There’s a little bit of misinformation out there about Sakurao Gin. To clarify, Sakurao Japanese Dry Gin limited edition uses all Hiroshima-grown botanicals. Buried at the bottom of the Sakurao Distillery botanicals page, they say “Besides these botanicals, 5 kinds of imported botanicals such as juniper berry and coriander seed are also used for SAKURAO GIN ORIGINAL.”
While the story of an all-locally grown gin— juniper— included, is romantic. The fact that you might have come here to this review under a misguided pretense (why should Sakurao Distillery go out of their way to correct the mis-information*). But that doesn’t mean you should write off Sakurao Gin based off some disingenuous promotion and hidden footnotes.
It does feature 9 botanicals from Japan— many of which are unusual and indigenous citrus fruits not seen in other products. Two in particular are the bitter Dai Dai and the also bitter— don’t stop at the name— Sweet Summer Orange. But for my money, Japanese Hinoki might be the most unusual ingredient. A popular ornamental in Japan, it’s bark and wood is renowned as an incense for its distinctive aroma.
Sakurao Gin has a very shy, almost receding, juniper-forward nose. Hints of citrus zest surround it, but ultimately, it is extraordinarily quiet and hard to get a clear nose off of.
Sipped though, Sakurao Gin bursts forward with quite a bit of citrus-dominated flavor. Orange and lime come on early. Pine-forward and slightly resinous juniper comes on mid-palate. The finish is quite warm. Sweet lemon and mandarin zest notes hit the top of the palate. From the corners, there’s a mild earthiness. There’s a delicate hint of coriander coming from Sakurao Gin, but it’s that juniper that largely dominates with the citrus occupying a space, adding color.
Despite some moments on the palate where the citrus comes through strongly, the juniper does remain the backbone of this. Even if you read their botanical list on the Sakurao Distillery website and didn’t notice the omission of juniper, I promise you would make no mistake determining it’s here. Good for classic-style gin fans though, right?
Towards the finish, a hint of green tea adds some depth and color. A hint of ginger also begins to emerge on the long finish. And a long-finish it is. I would characterize it as one of the longer finishes in a gin I’ve had in a couple years. The viscosity of the base spirit keeps it going for quite a while after your first sip.
Fans of citrus-forward Martinis, particularly served with a twist will enjoy this gin in that style. The citrus/juniper core is so strong here that you could make a 50/50 Martini and still get plenty of gin character.
In a Gin and Tonic, it’s more delightfully citrus forward, with lime notes almost emerging naturally from the drink without any added citrus.
Overall, Sakurao Gin
Sakurao Gin is a good citrus-forward gin with a strong juniper presence. I wish that they were a little more forthcoming about the ingredients and origin, but I won’t take points away from what I think is a solid, citrus-forward gin that will appeal to a wide range of consumers.
If a citrus and juniper-forward gin sounds good and you don’t mind that not everything was grown in Hiroshima, Sakurao Gin is a good buy.
*It’s not Whiskey Richard’s fault. In a later review he even calls them out for hiding juniper in the botanical list. “Well that was bullshit. Sakurao Distillery didn’t list juniper as a botanical, but it’s obviously here. Perhaps they just didn’t want to admit that they’re importing juniper for the Original?”**
** Yes, this is in the footnotes. I’m not trying to hide it. Just trying to illustrate the point that in the year plus that I’ve heard about this gin, no one has gone out of their way to make it abundantly clear that the original is not entirely Hiroshima grown. It’s an unusual thing. Like why hide something that no one would be upset about in the first place? If you make a good gin, tell a good story about what you’ve done. And let your Limited Edition gin be about Hiroshima. Modern day drinkers highly value transparency in process and product. So let’s just be out there. Right, Bud Light is willing to admit their product is mostly rice? Nothing scary about imported juniper. Nearly everyone gets it from Italy anyway.