Follow Us

Local flavours driving craft gin innovation among Japanese distilleries

Komasa Gin

Expect more indigenous ingredients from Japan to be driving flavour profile innovation as the nation is set to expand on its next big craft export: gin.

Even as the world goes through a gin-naissance (global gin consumption is expected to rise 4.4% during the period 2018-2023, according to forecasts by IWSR), with gin expected to out-sell whisky as a category, it is the demand for unique, craft products that is propelling this shift.

A study by IWSR shows that Japanese distillers are making good use of local botanicals, such as kabosu, yuzu, shikuwasa, sakura flower and sansho pepper, to create distinctly Japanese spirits that are “having success both locally and abroad”.

Data shows that consumption of local gin in Japan will continue to grow over the next 5 years, driven primarily by innovation using local produce.

Independent distillers such as Komasa and The Kyoto Distillery, as well as big names like Suntory and Nikka (who are better known for their whiskies), are expanding big in the craft gin space. Even traditional sochu producers have went into gin-making in recent years.

“One of the most distinctive aspects of Japan’s craft gin scene is the use of local ingredients in the base spirit,” states a IWSR report. “Innovation in the base spirit is especially driven by producers of traditional Japanese spirits such as shochu.

Yuzu Gin from Kyoya, which uses sweet potato sochu as a base.

“Examples include Kyoya distillery’s choice of a sweet potato shochu base for its Yuzu Gin, as well as Kanosuke, which uses shochu to produce its gins.”

The report further adds that hyperlocal flavour trends are also galvanizing experimentation. The 9148 Gin from Benizakura Distillery, for instance, uses botanicals like kombu and shiitake mushrooms from the plant’s immediate vicinity in Hokkaido.

“Small distillers have been crucial to the gin market’s growth,” notes IWSR.

“The emergence of the craft gin movement, emphasising its provenance credentials was a marketing masterstroke, perfectly timed to coincide with the global rise of social media and consumers’ growing interest in authentic brand stories.”

Dannon Har

About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.