Step Aside, Whisky – Japan Has A New Favourite Spirit
First there was Japanese whisky. A globally surprising phenomenon, it took the world by storm as brands like Yamazaki, Nikka and Hibiki became some of the most popular drops on the planet. It had Scotch aficionados rethinking everything they knew about their beloved drink and spurned a whole new league of whisky fans.
Today, Japanese whisky sells for incredible prices and a lot of the top-shelf stuff just isn’t accessible anymore.
Now there’s a new spirit that the land of the rising sun is hoping to reinvent. Vodka. Or more specifically – premium craft Japanese vodka – like that of Haku, from the legendary House of Suntory. The spirit was recently introduced to Australian shelves.
How it came about
It seems everything Japanese is hot right now. From Canon to Uniqlo, Nintendo to Toyota – even the Rugby World Cup and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics are being blessed by the Flowery Kingdom’s touch.
But what has made such a successful spirit producer in Suntory launch a product into the ultra-competitive vodka category?
“Many people might not know this, but Haku vodka is actually not the first vodka from the House of Suntory,” says Haku vodka spokesperson Cameron Pirret. “Back in 1956, the House launched Hermes vodka, a product that was only available in Japan.
However, true to the style of spirits produced during Suntory’s early days, Hermes was heavily influenced by the style of Western spirits that were in trend during the time.
“Today, the House has fully embraced its unique Japanese roots. And in creating Haku vodka, knew that they had something special to offer the market, a 100 per cent Japanese premium craft vodka.”
How it’s made
It’s very easy these days to put fancy labels on products and sell them as ‘premium’, but Pirret says it’s the traditional Japanese learnings that makes Haku a cut above.
“Firstly, the idea of monozukuri craftsmanship – which signifies the relentless quest for perfection, meticulous attention to detail and commitment to quality, that has been a pillar of the business since its inception.
With Haku vodka, this principle shines through from harvest to bottle. From ensuring the purest water source is used, its double distillation process, and down to the bottle design (the flowing lines carved into the bottle represent the streams of Japan).
“This ties into another Japanese concept– shun, the tradition of enjoying an ingredient at its most perfect state. With Haku vodka, this plays a role too in its most important ingredient – 100 per cent Japanese white rice, milled and polished at its peak to ensure the vodka’s signature mild sweetness.”
Haku tastes different from premium vodkas you’d find in Russia or Poland – or countries you’d normally expect to find vodka – and that’s because of the white rice at “the backbone” of the spirit, coupled with a proprietary bamboo charcoal filtration process.
Pirret says: “Due to these elements, the rice provides a distinctly rich taste that gradually evolves and envelops the mouth with its natural sweetness, aroma, and complex flavour. This is then finished with a sophisticated and pleasant lingering sweetness thanks to the bamboo charcoal filtration process.”
What to drink it with
As to what to drink it with, the Haku ambassador is something of a traditionalist.
“I’m a big believer in keeping it simple to allow the flavours of the spirit to shine. So, one of my favourite cocktail recipes is the ‘HAKU Soda’. This cocktail can be easily replicated at home – stir 30ml Haku vodka and 120ml soda water over ice, and garnish with a lime twist to create a refreshing, light drink with a subtle sweetness. Super simple and perfect for the season given the weather is starting to warm up!”
Move over Japanese whisky… there might just be a new player in town. Kampai!
(All images: HAKU Vodka / supplied)
Published 27 September, 2019