Roku is a Japanese gin from Suntory, part of the colossal Beam Suntory brand, probably best known for making Whisky. So, how do they do with gin?
Price: ~ £30
I first spotted this gin in Duty Free at Budapest airport on our way home from a long weekend. As a huge Japanophile and Ginophile (is that a word? If not, it is now!) I couldn’t resist, especially as the botanicals included Sakura, otherwise known as cherry blossom.
The bottle is beautiful and everything about the design is aimed to highlight the six botanicals that make the gin. The name Roku means ‘six’ in Japanese, and the label features the kanji for ‘Roku’ front and centre. The bottle is hexagonal, with each side featuring one of the six botanicals embossed onto the glass. The label is a classic Japanese design of black and gold on white, and the paper even features a marbling effect. It’s just stunning.
And it’s almost completely ruined by the black plastic screw lid! What were they thinking?!
On the nose, the gin is super floral. The juniper is there, but it’s carried away on a creamy sweet floral tone that lifts everything up. It’s lovely and sweet, with a fruitiness coming from the yuzu, sakura and sansho. Towards the end I can just start to pick up the notes of the green teas, but overall the floral blossom notes are where it’s at.
Neat, the gin is full of those beautiful, fragrant cherry blossom notes, though the yuzu and sansho rein in the sweetness, adding a bitterness that serves to spread the flavours out over the tongue. There’s a lot going on, with sweet floral notes at the fore, then sour citrus around the edges, all leading back to hints of green tea and a touch of grass. It still very much tastes of gin, but the juniper isn’t all that evident.
Mixed with water, those citrus notes come bursting through, exploding on the tongue! It’s surprisingly different, but absolutely delicious. Everything opens up beautifully with the yuzu really taking charge now. The tea starts to come through too and those floral notes are still drifting about in the space in between, but it’s almost a different drink. Wonderful.
Finally, I tried it with indian tonic and a slice of lime, and it holds up amazingly well. Those sweet sakura notes still shine through somehow and the citrus holds its own in the mix. There’s an added pungency to the floral notes that isn’t ideal and I can imagine it could put some people off, but overall I think it makes a good G&T. I’ve been reliably informed to try garnishing with cherries, but as I don’t have any the lime will have to do for now. It’s definitely something I’ll try though and I think this gin might go really well in an Aviation cocktail.
For me, this is a great gin to add to anyone’s collection. The uniquely Japanese botanicals mean that there’s little else on the market that can match the floral and citrus notes of Roku, and I think they’ve been put together beautifully to make a really exciting gin. I was genuinely surprised at how versatile it was with the dilution of the water and then tonic, with each expressing slightly different aspects of the flavour profile. I think it’s one that could well surprise in a lot of different ways, when used in different drinks and in today’s market the price tag is pretty modest (especially as it can regularly be found for around £25). I would definitely recommend this!
Remove up to one feather if you are not fond of very floral flavour profiles.
Roku is available online and in some supermarkets
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.