Traditionally, the world’s hottest vodkas have hailed from legacy distilling locations akin to Russia, Poland, and Sweden. These nations have gifted the world with beloved manufacturers together with Smirnoff, Belvedere, and Absolut, respectively. In newer years, USA-made vodkas have skyrocketed in recognition, with labels like Tito’s, Hangar 1, and Crop Natural shortly gobbling up invaluable market shares. However not too long ago, a stunning newcomer has emerged on the worldwide taking part in subject that’s poised to shake issues up throughout the vodka class: Japan.
Up till a couple of years in the past, most People would have been hard-pressed to call a Japanese alcoholic beverage other than sake. At finest, they may have been capable of 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 Greatest Whiskey―beating out stiff competitors from the likes of Scotland, Eire, and the USA.
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Since then, individuals 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 long run is obvious.
“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 enhance 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 solely 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 last 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 lessons, together with the Imperial Household. By utilizing it for Haku, it conveys Suntory’s dedication to working with the perfect 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 bamboo charcoal in Osaka, Japan.
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As of at the moment, Haku is the world’s solely vodka made out of Japanese white rice and filtered by 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 world competitors, whereas showcasing the model’s emphasis on creating an genuine Japanese masterpiece.
“Bamboo is considerable 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, as a consequence of 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 identify, branding, and packaging have been additionally every rigorously thought of earlier than its debut. The identify “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” may also be used to evoke “junpaku,” alluding to untainted brilliance―a intelligent play on phrases as an instance the spirit’s pure substances and clear, crisp qualities.
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Its bottle additionally mirrors the vodka’s knowledgeable craftsmanship whereas paying homage to Japanese tradition. A collection of curved traces run up and down the physique of the glass bottle, representing the glistening streams of water that movement 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 presents an ideal alternative for craft spirits fans 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 revolutionary and difficult spirit.”
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The success of Haku throughout the U.S. market has proved that People are nonetheless excited concerning the vodka class as a complete, and―extra importantly―keen to offer newcomers and underdogs a shot. Solely time will inform if the intrigue will final, or if most 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 on-line retailers like Drizly for lower than $30. Questioning the way to take pleasure in it? That every one comes down to private desire. For diehard vodka-lovers, Dunn recommends consuming 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
How one can 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 prime with chilled soda water. Stir and garnish with a lemon peel.