Made with famously pure Fushimi water, the gin uses a rice-spirit base combined with a range of uniquely Japanese flavours – yuzu, sanshō pepper, gyokuro tea, hinoki wood – plus the all-important juniper berries. All this careful blending of flavours leads to a smooth, dry taste with a noticeably Japanese twist.
But how did this archetypally English spirit end up being produced in the most Japanese of cities? For David Croll and Marcin Miller, two Brits who have a long history with Japanese whisky, it was the obvious choice. As a culinary and cultural capital, Kyoto enabled them to work with Japanese master-craftsmen and source the best suppliers for their botanicals. Their hope is that the gins they produce will reflect the Kyoto’s sense of history, relationship with nature and refined culture.
Even the bottle reflects their pride in the region: it’s made by Ōsaka-based Sakai Glass to recall the translucent, greeny-black of sumi-e (ink paintings), and features a design created by Kira Karacho, an almost 400-year-old Kyoto kirakami screen-printing business.
Forget home-brewed beer made by a bearded hipster in his backyard: this is what a craft drink looks like.
KI NO BI gin went into production in 2016; distillery tours are not currently available but check the website for future events and developments. Explore more of Japan with The Rough Guide to Japan. Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.