WHEN A DISTILLER AND TATTOO ARTIST COMBINE
After months of close consultation with acclaimed Japanese tattoo artist Kian Forreal, who operates under the traditional Japanese tattoo name of Shodai Horisumi, we’re proud to launch Horisumi Autumn into the wild today.
An earthy, spice-driven, savoury gin, Horisumi Autumn incorporates the flavours of red miso, sansho pepper and sesame (read more from our Master Distiller Dave Withers about how we settled on these botanicals here). It’s the first in a series of four rare gins made in collaboration with Horisumi to be released this year, each celebrating the uniqueness and symbolism of each season in Japan.
The genesis of this project came about quite organically between Horisumi and Archie Rose’s founder, Will Edwards. “Our paths crossed repeatedly at various whisky tastings around town,” says Will. “Kian came into the distillery to try his hand at a tailor-made cask of whisky (sign up to make your own here), and over a couple of drinks we came to the idea of a gin series linked very closely with the seasons in Japan, using his work as inspiration.”
Working with passionate people who are dedicated to their craft is paramount for us, and Horisumi displays that passion in spades. At Archie Rose we source each botanical individually, often searching for weeks before finding the perfect, if sometimes unusual, fit. The way Horisumi works is similar, from sourcing all his tattoo pigment sticks from Japan to grinding them down himself in his Surry Hills studio and custom-making his needles, he works painstakingly over each design and in fact spent over 50 hours on this design alone.
Even though the concept phase was quite smooth, the actual development of the range was a new and different challenge for the Archie Rose team, but one that was relished. “This collaboration really challenged our typical product development process,” says Will. “Having Horisumi’s illustrations lead the production was really exciting because we were presented with an opportunity to create a spirit from a totally different perspective, whereby the label artwork and symbolism for each season came first, and the spirit development came second. Once we had the artwork we tested around 20-30 botanicals before we felt they were right. Even though we were working with familiar flavours like sesame, miso and a whole range of Japanese teas, the flavours you expect when you consume these things are not always the same as what emerges in the still, so it was interesting to see how they played out together.”
The label art for Autumn, which Horisumi created from a blank canvas using artists’ markers, watercolour and ink, combines a landscape of symbols depicting the transition from summer to autumn in Japan. His label design combines the turning of the maple leaves from green to burnished golds and reds, the soft petals of a chrysanthemum flower coming to the end of its blooming season, and a koi swimming upstream to spawn in clean, clear waters. “The challenge for me was to keep the tattoos simple,” says Horisumi. “The result is better than I could have ever imagined. The gin world and the tattoo world are linked in that they’re both historically quite underground, and I’m so happy with how well they’ve both come together.”
Archie Rose Horisumi Autumn is available from Wednesday 1 March at Archie Rose Distilling Co. and www.archierose.com.au/shop/product/horisumi-autumn