Wa Bi Gin – an Asian mystery
We picked up this tall, elegant bottle of Wa Bi gin at Hong Kong airport Duty Free on our way back from our honeymoon in Taiwan. We could have grabbed a whole litre of Four Pillars Rare Dry, and were sorely tempted as we were running low, but hey, where’s the sense of adventure in playing it safe and buying something you already know?
We knew nothing about the gin other than what was on the label, but it sounded very citrusy with yuzu, ketsuka bitter orange, lemon, kumquat amongst the ten ingredients.
Wa Bi (which is a play on the Japanese word wa-bijin which means Japanese Beauty) is produced by Hombo Shuzo, who make Mars whisky, at their Tsunuki Distillery in Kagoshima high in the Japanese alps near Tokyo.
The base spirit is different from the usual Neutral Grain Spirit we are familar with in the majority of gins, instead rice and koji rice are distilled twice to produce a pure rice spirit to reflect the Japanese heritage. The rest of the botanicals are junpier, green tea leaf, cinnamon leaf, shell ginger, ginger and perilla (a Japanese herb), and were selected to reflect the environment of the region around the distillery.
The botanicals are infused in the base spirit for about 24 hours then distilled again using the one shot method.
So what’s it like?
Well, it’s fair to say that we struggle with this gin! Maybe it’s the rice based spirit, and we suspect the unfamiliar botanicals make it difficult to pick out flavours, but we aren’t great fans of this gin.
On the nose there is a sweet almost bready, yeasty smell that could be attributed to the rice spirit and some subtle hints of citrus and cinammon.
To taste (mixed with Fevertree Indian tonic) there is citrus with a bitter aftertaste. Given the key botanicals of yuzu, bitter orange, and kuquat, which are all sour fruits, maybe this is no surprise, but it doesn’t make for a particularly enjoyable G&T.
So maybe, whilst it’s fun to be adventurous (after-all that’s part of our name!) we do lament not snaffling that whole lovely litre of Four Pillars at a bargain price when we had the chance!