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New Debuts from Japan: Suntory’s Roku and Haku

Suntory is a Japanese beverage and food company that has been around for over a century. You may know them for their whiskies that have taken the world by storm the last few years, namely Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki, and more recently their newest: Toki. Or for their purchase of Jim Beam (and everything Jim Beam owns) for $16 billion in 2014. Over the past half-decade Japanese whiskies have become quite the phenomenon and now Suntory has debut their newest quest, gin and vodka, named Roku and Haku to be partners with their everyday whisky, Toki. Let’s break them down.

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Roku Gin  $29.99

Leave it up to the Japanese to capture as many native Japanese flavors into a gin as possible. Filled with Sakura flower and leaf which we know better as cherry blossom, both Sencha and Gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, and yuzu citrus. The cherry blossom gives it a slice of sweetness and a heavy mouthfeel up front while the teas are inherently floral on the nose and the finish, but the yuzu peel steals the show on the palate with a big zip of citrus. This gin has enough classic gin botanicals to still have the structure of a London dry gin with a unique citrus component. Roku goes perfectly with Fever Tree Indian Tonic and while they say to garnish with a slice of ginger, lemon or orange peel work mighty fine as well.

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Haku Vodka  $29.99

Suntory has done it: a vodka distilled from 100% malted and unmalted rice, filtered through bamboo charcoal. While all vodka is technically gluten-free, a rice based vodka erases any question in your mind. The bamboo charcoal removes any impurities and lends a touch of sweetness to the nose. On the palate it is light and bright as if it almost isn’t there. Perfect for a vodka soda or a martini with a twist.

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Toki Whisky  $29.99

Let’s not forget about Toki! A blend of three distilleries: Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita. Yamazaki, the most famous, lends honeyed golden apples, Hakushu gives a pinch of floral earthy smoke, and Chita, their grain distillery, gives a bright vanilla. Made only for the U.S. market, this whisky is unique on its own but also goes great in an old fashioned or in a Highball with citrus and sparkling water. It is a great change of pace whisky to keep around the house.