An oyster shell, cherry blossom and cypress gin

By | Category: Travel destinations

Japan is still a country that does not allow most tourists from abroad to visit.


So you won’t have the opportunity – yet – of visiting the Setouchi region, a centre of sake production and increasingly whisky and gin.

Oyster shells, cherry blossom and cypress are some of the botanicals that blend to make a very different gin from ones that we usually find in the UK

Possessing a mild climate, a rich soil and an abundance of groundwater, sake (Japan’s national alcoholic drink) is made from rice, water, and koji (a fermentation starter).

In addition the area includes the largest inland sea in Japan, also called Setouchi.

The region is still home to many historic sake breweries, where visitors can learn about how sake is made and how the drink is embedded into the culture of Setouchi region. Naturally, samples are available before you buy!

But sake isn’t the only thing being made in Setouchi.

Whisky has long been a favourite Japanese drink which, today, is available around the world wherever whisky is to be sold.

Between Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, is the Sakurao distillery which started life as a sake brewery over a century ago and which also produces shochu, a distilled liquor made from grains or vegetables and which isn’t so widely available here in the UK.

But just four years ago in 2017, it began to look at craft whiskies and gin which, the distillery says, blends the best of Setouchi with Western distilling traditions.

This month the whisky side of the company won awards at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition. In the Other Single Malt Category, Single Malt Japanese Whisky Togouchi 1st release cask strength was awarded a “Double Gold” as well as a “Best of Class”, for which only one product in each category is chosen.

On top of that, the whisky team won gold for its Sakurao single malt.

But increasingly it is that old British favourite, gin, that is enticing people.

The distillery produces a small-batch Sakurao Limited which uses seventeen specially selected botanicals from Hiroshima, as well as Japanese juniper berry.

Japanese botanicals are what makes the gin stand out: oyster shells (Hiroshima is Japan’s biggest producer of oysters), sakura (cherry blossom,) and hinoki (Japanese cypress).

Those are botanicals you are unlikely to find in any British made gin!

The distillery then blends these using traditional methods following the traditional way of steeping to produce a dry gin.

Setouchi isn’t widely known to British travellers but with gin, whisky, sake and an inland sea by which to laze, it deserves to be more popular when we can travel to Japan again.

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