The pure fruitiness of shochu-based Sasshu brings a unique twist to the gin category
Japanese distillery Hamada Syuzou has blended age-old tradition with modern innovation to create a gin with distinctive fruitiness, umami: Sasshu.
Sasshu is sure to create intrigue among spirits enthusiasts thanks to its unique sweet potato shochu base. Hamada has been perfecting the art of shochu production, whose traditions and techniques have been carefully protected and refined since the company was founded in 1868.
But what arguably sets Sasshu Gin apart from other products on the market is the use of koji during the shochu production process. This ‘indispensable’ ingredient gives the shochu a fruitier, more flavourful profile. Combined with high-quality Japanese botanicals, Hamada is confident Sasshu will be a game-changer on the international gin scene.
Bottled at 45% ABV, Sasshu Gin is made with traditional Japanese ingredients, such as local Sour pomelo citrus, loquat leaf and mugwort, rose pedal, sakura (cherry) chips.
Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions, an internationally-recognised blind-tasting series, was impressed by Sasshu’s flavour profile. She said: “Sasshu has a very pleasant, delicate aroma. There’s light fruitiness, some ripe pears and candied lemon peel. The juniper comes through on the palate, keeping with the elegant light and delicate profile of the gin. The shochu profile, from the base spirit, is still present – but is very approachable for those who are not familiar with shochu.
“There are layers to Sasshu; a savoury, umami flavour adds some depth in the background. I can see how this would mix nicely in a gin and tonic, or a Martini. Overall, the profile is well-balanced and approachable.”
Two additional, experienced judges from The Global Spirits Masters Competitions also sampled Sasshu Gin and shared their tasting notes.
Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co-founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog, commented: “Nose: fresh and vibrant juniper with zesty lemon aromas, very green and lively with an uplifting nature, hints of orange peel and some earthy spices in the background, black pepper and cinnamon.
“Palate: oily texture with plenty of juniper upfront; a good level of bitter lemon zest and peel, a hint of orange also, tangy and zingy. A hint of sweet vanilla with plenty of green herbal notes in the background. It becomes quite leafy towards the end, woody cinnamon and peppery.”
Judge David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, also shared his thoughts. He noted about the aroma: “It reminds me of rice distillate with some vermouth-like bitterness.”
About the palate, Smith said: “Very oily, texture is good. Savoury and would work well with savoury drinks. It has good mixability with a long finish.”
The premium Japanese gin has been steadily making its way to Asia and Oceania since July.
Sasshu’s launch comes at a time when the global gin market is growing. Data analyst IWSR Drinks Market Analysis forecasts global volumes of standard-and-above-priced gins are set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% between 2021 and 2026. IWSR expects double-digit CAGR volume growth in markets including Canada, Japan, South Africa and India during the five-year period, as well as just under 10% growth in countries such as Italy, Brazil and Australia.
Hamada Syuzou, headquartered in Ichikikushikino City, Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, believes it is well-poised to tap into this growing global interest in gin with Sasshu.
The gin’s delicate harmony of Japanese botanicals aims to broaden the possibilities of cocktail making, both in consumer homes and in bars.
Beyond the liquid, Hamada has taken great care with naming the gin and its bottle design. ‘Sasshu’ was the term once used to refer to Satsuma, the western half of the Kagoshima Prefecture.
Sasshu Gin’s bottle has a monotone vibe to reflect its authenticity and originality. Furthermore, the bottle incorporates a traditional Japanese ratio (Yamato-hi) in the burnishing cut. The ‘polished and delicate shape’ stems from the golden ratio, which humans perceive as ‘in beautiful proportion’. Meanwhile, the bottom half of the bottle has been designed to emulate a rocks glass. The label depicts the symbol of Kagoshima, Sakurajima volcano, showcasing Sasshu’s quality through design.
Further details about Hamada an Sasshu Gin can be found online: https://www.hamadasyuzou.co.jp/global/en/sasshu_gin/.
At the IWSC Awards in October, Hamada received the Shochu Producer Trophy. Olivier Ward, spirits journalist and IWSC judge, noted: “Hamada Syuzou is a distillery with a firm axis of ‘tradition’, ‘innovation’ and ‘heritage’. It is a wonderful distillery that continues to evolve and break in a new way with a balance of these three.”
Hamada’s executive director, Kotaro Hamada, said the award had given the producer “tremendous confidence”.
“At the IWSC, a prestigious event with a long-standing history in the world of alcoholic beverages, receiving the Shochu Producer Trophy has given us tremendous confidence, as it signifies a high recognition of our craftsmanship,” Hamada said. “Moving forward, we will continue to challenge, refining our skills as a producer of Japanese spirits, striving for the day when shochu becomes known worldwide.”
Hamada Distillery will be showcasing its renowned products at a number of events in the coming months.
Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair
From 3-5 November, Hamada will be highlighting its products at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, which will take place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Stand: Japan Pavilion, B29, B33
Hamada will also be available to meet with interested parties during BCB Singapore. The event is set to take place at the Pasir Panjang Power Station from 6-7 November.
PRM By D Bespoke Shochu Night supported by Hamada Syuzou
On 8 November, from 8pm, enjoy cocktails using Daiyame (ABV 25%), Daiyame 40(ABV 40%), or Sasshu Gin, while the distillery owner delves into shochu. The event will take place at PRM By D Bespoke in Singapore. Further details can be found on Instagram @rpmbyd.bespoke, and Facebook RPMbyDBespoke.
Mixology Salon Singapore Shochu Masterclass
On 9 November, this event is a collaboration between Hamada Shuzo and Mixology Salon Singapore, which Shuzo Nagumo, one of Japan’s leading mixologists, opened in Singapore with a focus on the concept of Japanese tea. The event will include a presentation on the basics of shochu by Hamada Syuzo Shimoozaki, a tea cocktail using Daiyame brand and Sasshu Gin, and an introduction to Japanese culture and Japanese cocktails. A masterclass will be held to stimulate the creativity of professionals. This event is for industry and media professionals. The start time of the master class will be announced around 23 October via the salon’s website. For further details about the event, visit https://mixologysalon.sg/.
Mixology Salon Singapore Shochu x Special Tea Cocktail Pop-up
On 9 November, this cocktail pop-up event will touch on Japanese culture and Japanese cocktails through the angle of shochu and tea. In addition to the special menu, available only on this day, the distiller will explain about shochu to customers who order, creating a special weekend experience. For more information, visit https://mixologysalon.sg/.