Roku Gin is a botanical gin from one of Japan’s most renowned whisky producers. Its subtle yet complex flavors of citrus, juniper, pepper, and spice lead to a tangy, vegetal finish.
Classification London Dry gin
Company Beam Suntory
Distillery Osaka, Japan
Still Type pot still
Proof 86 (43% ABV)
Complex and subtle
Great price point for a well-made, intriguing spirit
Spice, tannin, and citrusy-floral notes make it an excellent gin for exploring new cocktail territory.
The finish is a little on the short side.
Not for the G&T guzzler
Nose: Floral and citrusy, with deeper sweet-savory spice notes beneath the initial flourish of blossoms and fruit
Palate: There’s a distinctive, serious punch of spicy-savory, tingly pepper, only hinted at on the nose. Together with the juniper and higher ABV, it creates just a little zippy spiciness in the middle of your tongue, but it’s all wrapped up in a delicately silken texture.
Finish: A little short, but interesting: bitter orange and yuzu, along with notes of the duo of green teas—tannic and drying, vegetal, and a little tangy.
If Suntory whiskies are all about precision—often, more subtle emulated versions of scotch whisky, honoring the technique and style but bringing Japan’s own cultural values to the table—the company’s gin is a bit of a surprise. It has elements of that same kind of subtlety (which, truly, is key with gin, or else you wind up potpourri, and nobody wants that), but Roku isn’t all flowers and gentle herbs. It’s kind of powerful. It won’t knock you over with a hammering of flavors, but its flavors dovetail into texture and structure.
Suntory chose to use two different kinds of green tea: a shade-grown version (gyokuro) and a sun-grown version (sencha), each adding tannin, vegetal notes, and a hint of smoke. It gives the spirit a kind of scaffolding to hang its other botanicals upon. And there are plenty: Six of the 14 botanicals in Roku are sourced from Japan, distilled separately, and represented by the six-sided bottle Roku comes in, along with their images embossed on the clear glass, which is wrapped in a label made of traditional rice paper.
It’s not a Gin & Tonic gin, and perhaps not even a Negroni gin, as the Campari and the tea influence may well clash instead of offering panache. But consider taking a page or two out of Audrey Saunders’ playbook and try it in a Gin-Gin Mule, playing spice on spice on citrus on flowers, or with a thoughtful swap of green tea for Earl Grey, her MarTEAni. And honestly, it’s entirely delicious solo, too.
The painted character on the label is the kanji symbol, which stands for the number six, and it was painted by the famous Japanese calligrapher Tansetsu Ogino.