The Kyoto Distillery, Japan’s first dedicated artisan gin distillery, is celebrating the award of its production licence - thought to be the only one ever granted in Kyoto - by announcing details of its inaugural release. Ki No Bi (The Beauty of the Seasons) is inspired by tradition and is distilled, blended and bottled in Kyoto. The gin is made in a recognisable dry style but with a distinct Japanese accent.
Alex Davies, head distiller, states: “To create our gin, we will be mastering not only the science of distillation as others have done before, but also the age-old art of blending. We will break down the botanicals in our gin into six different categories: base, citrus, tea, herbal, spice and floral and will then distil these separately before blending them back together again.” Japanese spirits industry legend, Masami Onishi, has been on hand to provide invaluable experience.
The distillery has had two copper stills made to order by German manufacturer Christian Carl; a 140-litre still with an integrated botanical basket in the helmet and a 450-litre still with a swan neck, side-mounted botanical basket. Two different-sized hybrid stills give the distilling team the capacity and flexibility to treat each botanical and each recipe individually, allowing the very best flavours and aromas from the carefully selected ingredients to be captured.
Bottled at 45.7% ABV, Ki No Bi uses a rice spirit base, the initial delivery of which was made yesterday. The distilling team has spent six months selecting the best suppliers and botanicals, including 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. Fushimi water, famed for its purity, will be used to reduce the gin to bottling strength.
The bespoke bottle is made by a specialist glass manufacturer, Sakai Glass, a family-run business founded in Osaka in 1906 with a peerless reputation for quality, and will feature a screen-print label created in collaboration with Kira Karacho, a Kyoto-based karakami atelier dating back to 1624.
David Croll, partner in The Kyoto Distillery, observes: “We have worked hard to make a delicious dry gin, from local botanicals where possible, which does justice to the culture of craftsmanship for which Kyoto has been famed for over a thousand years. If we succeed in this objective, I am confident gin enthusiasts around the world will enjoy Ki No Bi.”
Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin will be launched in Japan in October 2016 and other selected markets thereafter.
Kyoto Distillery is owned by Number One Drinks Company Japan and was founded in 2015 by industry veterans Marcin Miller and David Croll. For more information visit: www.kyotodistillery.jp
18 August 2016 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor