Gin is one of the easier spirits to distill, which is why there’s been an immense number of new gins that’s been hitting the market in recent years. You simply distil a neutral spirit from any agricultural product – wheat and potatoes are among the most common – and then compound it with different flavours from botanical agents of which juniper berry must be predominant. This technically means that gin maker can use as many botanicals as they like, as long as juniper berry is one of them.
And where the more commercial Hendrick’s Gin leverages on Bulgarian rose and cucumber, and the more local Paper Lantern Sichuan Pepper Gin uses spicy peppercorns, British natives and cofounders of Kokoro Gin James Nicol and Barry Darnell opted to use Japanese sansho. The idea came from visiting a family member in Japan’s Nagano prefecture, where the berry trees flourish in the Afan forests. When they returned to the United Kingdom, they experimented with using the berries and then later turned to Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers for help.
The result was Kokoro Gin – with fresh sansho berries, juniper berries, coriander, angelica, orange, almond, licorice, and lemon peel forming the botanicals that flavoured the London dry gin. The sansho berries impart a distinctly earthy black pepper note with a piney citrus aftertaste to the gin, which complements the floral juniper and citrus tones provided by the other ingredients.
Kokoro Gin is available from bars such as Cache, D.Bespoke, The World Is Flat T1, and Morsels, delivery services such as Food Panda, Deliveroo and UBEReats, as well as online platforms Sasha’s Fine Foods and directly from Gain Brands.