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Gin Reviews

Roku Gin Sakura Bloom Edition, 43% ABV: The First Limited Edition Roku Gin

 

There's a important term in Japan called "shun" (旬), which is used by locals to describe the exact moment when a local produce is enjoyed at the peak of its flavour and freshness. This concept is often heavily embraced in Japanese cuisine, with local chefs taking care to source and treat each ingredient during their respective seasons. 

For Suntory's Osaka Distillery, which produces the Japanese gin brand Roku Gin, "shun" is a concept that's long been embedded in their distillation practices. Roku means "six", and refers to the six Japanese botanicals (sakura leaf, sakura flower, yuzu peels, Sencha tea, Hyokuro tea and Sansho peppers) that the distillery uses to distil the gin, each harvested and distilled during their corresponding seasons in Japan. 

 

 

(Read the news release here)

More recently, Osaka Distillery announced the launch of a series of limited edition gins called the Japanese Seasonal Collection, which will pay further homage to the concept of "shun". The new series will feature new limited edition Roku gin expressions that will each evoke the essence of different seasons.

Preparing the sakura flowers for distillation. (Image source: Suntory)

 

The first in the series is the Roku Sakura Bloom Edition, a gin that aims to capture the flavours and aromas of Japan's iconic cherry blossom season. Consequently, the sakura flower gets extra spotlight in this Roku Sakura Bloom Edition. There's a certain transient nature to the sakura flower, as at its peak it blooms for only two weeks during the height of spring each year before quickly wilting. Hence, in order to capture its essence, the distillery distilled a separate salted Sakura leaf distillate that is blended with the rest of the botanical distillates. Salting the Sakura leaf is a must, as well, as the salting helps draw out added sweetness in the sakura blossom. 

| Read more: Tasting the Sakura and Yuzu distillates that make up the iconic Roku Gin expression, with Suntory Brand Ambassador Andrew Pang

According to Suntory, the new Roku Sakura Bloom Edition will only be available in Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. With this being the first ever limited edition Roku Gin to debut, I'm beyond excited to get a taste of this, and see how it compares to the original Roku Gin. 

Roku Gin Sakura Bloom Edition, 43% ABV - Tasting Notes 

 

Aroma: There's strong piney notes of juniper, coupled with some citrusy notes of yuzu and lemon zest. Surprisingly, this smells very much like a classic London Dry! I'm not getting much floral notes here, with the dominant aromas coming across as piney and citrusy. Subsequent sniffs brings forth a tickle of light peppery notes as well. Overall, very bright and clean. 

Taste: On the palate, you finally get what you've been waiting for, and the floral, perfumery notes of sakura flowers finally make their entrance. There's a gentle floral sweetness that's balanced nicely with a savoury, umami accent of sea salt and soy - akin to the slightly salty-sweet Sakura mochi snack. There's a certain alkalinity to this floral gin that reminds me of potpourri and soap. Towards the end, I pick up yuzu, black tea and a growing heat of sansho peppers, cinnamon, and coriander seeds. 

Finish: Medium. The finish maintains the spiciness with prickly peppers, chilli, cinnamon. I pick up a tannic undertone of roasted black tea leaves, some sea salt and a slight lingering mintiness.

 

Roku Sakura Bloom... In A Tonic: 

I tried the Roku Sakura Bloom in a tonic that was garnished a cherry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the hyper delicate floral, perfumery notes of sakura blossoms does gets a bit subdued by the presence of the tonic. Taking its place are the citrusy, piney notes of yuzu and juniper, which become bolder and brightens the palate. 

This refreshing flavour undoubtedly makes the Roku Sakura Bloom very easy drinking in a tonic - there's noticeably less spiciness and sharpness than a gin and tonic made with the original Roku Gin. Although, it is a pity that some of that floral potpourri accents you get from a neat serving of Roku Sakura Bloom doesn't quite hold its strength in a gin tonic.

Overall Thoughts 

 

As the first in the Japanese Seasonal Collection, the Roku Sakura Bloom kicks things off on a good start - it's a very delicate, elegant and floral gin with a nice balance of different flavours. I like how it transitions quite seamlessly from citrus and pine on the aroma, to more sweet-salty floral notes on the palate, before gaining some heat and spice on the finish.

It's lighter bodied than the original Roku Gin, with a more aromatic potpourri essence - I'd definitely recommend drinking this neat and sipping on it in order to best appreciate some of the nuances. With a gin like this, my personal preference is to enjoy it with a tonic or soda water. I'd imagine it could be tricky using it in a cocktail as some of the subtle flavours might be lost when paired with more bolder mixers. 

It's very exciting to see Roku Gin start to experiment and innovate on their original gin recipe. I've been a big fan of the original Roku Gin, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how the distillery continues to play around with the proportions of different botanical distillates and other Japanese botanicals to bring out different flavour dimensions for us gin geeks to explore! 

 

@lotusroot518