In Japanese, roku means “six.” Suntory’s take on gin is called “six” after six quintessentially Japanese botanicals. Firstly, there’s green tea two ways: sencha and gyokuro. Cherry, also two ways: blossom and leaves. These six botanicals are each distilled individually. There’s another eight traditional botanicals bringing the grand total up to fourteen.
Roku Gin is post distilled from a base of grain.
Aroma: Roku Gin has an ethereal top note of cherry blossom. Notes of green tea, citron and pepper briefly emerge as it quickly quiets. The delicate aroma quickly passes and dissipates.
Flavor: Rich mouthfeel. Hints of cherry blossom early, easing into mid-palate leafy green tea with intimations of begramot and Earl Grey tea. Slight notes of peppery juniper. Bitter orange comes on late in surprising amounts, leading to impressions of vegetal wormwood.
Finish: Short and slightly tannic with even a touch of smoky nuance. Fairly high astringency and quite dry in profile, Roku Gin’s flavor from nearly start to finish exists within the haze of the tea notes.
Roku’s bold and strikingly bitter profile does make it a challenging mixing gin. I found it to be unusual in traditional applications like the Gin and Tonic (challenging, intellectual, and less refreshing than expected), the Gimlet (the bitterness countered the cloying of the lime, but the finish didn’t work for me), and the Ramos Gin Fizz (it’s so acerbic, that I’m not sure Roku Gin is ever well suited for a dessert style gin cocktail).
As a gin on its own, I found it good to be enjoyed Neat. It worked well in the Martini. You can make an Extra Dry Martini with Roku Gin and still have a Martini that seemingly has the impression of Dry Vermouth in it. Finally, I also thought it made a good Negroni.
Bartenders would be well advised against treating Roku Gin as a mixing gin well suited for all uses. It’s a challenging gin that can be discordant in some applications.
Roku Gin has some interesting things going on, but the bitterness overwhelms the subtlety in the other botanicals and leads to a gin that will certainly appeal to seasoned gin drinkers and experts at picking out botanicals.
However, it’s hard to recommend Roku Gin to the everyday gin drinker. If your go-to tipple is the Martini, you might enjoy Roku Gin, but fans of Gin and Tonics might find better balanced gins, even at this very affordable price point.