Listen up gin lovers…get your glasses ready for this one! Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin by The Kyoto Distillery in Japan deserves your palate’s attention.
Before I tell you more, let me distill one gin fact that I have observed. There are two very distinct types of gin lovers: the “all-about-Juniper” clan at one side and the “juniper-and-friends” tribe at the other . Neither are right or wrong; in fact, they both make strong cases in their defence. Yes, gin is not gin without juniper. The “all-about-juniper” team scores a point for that. However, the “juniper-and-friends” group make a compelling argument when they point out that gin never ran solo with juniper alone. Botanicals were always part of the equation. While both sides agree on this, the jury is out on what botanicals are acceptable.
Some folks prefer the classic botanical inclusions of orris, coriander, citrus peel, angelica, cassia etc., with juniper of course, which pretty much is the first impression that takes centre stage and has the final word. These are the “all-about-juniper” classics. However, with craft distillation on the rise, talented distillers have successfully incorporated other botanicals and to great success. Respecting the non-negotiable juniper focus, they do welcome new, non-traditional botanicals, which sometimes get heavily criticized. That said, many offer unique flavours that transport one’s palate to places where these gins come from.
Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin is one such fabulous artisanal gin. Not only does it a present clean, crisp canvas of juniper it certainly offers aromatics and flavours of its environment. By that, I don’t just mean Japan, I specifically mean Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital. Till today, the food, the culture, the etiquette… everything about Kyoto is distinctly refined.
Evidently, The Kyoto Distillery have spared no effort to produce a gin that reflects this elegance. Never abandoning the core, juniper here, graciously shares the spotlight with carefully curated botanicals. Yellow Yuzu, said to be sourced from the northern part of Kyoto prefecture addresses the citrus component. Sanshō peppercorns and Kinome (a minty, peppery, lemony Japanese herb) are the herbaceous representative, although along with ginger, they too add that soft bite of spice. Along with an added herbaceous touch, Bamboo and red Shiso also contribute a fruity/floral freshness… and then, there is Gyokuro tea from Uji.
Theses botanicals are said to be distributed into 6 distinct categories: Base, Citrus, Spice, Tea, Herbal and Fruit/Floral. Each of these groups are then distilled separately to allow for uninterrupted, pure expressions of their aromas and flavours to emerge. These are then expertly blended to create one remarkable gin.
Interestingly, the base spirit is made from rice, which renders a softness on the palate while offering a stable canvas for all the flavours to integrate. In addition to the exquisite aromatics of its ingredients, this gin also offers notes of lemon verbena and scented orchid with light touches of menthol and lemongrass. The mid-palate reveals from tropical fruit and honeysuckle, which surrenders to a dry, lightly citrus-pith finish. The alcohol is warm, but by no means harsh at all. On the palate, the texture is round, lightly oily and smooth with a rather long sign-off. (medium plus length for those of us who like to get technical!) In fact, it is for these very reasons that the Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin is more of a sipper than one that needs to be mixed.
Its heady aromatics and expressive palate are both elegantly balanced right through the gorgeously integrated and tempered alcohol are what make this gin a work of precision and skill. The distinctly Japanese expression of botanicals are pure expressions of art. Together, the Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin is well… a thing of beauty!