What to Drink

7 Japanese gins worth a gold

Embrace yourself for the flavors of these Japanese gins.

With thousands of years of mastery in distillation, it’s no surprise that Japan makes some great gins. While Japanese gins have been gaining popularity in recent years, Suntory introduced its first gin in Japan in 1936. Over the years, as Japanese spirits have gained recognition around the world,  Japanese gins have made their way onto shelves and into the hearts of gin lovers everywhere.  

If you haven’t yet dabbled into the world of Japanese gins, then here are some great ones worth checking out. 

Etsu Gin


Etsu Gin, Source: Website

The Etsu gin is brought to you by the BBC spirits, where BBC stands for Bogdan & Bertrand Company. The company specializes in the creation and distribution of contemporary and top-of-the-range spirits. BBC spirits are a creator, importer, and distributor of spirits all around the world. The Etsu Gin is made at the Asahikawa distillery in the Northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. With 90 points Etsu Gin is a gold medal winner at the Bartender Spirits Awards. The gin is made from green bitter orange peel, coriander, licorice, and angelica root and has notes of citrus fruits with the persistence of yuzu. On the palate, it is fresh and well-balanced,  with hints of peppers, green tea, and berries. The finish has sanshō pepper ending on yuzu aromas.

Try it in a cocktail :

  • Etsu Gin – 40 ml
  • Matcha – ½ bar spoon
  • Lemon juice – 10 ml
  • Samurai Sake – 15 ml

Add all the elements to a shaker and mix well. Pour it in a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon peel. 

Tokyo Night Gin


Tokyo Night Gin, Source: Website

Tokyo Night Gin is the second winner at the Bartender Spirits Awards from the BBC spirits. The gin won a silver medal at the competition with 83 points. The Tokyo Night Gin is distilled from sugar cane molasses. It is made from a secret recipe that uses numerous plants, such as yuzu bark and matcha powder from independent producers. Later these plants are blended with juniper berries, coriander seeds, and licorice root. The botanicals are macerated for 24 hours. The gin is clear as water and has juniper berry notes. It is full-bodied with a beautiful yuzu freshness on the palate and gives a gourmet finish. This crafted gin can be served with tonic or mixed with your favorite cocktail. 

Nikka Coffey Gin


Nikka Coffey Gin, source: website

Established in 1934, the Nikka Coffey Gin comes from the Nikka Whisky Distillery Co. located in Yoichi, Hokkaido. The distillery was built by Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whisky. The company first started producing apple products under the name of “Dai Nippon Kaju”, meaning the “Great Japanese Juice Company” and finally in 1940 the first whisky from Nikka was launched under the brand name ‘Nikka Whisky’. The Nikka Coffey Gin was added to their product range in 2017  to further pursue the beauty of the Coffey stills. The Coffey Gin’s complexity is achieved through the perfect balance between 11 selected botanicals and the silky texture of Coffey distillates. It has aromas originating from four kinds of Japanese citruses namely Yuzu, Kabosu, Amanatsu, and Shequasar. On the palate, it has traditional gin botanicals of juniper berries, angelica, coriander seeds, lemon, and orange peels. There is also a touch of apples, followed by pleasantly tangy hints of green Japanese sanshō pepper on the finish. 

Roku Gin


Roku Gin, source: Website

Roku in Japanese means number six. Inside every bottle of Roku Gin, you will find six very special botanicals that are sourced in Japan. The gin comes from The House of Suntory, established back in 1899 by Shinjiro Torii. Based on more than 100 years of expertise, Roku is the result of a history of over a century of dreams. The six Japanese botanicals cultivated over four seasons that creates Japan’s authentic craft gin are the Sakura flower, Sakura leaf, Yuzu peel, Sencha tea (green tea), Gyokuro tea (refined green tea), and the Sanshō pepper. The Roku Gin has an unparalleled soft, round, and subtly sweet taste. It has the aromas of cherry blossom and green tea. The gin is complex, multi-layered, and has various flavors of botanicals on the palate. The Japanese sanshō pepper brings a little spiciness to the finish. 

Try it in a cocktail:

  • Gimlet
  • Ingredients
  • Roku Gin
  • Lime juice
  • Simple syrup
  • Lime slice

Add all the ingredients and shake well. Pour it in a coupe glass with ice and garnish it with a  slice of lime.

