Esteemed and long-lived Shōchū distillery Komasa Jyozo has been making spirits since the late 19th century. In 2018 they decided to expand into the world of gin. Komasa Gin begins from a base of their shochu, which is distilled from rice.
The signature botanical is the Komikan. It’s a small cultivar of orange closely related to the Mandarin. While technically it is the same species as the common sweet orange (Citrus × sinensis), it has been cultivated for its unusually small size and ability to grow in the volcanic soils surrounding Sakurajima in Japan.
Aroma: Sweet citrus and orange blossom is all over the nose, with hints of frozen orange juice and mandarins. Faint echoes of dry sake and rice spirit echo in the background. The shochu base is evident in the aroma; however, it is muted relative to a true shochu.
Flavor: The signature botanical is all over Komasa Gin. Early tart orange with hints of lime leaves and a touch of spice. The mid-palate becomes sweeter with heady doses of mandarin orange, but also a rich resinous and piney juniper note.
Pine and sweet orange fade into a warming, wintry citrus-forward gin.
Finish: While there’s a slight hint of the rice base and grain throughout the palate, I found it most pronounced on the moderate in length, warming finish.
Cocktails and suggested serves
Komasa Gin is extremely citrus-forward and bartenders should adapt cocktails around its citrus features. It works well in classic drinks like the Tom Collins, White Lady or adds a strong citrus lift to a classic drink like the Gimlet.
My suggested serve would be a 10:1 Dry Martini with Dolin Vermouth and garnished with a twist. Chill the gin ahead of time to add a rich, unctuous texture and showcase the orange notes, which are at their most beautiful when the gin is sipped close to its bottled strength (49% ABV).
Overall, Komasa Gin
Unabashedly contemporary, Komasa Gin showcases citrus with an unusual base. While there’s many excellent citrus-forward gins, very few use a base as unique as rice Shochu. For me, that’s Komasa Gin’s most distinguishing feature. The delicate hints of the grain and rice base add a unique touch that may make it worth its ultra-premium price point. At $35-$40 for a 375 mL bottle, it’s near Monkey 47 and others at the top of the gin price pyramid (I’m ignoring the ultra-outrageous Nolet Reserve, which is a category unto itself).
In short— Komasa Gin is an excellent citrus-forward gin. However, outside of being an ideal gift for die-hard gin fans, it’s hard to find an ideal place for it.
Overall, evaluated on its own, Komasa Gin is quite excellent. Well designed, unique, and ultimately quite good— it’s easy to recommend if you’re looking for a gin to splurge on.