• 10 Best Japanese Gins in 2022 (Japanese Alcohol Expert-Reviewed) 1
  • 10 Best Japanese Gins in 2022 (Japanese Alcohol Expert-Reviewed) 2
  • 10 Best Japanese Gins in 2022 (Japanese Alcohol Expert-Reviewed) 3
  • 10 Best Japanese Gins in 2022 (Japanese Alcohol Expert-Reviewed) 4
  • 10 Best Japanese Gins in 2022 (Japanese Alcohol Expert-Reviewed) 5

10 Best Japanese Gins in 2022 (Japanese Alcohol Expert-Reviewed)

Wondering what to serve during your next cocktail party? Amaze your party guests with a sophisticated bottle of gin from Japan! Japanese gin is intricately flavored due to the use of local botanical ingredients. However, it's still easy to drink, which appeals to liquor aficionados and casual drinkers alike. Enjoy it with a splash of soda to taste each ingredient, or use it in a Japanese-themed cocktail.


Japanese gin only started entering the market in 2016, making it difficult to find information about the options available. We've scoured the Internet and put together a list of Japanese gin that deserves a space in your liquor cabinet. One of our favorites is the Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin from Kyoto Distillery due to its clean citrus-forward flavor. Keep reading to see the rest of our recommended Japanese gins, and check out the buying guide reviewed by a Japanese alcohol blogger to learn how to choose one that's perfect for your taste buds!

Featured in this article

Whiskey Richard
mybest US Editors
  • Last updated: 09-01-2022
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Japanese Gin - Buying Guide

There are many types of Japanese gin with different flavor profiles. We recommend paying attention to the botanicals, location, and how you plan to serve it.

Look for Local Ingredients for a Distinctive Japanese Flavor

Look for Local Ingredients for a Distinctive Japanese Flavor
Gin is a versatile spirit. While in the West, gin is often associated with juniper berries and other herbs and spices found in Europe, many Japanese gin producers choose to only use ingredients available in Japan to create a uniquely Japanese product. Some even go a step further and focus on ingredients sourced only in their prefecture.

Citrus-forward gins are often made with yuzu, kabosu, mandarin oranges, or other local fruits. Spicier gins incorporate sansho peppers, ginger, wasabi, and leaves from other spice plants. Earthier flavors include kelp, pine, teas, and mushrooms. Finally, floral flavors include cherry blossoms, hibiscus, or other seasonal and regional flowers. All of these unique flavors help to create gins with a Japanese twist.


Because these ingredients can't be found in Western gins, gin enthusiasts can rediscover this spirit through Japanese varieties. Plus, most Japanese ingredients are relatively subtle, meaning beginners can enjoy them too.

Whiskey Richard
Whiskey and Alcohol Expert
Whiskey Richard

Local food and drink are a huge part of Japanese history and culture, so it's no surprise to see this extended to Japanese gin. For example, the country's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries notes over 100 varieties of satsuma mandarin in its registry. And that's just one species of citrus! With so many different varieties of herbs, vegetables, and fruit, the possibilities for Japanese gin makers are virtually limitless.

Choose a Gin Based on Location

Location is an important factor in gin production. Japanese gin producers make sure their gin is distinctively Japanese in ingredients, style, and quality.

Japanese Artisanal Gins for the Best Flavor

Japanese Artisanal Gins for the Best Flavor

Japanese craft gin emerged into the scene around 2016. Within just a few years, the craft gin scene in Japan has boomed. Currently, there are about 31 distilleries producing gin in Japan compared to about 1410 sake breweries and 273 shochu distilleries.


There are also several Western gins inspired by Japan that attempt to create an all-encompassing Japanese aroma. However, these often lack the nuance and regional focus that true Japanese gin craftsmen emphasize in their products.

 
Even in Japan, some distilleries are jumping on the bandwagon by adding juniper berries to redistilled shochu. This method doesn't capture the craftsmanship of Japanese artisanal gin makers. To find an authentic craft gin made in Japan, check the manufacturing location and list of botanicals.

Whiskey Richard
Whiskey and Alcohol Expert
Whiskey Richard

While gins in, for example, the UK begin with neutral grain spirits, some Japanese gins begin with non-neutral spirits such as potato shochu. This means such gins won't be categorized as "London Dry," but don't let that prevent you from giving them a try. A non-neutral base can help highlight certain notes in the botanicals that the distiller has selected, yielding truly unique Japanese gins.

Local Distillates and Local Water Build Flavor

Local Distillates and Local Water Build Flavor
Incorporating the distillery's own base liquor products builds flavor through the distillate. Many Japanese gins are distilled from rice distillate, imparting a sweet soft flavor. Other distilleries use their own shochu made from rice, sweet potato, or barley; some even use sugarcane molasses. 

Some distilleries use local spring or mountain water to further emphasize the focus on locality. Soft water or hard water can also affect the gin's final texture. 

Some also add finishing touches to their blends by incorporating a splash of their own sake or local water. This technique means that the gin makers are adjusting the flavor of their gin until the very end, ensuring a focused product. 

