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Waitrose claims UK supermarket first with Japanese gin

Published:  19 February, 2018

Waitrose has claimed a UK supermarket first with the launch of a gin made in Japan.

The launch of Roku, a craft gin from Japanese distillery The House of Suntory, is being rolled out across the retailer’s stores this week (rrp: £30/70cl), making it the first supermarket in the UK to stock a Japanese gin, it claimed.

Roku, which means six in Japanese, boasts the same number of Japanese botanicals including two styles of green tea (Sencha and Gyokuru), Yuzu, Sanshō pepper alongside Sakura (cherry blossom) flower and leaf, which is synonymous with Japan.

The six more unusual Japanese ingredients are blended with familiar juniper berries, cinnamon and cardamom, with each botanical harvested in accordance with the concept of 'shun', which means they are only harvested when they reach their peak flavour.

With Roku, The House of Suntory pushed the Botanical boundaries, said John Vine, Spirits buyer, Waitrose, adding the retailer was proud of its range of British gin but that there was still room to experiment with drinks from further afield.

“Japanese whisky once raised eyebrows but now wins awards and sits happily alongside established Scottish brands in the UK and we are confident that Roku will be popular with gin fans,” he said.

Sales of the popular spirit were up 30% in the supermarket in the past year, he added.

To tap the trend for designer gin, the tipple is presented in a stylish hexagonal bottle, with the embossed bottle complemented by a label printed on traditional 'washi' paper.

The launch follows the latest gin data showing in the past year alone, sales in the off-trade jumped 28.1% to £559.4 million with volumes up 22.1% (IRI, Year to December 10, 2017), with a similar picture in the off-trade where sales increased 22.2% to £769.4 million on volumes up 17.1% (CGA, MAT to December 2, 2017).