Traditionally, the world’s hottest vodkas have hailed from legacy distilling locations resembling Russia, Poland, and Sweden. These international locations have gifted the world with beloved manufacturers together with Smirnoff, Belvedere, and Absolut, respectively. In more moderen years, USA-made vodkas have skyrocketed in recognition, with labels like Tito’s, Hangar 1, and Crop Natural rapidly gobbling up invaluable market shares. However just lately, a stunning newcomer has emerged on the worldwide taking part in subject that’s poised to shake issues up inside the vodka class: Japan.
Up till a number of years in the past, most Individuals would have been hard-pressed to call a Japanese alcoholic beverage other than sake. At finest, they could have been in a position to rattle off a Japanese beer, like Sapporo or Kirin. However that dialog shifted drastically in 2015, when Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible topped Home of Suntory’s Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 the World’s Finest Whiskey―beating out stiff competitors from the likes of Scotland, Eire, and the US.
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Since then, folks from all around the globe have turned their sights to Japan, eagerly anticipating their subsequent transfer. Now, with Suntory’s newest launch, Haku Vodka, the longer term is evident.
“International appreciation for Japanese tradition and craftsmanship is on the rise,” says Gardner Dunn, U.S. senior model ambassador for Home of Suntory. “We’ve seen this within the continued improve in demand for our Japanese whisky portfolio, however we’re additionally seeing a broader urge for food for different well-crafted premium Japanese merchandise, like Haku.”
The vodka was launched completely for the U.S. market lower than one yr in the past, however has already constructed a loyal following. Produced from 100% white rice, the spirit embodies extra than simply one other vodka. It’s a illustration of Japanese tradition at its best.
“Pure, white Japanese rice is revered as a luxurious. It’s the final word image of Japan,” says Kazuyuki Torii, Suntory’s senior specialist for gin and spirits, and one of many masterminds behind Haku Vodka. “Historically, it was reserved for worship, in addition to for the noble courses, together with the Imperial Household. Through the use of it for Haku, it conveys Suntory’s dedication to working with the very best and most genuine substances from Japan,” Torii provides.
The method begins in Kagoshima, Kyushu, a area traditionally famend for producing rice-based spirits. Right here, white rice is fermented with koji rice to create a mash, which is first distilled in pot stills, then distilled a second time utilizing two totally different processes to create a uniquely flavored base spirit. From there, the liquid is mixed and filtered by way of bamboo charcoal in Osaka, Japan.
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As of in the present day, Haku is the world’s solely vodka created from Japanese white rice and filtered by way of bamboo charcoal, which succeeds at preserving and enhancing the rice’s delicately candy flavors. The proprietary approach could also be painstaking, but it surely’s what units Haku aside from its international competitors, whereas showcasing the model’s emphasis on creating an genuine Japanese masterpiece.
“Bamboo is ample in Japan and is one other icon of Japanese nature,” says Torii. “Bamboo charcoal has been used to filter water for a lot of centuries. It not solely has the flexibility to take away extra impurities than different charcoals, resulting from its distinctive porous construction, but it surely’s additionally wealthy in minerals that, when imparted in water, enhance the flavour and make the liquid smoother.”
The title, branding, and packaging have been additionally every fastidiously thought of earlier than its debut. The title “Haku” was chosen as a result of it actually interprets to “white,” rooted within the phrase hakumai, which is Japanese for “white rice.” However the subtlety of the language and flexibility of its kanji characters enable for a number of nuanced meanings. For instance, “haku” can be used to evoke “junpaku,” alluding to untainted brilliance―a intelligent play on phrases for example the spirit’s pure substances and clear, crisp qualities.
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Its bottle additionally mirrors the vodka’s professional craftsmanship whereas paying homage to Japanese tradition. A sequence of curved strains run up and down the physique of the glass bottle, representing the glistening streams of water that circulation throughout Japan’s dramatic landscapes. Even the label design (embellished with kanji calligraphy with sumi ink) is made utilizing pure white Junpaku washi paper, symbolic of Japanese white rice and the star ingredient behind the vodka.
“Haku provides a terrific alternative for craft spirits fanatics who’re keen to find new tastes and experiences, Japan lovers who search the standard and the cultural method of our merchandise, and Suntory followers who belief our meticulous method to spirit-making,” says Dunn. “With the launch of Haku, we’re persevering with to show our dedication to staying true to this philosophy with an progressive and difficult spirit.”
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The success of Haku inside the U.S. market has proved that Individuals are nonetheless excited in regards to the vodka class as an entire, and―extra importantly―prepared to provide newcomers and underdogs a shot. Solely time will inform if the intrigue will final, or if most of the people will develop fatigued. However, Suntory’s current triumph will proceed to usher in an optimistic wave of wholesome competitors from different distillers within the area.
“We’ve already seen a rise in Japanese spirits flooding the market, and curiosity from shoppers,” says Dunn. “With the launch of Haku, Suntory is paving the best way for extra manufacturers…some good, some dangerous,” he warns.
The artisanal spirit may be present in your native bottle store or by way of on-line retailers like Drizly for lower than $30. Questioning methods to get pleasure from it? That every one comes down to non-public choice. For diehard vodka-lovers, Dunn recommends ingesting it neat or on the rocks to understand its barely floral aroma and starchy, candy taste. For cocktail connoisseurs, he proposes mixing up a Haku-Hello.
Courtesy of Home of Suntory
Learn how to Make a Haku-Hello
1.5 elements Haku Vodka
four.5 elements chilled premium soda water
Fill a highball glass to the brim with ice. Add Haku and high with chilled soda water. Stir and garnish with a lemon peel.