Consider More Unique Local Ingredients for Unconventional Tasting Notes

Consider More Unique Local Ingredients for Unconventional Tasting Notes
As mentioned earlier about botanicals, many Japanese gin producers are known to source very locally. In Japanese culture, regionality is an aspect that even the everyday Japanese person is aware of. In addition to botanicals, Japanese gin producers also use unique regional ingredients to further enhance their spirits.

For example, gin producers from tropical Okinawa utilize goya (bitter melon) and guava native to the island. In seaside Hiroshima, gin producers crush up local oyster shells to impart a salinity into their gin. In Kyoto, the distilleries have better access to high-grade teas produced in the region.


Seeking out these unique regional ingredients is a great way to experience new, unprecedented flavors in gin, especially if you have an adventurous palate. 

Whiskey Richard
Whiskey and Alcohol Expert
Whiskey Richard

Because most Japanese craft gin producers remain very small, they often source ingredients by tapping personal relationships with local farmers. Shipping certain kinds of produce and other botanicals overseas is sometimes difficult due to expense, logistics, or freshness, but some makers have managed to capture the essence of certain botanicals thanks to gin. It's now possible to go on a botanical tour of Japan just with a flight of Japanese gins!

Japan’s Seasons Gives Gin a Unique Edge in Variety

Japan’s Seasons Gives Gin a Unique Edge in Variety

Japan has four seasons and varied climates across the country, allowing for a range of unique products. Some ingredients can only grow in certain seasons, like yuzu or Hiroshima sweet oranges. Gin producers often wait for the perfect timing to harvest ripe ingredients for the best flavor.


Some distilleries batch-release gin to match the seasons and focus on certain ingredients. For example, a spring release made from sakura petals picked from the distillery grounds. Due to the small-batch nature of budding Japanese craft gin distilleries, experimentation is common. 

Whiskey Richard
Whiskey and Alcohol Expert
Whiskey Richard

Though gin and tonic may be a traditional summer drink, Japanese cuisine emphasizes seasonality, so a Japanese gin that matches the season can be great year-round for pairing. Spring brings fresh cherry blossoms and sansho pepper. For summer, try a gin with cooling mint, cucumber, shiso, or plum. Hearty mushroom and pumpkin can be great in autumn. Then, warm up your winter with seasonal citrus, like mandarin and yuzu.

Match the Botanicals to Your Cocktail Ingredients

Match the Botanicals to Your Cocktail Ingredients

In general, a gin with fewer botanicals is best for mixed drinks. Use a simple citrus-forward gin for cocktails where there is less room to “hide” the flavor of the gin, like a martini or gin and tonic. 


A floral gin is a good match for sweeter drinks like a Tom Collins or gimlet. Funkier gins with bitter notes can elevate intricately-flavored cocktails like a negroni.


You can also bring out certain flavors in cocktails by matching the botanicals. For example, find a gin made from yuzu and tea if you plan to make a matcha yuzu gin fizz. 

10 Best Japanese Gins

Here are our choices for the 10 best Japanese gins available online! We chose these gins based on factors listed in our buying guide and online reviews. 


*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Whiskey Richard.

Image
The Kyoto Distillery Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin 1