Ki No Bi


Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin, source: Website

From the house of Kyoto Distillery comes this dry gin Ki No Bi. The Kyoto Distillery is Japan’s first dedicated gin distillery. It was established in 2014 by the three founders: Noriko Kakuda Croll, David Croll, and Marcin Miller. The company may still be in its infancy, but the founders’ journey to build one of the most innovative distilleries in the world began some 20 years ago. The distillery separates the botanicals in their gin into six Elements: the base, citrus, tea, herbal, spice, and fruity & floral, and distills each of them individually. Then it is blended in perfect harmony to create the distinctive KI NO BI flavor. The Ki No Bi (“The Beauty of the Seasons”) is created with Japanese botanicals such as the yellow yuzu from the north of Kyoto Prefecture, hinoki wood chips (Japanese cypress), bamboo, gyokuro tea from the Uji region, and green sanshō (Japanese peppercorn) berries. The gin is clear and has aromas of fresh yuzu and a thread of sanshō. The juniper complements the Japanese botanicals on the palate.  The ginger root gives a slightly warming and spicy finish, with a hint of gyokuro tea.

Try it in an Oyuwari:

  • 30 ml Ki No Bi dry gin
  • 30 ml hot water (90 degree Celcius)

Mix them well and serve in traditional Japanese style.

Try the Oyuwari with Japanese dishes such as sushi, sashimi, or yaki-zakana (grilled fish).

Sakurao Limited


Sakurao Limited dry gin, Source: Website

The Sakurao Brewery and Distillery Co., Ltd. was founded in 1918 in the town of Sakurao in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima. The distillery is home to the award-winning Sakurao Limited dry gin. The Sakurao Limited gin utilizes a total of 17 specially selected botanicals from Hiroshima. These botanicals include the Japanese sakura (cherry blossom), Japanese juniper berry, kuromoji (Japanese Spicebush), kinome (Japanese pepper leaf), oyster, wasabi (Japanese horseradish), juniper berry leaf, ao shiso (green perilla), lemon, navel, sweet summer orange, yuzu (citrus Junos), dai dai (bitter orange), hinoki (Japanese cypress), green tea, aka shiso (red perilla), and ginger. The distillery uses the hybrid method (combination of steeping and vapor method) to extract the flavors of each and every botanical and make this craft gin. 

Try it in a Spring Tail:

  • Sakurao Gin Limited 30 ml
  • Shakujo No Ume Plum Wine 10 ml
  • Cherry blossom liqueur 10 ml
  • Lemon juice 10 ml
  • Rose syrup ½ tsp

Mix all the ingredients well and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Gin Heart - Aki


Aki Gin, Source: Website 

From the Gin Heart series, Aki gin is crafted at Akayane Distillery which is located in Ei, Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan. The distillery was formed in 2006, Akayane is a team of craftspeople who bottle the spirit of Japanese distilled liquor. The Aki gin is lightly colored and has mild aromas of forest mushroom. The ingredients used in the making of this gin are Imo shochu (made in Japan), shimeji mushroom, hen-of-the-woods mushroom, kabosu, sweet potato, vanilla, and juniper berry. On the palate, it has the sweet flavor of steamed Satsuma-imo sweet potatoes, chestnuts, and vanilla followed by the subtle aroma of kabosu citrus and refreshing juniper berry.

Try it as hot gin:
First, pour warm water (about body temperature) into a cup, and then add the gin to release the refreshing scent of juniper. Add one dried shiitake mushroom to increase the flavor and umami of autumn, and enjoy. 

Header Image, source: Ki No Bi

Popular on Chicago Drinks Guide

Next Events

South San Francisco Conference Center, 255 South Airport Boulevard, South San Francisco, CA 94080, United States.

Bartender Spirits Awards 2023

Register Now

South San Francisco Conference Center, 255 South Airport Boulevard, South San Francisco, CA 94080, United States

Sommeliers Choice Awards 2023

Register Now

South San Francisco Conference Center, 255 South Airport Boulevard, South San Francisco, CA 94080, United States

USA Spirits Ratings 2023

Register Now

South San Francisco Conference Center, 255 South Airport Boulevard, South San Francisco, CA 94080, United States

USA Wine Ratings 2023

Register Now

Related Blogs