SUNTORY is known for producing award-winning whiskies. When it won the award for World’s Best Blended Whisky in 2019 at the World Whiskies Awards, it had already won the award five times prior. Less well-known spirits within the company are its gins, led by its premium craft gin Roku.
Late last month, Suntory launched Sui in the Philippines. Sui is Roku’s less-complex but equally delightful sister. Andrew Pang, Beam Suntory Regional Ambassador told BusinessWorld in an e-mail about the difference between the two gins. “While both share the same base traditional English dry gin recipe, Sui adds three Japanese botanicals: Yuzu citron, green tea, and ginger. This gives a uniquely clear and refreshing taste that goes well with everyday meals. Roku, in comparison, has six Japanese botanicals (Yuzu peel, Sencha and Gyokuro tea, Sakura leaf and flower, and Sansho pepper) for a more floral, well-balanced and decadent flavor profile,” he said. “You will mostly likely find Sui Gin in a casual izakaya restaurant and Roku Gin in a premium cocktail bar.”
Tasting the gin makes that a bit of an understatement. It had a strong scent of citrus, almost like freshly-squeezed juice. It had a well-rounded and smooth finish, a quality it shares with Roku and not quite with less-superior gins. The note of ginger is expressed in the aftertaste. Roku, launched in 2017, is a more serious older sibling. Sui is easy, uncomplicated, and refreshing. These qualities are highlighted with a splash of soda water and a squirt of lemon. In that configuration, the citrus notes and their accompanying lightness really float to the surface, and suddenly, you’re at a carefree poolside soiree from a lost summer. This isn’t a drink for mulling things over — it’s just too cheerful.
As mentioned above, Suntory is better known for its whiskies, and Mr. Pang explains the difference in discipline in distilling whisky and other spirits. “The biggest difference between white and brown spirits is actually the aging process. In whisky, 80% of the flavor comes from the oak, whereas for gin, the flavor comes from the maceration of the botanicals, the type of distillation (single pots vs continuous column stills), and aging: if any at all.”
The Japanese are well-known for adopting many pieces from several cultures and making it truly their own. Said Mr. Pang, “Suntory has always been about creating uniquely Japanese spirits. Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory, went to Scotland in the early 1900s to learn how to make whisky. He returned to Japan and, unlike the Scottish distilleries that are in the glens or coastal regions, he sets up Yamazaki in higher altitude plains. The result of the whisky is also more floral, refined yet still full of complexity; very different from a Scotch.”
“Same for gin, I think Suntory understands these liquors in its entirety and is able to make something uniquely Japanese.”
Sui Gin is available in S&R stores nationwide and coming soon to supermarkets, liquor stores, and online retailers on GrabMart, Lazada, Boozy, and Boozeshop. — Joseph L. Garcia