillery." Still, to summarize, their mission is making spirits from agricultural byproducts or ingredients that their makers would otherwise discard.

Cacao Éthique is an excellent example of that approach. It's using kasutori shochu--a kind of shochu distilled from the spent lees you get when making sake--as a base. The shochu is from Akita's Hiraizumi.

The cacao in the name refers to their using cacao husks as the only botanical alongside juniper. So it's a gin made from byproduct upon byproduct. Those are sourced from Whosecacao, developing relationships between cacao farmers in Southeast Asia and confectionary makers in Japan.

I have to comment on the packaging. I included it in the picture too. Tiffany Blue? Bruichladdich Blue? Call it what you want, but it's striking. The presentation here definitely feels closer to a perfume than a gin. And uhh, I'm just going to go ahead and assume the package is made from recycled paper, too.

Notably, Cacao Éthique is currently the only non-limited-edition product from the company made at the above-mentioned Tokyo Riverside Distillery.

Let's crack it open and give it a try.

Review: The Ethical Spirits & Co Cacao Éthique

Nose: Dark chocolate candied orange slices, lemon-lime, ripe tropical fruit

Palate: Much thicker, more oily juniper than the nose indicates. Deep, rich cacao comes in full force later on.

Finish: Lasting banana bread with chocolate chips

Score: B-

Price paid: This bottle was free, courtesy of a Tokyo Weekender raffle. 47% abv, 375ml. It goes for 4950 yen after-tax from Ethical Spirits & Co.'s official store.

I tend to be a bit skeptical of these gins that focus intensely on one botanical, but Cacao Éthique has helped awaken me. The kasutori shochu sets the stage--a little too powerfully, perhaps--for a good pairing of cacao and juniper.

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