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About Roku Gin
Suntory, the legendary Japanese distillery, has long history of crafting fine spirits and Roku Gin is one of their newest releases. This gin is meant to celeberate the beauty of Japan and includes different elements from Japanese environment and culture.
“Roku” means six in Japanese and refers to the six Japanese botanicals in the gin. They’re all sourced from Japan and harvested from each of the four seasons. Sakura flower and leaf from spring, sencha tea and gyokuro tea from summer, sancho pepper from fall and yuzu peel from winter. There are eight in the recipe including juniper berries and bitter orange peel.
Roku is also sold in a gorgeous hexagonal bottle with images of each Japanese botanical embossed on the glass. The label is made of washi paper and is decorated with eye-catching calligraphy.
❖ Spirit: Japanese Gin
❖ Distillery: Suntory
❖ ABV: 43% (86 Proof)
❖ Low/Moderate Price
Tasting Notes from Suntory
❖ Nose: Cherry blossom and green tea provide a floral and sweet aroma.
❖ Palate: Complex, multi layered, yet harmonious flavour of various botanicals. Traditional gin taste in the base, plus characteristic Japanese botanical notes with yuzu as the top note. Smooth and silky texture.
❖ Finish: The crisp Japanese sansho pepper brings a little spiciness to the finish.
My Tasting Notes
❖ Nose: lovely floral and citrus scent from the yuzu and sakura. I’m not very familiar with the the other Japanese ingredients but I think I can detect the green teas adding to the flora scent and a subtle spice from the pepper. I also get juniper on the back end so I know I’m smelling a gin. There was stronger alcohol burn than I was expecting so I had to back off a little bit.
❖ Taste: Much more subtle than I was expecting compared to the nose. Stronger juniper than the nose, with a bit of sweetness. There is a little bit of citrus but it’s more bitter. It tastes more like the peel of yuzu and orange. Pleasant mouthfeel, not too much alcohol burn.
❖ Finish: warm, slightly spicy and bitter
Gin & Tonic
2 oz gin
4 oz tonic water
lime wedge for garnish
❖ Fill glass with as much ice as possible.
❖ Add the gin
❖ Pour in tonic water until glass is full (about 4 oz)
❖ Stir gently to combine (two or three rotations should be enough)
❖ Garnish with lime wedge
The Gin & Tonic is a fairly straight forward cocktail. It’s essentially just gin and tonic water mixed together with a lime wedge. But you can easily experiment with different flavors by changing the type of tonic water and gin or by adding extra ingredients like fresh fruits. I wanted to keep it simple to test the Roku gin so I used a recipe from Cocktails Made Simple. I went with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water because I know I like it and I had some on hand. The recipe doesn’t specifically call for 4oz of tonic water but thats how much I typically use.
I was curious how Roku would mix with the tonic since it has a pretty complex flavor on its own but I was a bit disappointed with the result. The yuzu, orange peel and subtle sakura notes were still present but the tonic covered almost everything else. The juniper taste was also much stronger than I expected and there was also an intense bitter flavor. I don’t think it completely ruined the drink but it was less refreshing.
There are many things I like about Roku Gin but I still can’t help being a little bit disappointed. It has a strong first impression so my expectations were just too high. But there is plenty to like so I still feel good about giving Roku 3 stars.
I’m very impressed with the elegance of the bottle design. The striking calligraphy on the label immediately communicates that this is a Japanese spirit and stands out on the shelf. A hexagon bottle shape is interesting on it’s own but Suntory go a step further and connect it to the six Japanese botanicals.
Roku Gin’s biggest strength and weakness are the botanicals. The nose is delightful and the botanicals are well balanced. But I was a bit disappointed with the taste. It could just be that I don’t have a discerning palate but I found the flavors to be a bit weak and uneven. I was hoping that the other seven botanicals would support the Japanese botanicals but this wasn’t the case. And this makes it a bit tricky to use in cocktails, especially if you are a novice bartender like me.
But overall, I would still recommend Roku Gin to someone who is looking for a gin with unique flavors and a pretty bottle design. It is quite enjoyable on the rocks or neat but I was disappointed in the Gin and Tonic. But at the price (I was able to pick up a bottle at Total Wine for $23) I think its worth a try.
As always, drink responsibly.