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Japanese Spirit Spirit

Japan, renowned globally for its impeccable whisky, embarks on a fascinating journey into the domain of various other distilled spirits, fostering a rich and diverse drinks culture that extends beyond its famed malt and grain creations. Let’s delve into the world of Japanese spirits, from traditional sakes redefined to contemporary innovations like gin and vodka, not forgetting the intriguing world of “New Make” spirits.

Shochu

One cannot explore Japanese spirits without paying homage to Shochu, a traditional distilled spirit commonly made from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice, and occasionally from other ingredients like buckwheat or brown sugar. Shochu typically ranges from 25% to 35% ABV, offering a lighter alternative to whisky. Its flavours are remarkably varied due to the diverse base ingredients and fermentation processes utilised. The spirit can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as a versatile component in cocktails, and it reflects the meticulousness and precision inherent in Japanese craftsmanship.

Awamori

Awamori, hailing from Okinawa Prefecture, carries a distinctive character and a rich history, drawing from Thai rice-distilling traditions. With its unique koji mould fermentation and single distillation process, Awamori can vary widely in ABV, generally falling between 30% and 43%. Often aged in clay pots, some Awamori is left to mature for decades, producing “Kusu,” a coveted, complex, and often richer variant of the spirit.

Japanese Gin

Japan’s venture into gin production showcases an admirable union of traditional distilling prowess and the nation's abundant native botanicals. Yuzu, sakura flowers, sencha tea, and sansho pepper are amongst the array of indigenous ingredients that imbue Japanese gins with their characteristic profiles, mirroring the country’s landscapes and seasons. With a typical ABV of around 40%-50%, these gins are not merely spirits; they are narrative expressions of Japan’s nature and a testament to the distillers’ innovative spirit.

Vodka

Japanese vodka, although a newer entrant into the spirit scene, is gradually gaining recognition for its purity and the precision involved in its crafting. Employing locally sourced ingredients and often utilising a multiple distillation and filtration approach, Japanese vodka mirrors the clarity and simplicity associated with the nation’s aesthetic. Rice and barley are common base ingredients, offering a subtle, smooth, and clean profile, making them exemplary for minimalist cocktails or neat sipping.

New Make Spirits

New Make, essentially whisky in its pure, unaged form, provides an intriguing lens through which to explore the spirit before it undergoes the transformative ageing process. It reveals the raw character of the spirit, undisturbed by wood ageing, and allows enthusiasts to appreciate the base from which all whiskies evolve. Japanese New Make often reveals notes derived from the primary ingredients and fermentation, providing an exciting exploration of the spirit’s nascent stages.

Rum

Rum is an emerging spirit in Japan, with distilleries exploring both traditional and innovative approaches to this sugarcane-derived spirit. Japanese rums often embrace a light, clean, and refined profile, with meticulous distillation and an emphasis on the purity of ingredients. Some variants incorporate koji fermentation, an interesting crossover from sake and shochu production, offering unique, umami-rich expressions.Japan’s spirit scene, vibrant and experimental, continues to captivate global audiences. Its rooted traditions in shochu and Awamori production, alongside burgeoning innovations in gin, vodka, and rum, reveal a nation that is both respectful of its heritage and boldly forward-looking. Each spirit, whether steeped in centuries-old practices or emerging from contemporary explorations, speaks of the land, the ingredients, and the skilled hands that craft them, weaving a multifaceted tapestry that tells of Japan’s beautiful complexity and its pioneering spirit in the realm of alcoholic beverages.

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