The Kyoto Distillery

The Kyoto Distillery Ki No Tea Kyoto Dry Gin 1

The Kyoto Distillery

Suntory Roku Japanese Craft Gin 1

Suntory

Nikka Nikka Coffey Gin 1

Nikka

Sakurao Sakurao Limited Gin 1

Sakurao

Masahiro Okinawa Japanese Craft Gin  1

Masahiro

Wakayama Kozue Japanese Craft Gin  1

Wakayama Kozue

Komasa Sakurajima Komikan Gin 1

Komasa

Kyoya Yuzu Japanese Gin 1

Kyoya

Benizakura 9148 Gin 1

Benizakura

Name

Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin

Ki No Tea Kyoto Dry Gin

Roku Japanese Craft Gin

Nikka Coffey Gin

Sakurao Limited Gin

Okinawa Japanese Craft Gin

Japanese Craft Gin

Sakurajima Komikan Gin

Yuzu Japanese Gin

9148 Gin

Features

Best Balanced Gin With Clean Lemon Notes

Best for the Green Tea Aroma

Best Gin for Beginners

Best Gin for a Deep, Complex Flavor

Best Unusual Gin With Notes of Oysters and Wasabi

Best Herbaceous Gin Using Tropical Ingredients

Best Gin for a Fresh, Earthy Flavor

Best Gin With Fruity Fragrances

Best Gin for Summery Cocktails

Best Rare Gin With Umami Notes

Price$37.13$54.71$29.99$34.09$75.23$39.13$27.53$26.33$47.83$149.99
BotanicalsJuniper, orris, hinoki, yuzu, lemon, tea, ginger, red shiso, bamboo leaves, sansho pepper, sansho leavesJuniper, orris, hinoki, yuzu, lemon, green tea (gyokuro, tencha)Juniper, yuzu peel, sakura flower, sakura leaf, sencha tea, gyokuro tea and sansho pepperJuniper, amanatsu, angelica, apple, coriander, hirami lemon, Japanese pepper, kabosu, lemon, orange, yuzuJapanese juniper, cherry blossom, spicebush, pepper leaf, oyster, wasabi, perilla, citrusesJuniper, bitter melon, guava leaves, roselle, shekwasa, long pepperJuniper, mandarin peel, lemon peel, sansho pepper, umbrella pineJuniper, Sakurajima small mandarins, coriander, othersJuniper, yuzu, Japanese pepper, ginger, cucumber, hebess citrus, hyuganatsu citrus, coriander seed, cloves.Juniper, dried shiitake mushrooms, hidaka kelp, dried daikon strips, yuzu, cherry blossom, apples, matcha tea, and more
LocationKyotoKyotoOsakaHokkaidoHiroshimaOkinawaWakayamaKagoshimaMiyazakiHokkaido
DistillateRiceRiceWheatBarley, cornClear tasting base spiritAwamori (Okinawa rice spirit)UnknownShochuShochu (sweet potato, sugar cane)-
Suggested way of drinkingGin and tonicGreen tea martini, on the rocksGin and tonic, neat with ginger slicesNeat, negroniOn the rocks, neatNeat or splash of sodaGin and tonic, Greyhound, salty dogSplash of soda with citrus slice or sugary citrus cocktail (gin sour, Tom Collins, etc)Gin & tonic or other yuzu cocktails (matcha yuzu gin fizz, etc)On the rocks
Alcohol content45.7%45.1%43%47%47%47%47%45%47%45%
Link
BotanicalsJuniper, orris, hinoki, yuzu, lemon, tea, ginger, red shiso, bamboo leaves, sansho pepper, sansho leaves
LocationKyoto
DistillateRice
Suggested way of drinkingGin and tonic
Alcohol content45.7%
BotanicalsJuniper, orris, hinoki, yuzu, lemon, green tea (gyokuro, tencha)
LocationKyoto
DistillateRice
Suggested way of drinkingGreen tea martini, on the rocks
Alcohol content45.1%
BotanicalsJuniper, yuzu peel, sakura flower, sakura leaf, sencha tea, gyokuro tea and sansho pepper
LocationOsaka
DistillateWheat
Suggested way of drinkingGin and tonic, neat with ginger slices
Alcohol content43%
BotanicalsJuniper, amanatsu, angelica, apple, coriander, hirami lemon, Japanese pepper, kabosu, lemon, orange, yuzu
LocationHokkaido
DistillateBarley, corn
Suggested way of drinkingNeat, negroni
Alcohol content47%
BotanicalsJapanese juniper, cherry blossom, spicebush, pepper leaf, oyster, wasabi, perilla, citruses
LocationHiroshima
DistillateClear tasting base spirit
Suggested way of drinkingOn the rocks, neat
Alcohol content47%
BotanicalsJuniper, bitter melon, guava leaves, roselle, shekwasa, long pepper
LocationOkinawa
DistillateAwamori (Okinawa rice spirit)
Suggested way of drinkingNeat or splash of soda
Alcohol content47%
BotanicalsJuniper, mandarin peel, lemon peel, sansho pepper, umbrella pine
LocationWakayama
DistillateUnknown
Suggested way of drinkingGin and tonic, Greyhound, salty dog
Alcohol content47%
BotanicalsJuniper, Sakurajima small mandarins, coriander, others
LocationKagoshima
DistillateShochu
Suggested way of drinkingSplash of soda with citrus slice or sugary citrus cocktail (gin sour, Tom Collins, etc)
Alcohol content45%
BotanicalsJuniper, yuzu, Japanese pepper, ginger, cucumber, hebess citrus, hyuganatsu citrus, coriander seed, cloves.
LocationMiyazaki
DistillateShochu (sweet potato, sugar cane)
Suggested way of drinkingGin & tonic or other yuzu cocktails (matcha yuzu gin fizz, etc)
Alcohol content47%
BotanicalsJuniper, dried shiitake mushrooms, hidaka kelp, dried daikon strips, yuzu, cherry blossom, apples, matcha tea, and more
LocationHokkaido
Distillate-
Suggested way of drinkingOn the rocks
Alcohol content45%

Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to reviewing and commenting on our buying guide, Whiskey Richard also took the time to answer a commonly asked question about Japanese gin.

How do you drink Japanese gin?

"Many Japanese gins are more citrus than juniper-forward, so they tend to work better with soda than tonic," Whiskey Richard explains. "I recommend first trying the gin straight, then adding a few drops of water to see how the flavor profile changes. Also experiment with tonic and soda to see what works best for you. 


For cocktails, first try simply using Japanese gin in place of a traditional London Dry to see how it impacts flavor. This will help give you a better idea of how it will work for new drinks that bring out the best in each gin's botanicals."

More Fantastic Japanese Alcohols to Try

Though gin is the newest addition to the Japanese alcohol scene, other classics are sure to impress as well. Here are some other Japanese alcohols to consider adding to your liquor cabinet!

In Collaboration With Japanese Alcohol Expert Whiskey Richard

Whiskey Richard
Whiskey and Alcohol Expert
Whiskey Richard

This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary, as well as extra tips and advice. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.

Author: Candice Ng


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