BOTANICALS: DISTILLING THE FLAVOURS OF A JAPANESE AUTUMN
The distilling process behind our first Horisumi gin, Autumn, was rather unusual. The whole idea actually started from the top down; Kian Forreal’s Japanese tattoo-inspired label design came first, and we began work on the actual gin second. As we teased out what we thought each season would feel and taste like in Japan, we also spent time thinking about what sort of earthy, spice-driven flavours we’d want to drink during autumn in particular.
First of all we threw a few things at the wall to see if they’d stick and ran about 25 trial distillations in our five-litre copper still, which is perfect for experimenting. Distilling saké, for instance, was never going to work. The result was a taste akin to chewing on alcoholic Panadol. Red miso, however, was a lucky choice. We didn’t think it would translate at all but it ended up fitting like a glove, adding a nice round body to the gin and a savoury umami-ness that is completely representative of the Japanese palate.
To build on the miso we distilled the berries and leaves of sansho pepper, a Japanese cousin of Chinese Sichuan pepper. Sansho pepper is actually part of the citrus family, and when we distilled the leaves and berries, a distinct citrus character emerged, matched with a woody, lemony clarity (which goes extremely well with the East Imperial Yuzu Tonic we serve it with at the Archie Rose bar, by the way). When we added sesame we were again unsure if it would play out like we’d hoped, but the use of sesame oil in Japanese cooking adds a huge dimension to each dish, and using it as a base note adds a nutty characteristic to this gin, an almost sweetness.
The final botanical we used is burdock root, or gobo in Japanese, a relative of the lotus root with a similar profile to liquorice root - an ingredient often used in London dry gins. It lends the Autumn gin a distinctly earthy and herbal edge which we think perfectly reflects the changing of the leaves.
If you, like me, think of autumn as the time when the nights begin to cool and you look for a drink that builds in warmth and invigorates your soul from the inside out, this is the ticket.