Not quite London Dry, but this is perfect when you’re feeling dry
In a world crowded with a plethora of gins, Okinawa Gin stands out.
In fact, Okinawa Gin is more like an advertisement for a more (or less) familiar local icon: Awamori. Masahiro Distillery, which makes Okinawa Gin, has been producing Okinawa’s signature spirit for over 100 years. This indigenous spirit is not unlike shochu and has a rich history. Its distillation techniques can be traced back to Thailand, sharing roots with Lao Khao. It also uses long-grain, Thai Indica rice, even to this day.
“When we see the overseas market, Awamori is hardly well-recognised. We were seeking something new which can express our traditional spirits. It’s hard to recall the moment but the idea of making Okinawa Gin is one good solution for us, not only highlighting Awamori but also letting foreigners know more about Okinawa,” says Masayasu Higa, senior vice president of Masahiro Distillery.
To internationalise Awamori, Okinawan distillers have been hard at work championing its use in cocktails. But Masahiro distillery decided on a different approach by distilling gin, in the hope that it would eventually lead drinkers to Awamori. “In terms of taste, gin is more suitable to make cocktails because most bartenders know what it is. And gin opens more doors to everyone internationally,” says Higa. “And yet, Okinawa Gin has a very unique taste profile.”
Madoka Numata, brand manager for Okinawa Gin, explains that there’s a good reason for that. Okinawa Gin uses what is essentially an Awamori base. The distillery uses two pot stills, one traditional pot still and the other, an unusual horizontal still, where the botanicals are infused. She adds that the still is “more classical” and brings out a richer, sweeter spirit that shows more of the unique characteristics of Awamori.
Okinawa Gin is quite open about its recipe, which features only six botanicals. Aside from juniper, which it gets from Madagascar, the rest of the ingredients are local: fresh shekwasa provides the citrus, goya provides the bitterness, guava leaves add acidity, pipatsu the spice, while roselle rounds off the potpourri of aromas with elegance.
The same could be said for its aesthetics: the bottle screams stereotypical Japanese minimalism with its clean lines and deep-sea blue-coloured glass, eschewing fancy livery for a minimalist, waterproof label. Easy on the eyes and easy on the palate, this Dutch-style, sipping gin goes easy on the juniper and has earthy undertones with a hint of umami, forming the perfect dressing for a balanced palate of citrus and bitterness.
It seems that Okinawans know a thing about sunshine because Okinawa gin is one refreshing sipper and it’s more invigorating with ice and soda water. To seal the deal, a unique oiliness from the shekwasa gives your drink a satisfying body that will prompt you, unequivocally, for seconds.
Robb Tip: Okinawa Gin is available at Ce La Vi Singapore, Atlas Bar and The Gong by Drinks & Co and can be purchased here.