When you think of Japanese spirits, the first things that probably come to mind are whisky, sake, or shochu. But it seems like the Japanese beverage scene is evolving, especially with the launch of its first craft gin distillery. Ki No Bi (meaning “beauty of the seasons”) is the name of The Kyoto Distillery’s boutique gin, which is distilled, blended, and bottled in Kyoto.
Ki No Bi is made in a dry gin style, but (aside from juniper) unexpected botanicals like yuzu, green tea, ginger, bamboo, and sansho pepper are also used. The Kyoto Distillery sources the best ingredients from across the country to give this gin a defined Japanese character. As with other Japanese libations, water plays an important role in the recipe; Ki No Bi uses water from Fushimi, which is famed for its softness and purity.
The Kyoto Distillery was founded by two whisky exporters; their head distiller is from Sussex and previously ran England’s Cotswalds Distillery. In true Japanese fashion, the craftsmanship of the product doesn’t end with the spirit itself. The gin’s distinctive glass bottles are hand-blown in Osaka’s Sakai district and the screen-printed labels are made in collaboration with Kyoto’s oldest karakami maker (paper printed with woodblock patterns). The company aims to produce 60,000 bottles this year.
Image Courtesy the Kyoto Distillery