Exclusive to global travel retail the Roku Gin Select Edition is our go-to duty-free on flights abroad and we rarely return without a bottle. Produced by the drinks behemoth Beam Suntory in Osaka, the name is derived from the Japanese for six and the six uniquely Japanese botanicals, hence the distinctive hexagonal sumo wrestler of a bottle.
The label is made of washi paper with the kanji symbol for six in black, looking somewhat disturbingly like an automatic rifle pointing at a bouquet of delicate sakura flowers. Sakura flowers are embossed all over the bottle, which I have to say is one of the most awkward bottles to pour – ever – due to its fat hexagonal shape.
The botanicals, both the traditional and the six are gathered according to the Japanese principle of ‘shun’, meaning every botanical is at its peak in terms of quality of flavour. The six are said to represent the four seasons and are distilled using different pot stills before being blended post-distillation.
The Select Edition differs from Roku in that it gives more prominence to the Sakura botanicals.
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6 unique Japanese botanicals: sakura flower and sakura leaf (representing spring), Sencha tea and gyokuro tea (representing summer), sansho pepper (autumn) and finally yuzu peel (winter).
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The nose is like walking into a furniture restorer: all wooden tea chests and lemon scented polish.
This is a very intriguing grown-up gin, multi-layered and although I think the word complex is often overused in describing gin, I think that in this gin it is justified. It has a slightly bitter taste, dry and tea like. The juniper is still there, together with a slight furniture polish hint of citrus and oak with a bite of pepper.
The finish is a long tea tannin spicy dry oak but not mouth-dryingly so.
You would think that resinous juniper would clash with the tannin of tea and produce something quite acerbic and unpleasant. But not so in this gin. This is an intelligent thoughtful gin that delivers its surprising complexity of flavours in an understated way.
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With a plain tonic, the citric acid brings out the oriental yuzu. They complement each other well and there is a lasting sensation of woody dryness. Add a slice of ginger or a dash of ginger syrup, and a lemon zest twist and you will never want to drink your Roku Gin Select Edition G&T any other way again.