Nozawa Onsen Distillery: The craft gin is inspired by the scenery of the village. - Part 2


Nozawa Onsen Distillery: The craft gin is inspired by the scenery of the village. - Part 2

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Yoneda Isamu/ヨネダ イサム by「Nozawa Onsen Distillery」

In the second part, we will explore the craft gin of "Nozawa Onsen Distillery. Theirs craft gin has been attracting attention in Japan and abroad, winning four gold awards in the gin category of the SFWSC 2023, the largest number of awards in Japan.

writer:Ryoko Kuraishi

The bar space was created in December 2023. The industrial-style bar counter was adapted from machinery used in the manufacture of canned goods.

Nozawa Onsen Distillery releases a total of five types of gin (as of February 2024): the standard NOZAWA GIN, CLASSIC DRY GIN, IWAI GIN, SHISO GIN, and a limited edition bottle of DOSO GIN, which celebrates the local Dosojin Fire Festival.

The gin-making process began two years ago, when the owner came up with the idea of "making a gin for Nozawa Onsen Village.

The distiller and his staff believe that the spring water of Nozawa Onsen Village is the star of Nozawa Onsen Distillery, and they wanted to express the nature of the village that nurtures this spring water in their craft gin.

Sam and his staff went into the mountains with the villagers and collected many botanicals. The number of botanicals was about 100.

From there, they developed recipes by determining the compatibility of the ingredients.

This is a small pot still from Knapp (Tasmania). They use this for manufacturing limited editions and prototypes.

For each of our standard craft gins, we have established a theme based on the nature surrounding the village.

For example, from the image of the mountains surrounding Nozawaonsen Village and its beech forests, centering on Mount Kenashi at an elevation of 1,650 meters, to the landscape of human activity around the village at an elevation of 600 to 1,000 meters, a little lower than the top of the mountains.

The aroma, aftertaste, and flavor of each landscape were inspired by the landscape at the foot of the mountains, where fields and orchards spread out.

NOZAWA GIN has a refreshing aroma and taste that makes you feel like you are taking a walk in the forest. It has a gorgeous, sweet aroma of hand-picked black maples from the distillery's garden and a refreshing bitterness from cedar from the distiller's garden.

The woody nuance is added by using two types of oyster mushrooms: one made into tea and the other fresh from the wild in the village.

CLASSIC DRY GIN" has a punchy, martini-like flavor. Each grain is carefully hand-peeled with sansho (Japanese pepper) and orris root with a sweet aroma. The top note is a delicate citrus aroma of Hiroshima-grown Biafranca lemon.

Various materials for craft gin. Top: Cedar chips. Bottom left: Plums from Nozawaonsen Village. Bottom right: Fresh Daioh Wasabi.

IWAI GIN" has a lively taste and aroma of fresh fruits and plants, reminiscent of the budding of spring. Meyer lemons from Kumamoto, hand-picked plums from Nakano, Nagano, and cherry leaves! It is a unique flavor, somewhat reminiscent of sakura mochi (rice cake with sakura blossoms).

The addition of tonic water brings out the plum nuances, which is fun."

Another flavor is "SHISO GIN," made with local red shiso (Perilla frutescens).

It's made with shiso juice from St. Anton, a jam factory in the village, and is inspired by the village's old-fashioned way of life.

The staff commented that it has a nostalgic aroma that reminds them of their grandmother's house, and that's exactly the kind of feeling you get when you drink it.

Doso Gin was developed to represent the Nozawa Onsen community.

The gin pays homage to the Dosojin Fire Festival in Nozawaonsen Village, which is said to be one of the three major fire festivals in Japan.

The highlight of the fire festival is the lighting of the shrine building built for the festival, and we use toasted beech wood chips to give it a vanilla aroma. The flame is heated by a little added hawkweed.

Nagano hojicha tea brings out the savory flavor, while cinnamon and other winter spices bring out the warm, smoky aroma."

Flights of gin served in the bar space.

Symbiosis with the village through sake tourism.

What the Nozawa Onsen Distillery would like to work on in the future is a measure to enliven the village's green season.

The distillery is trying to revitalize the restaurants and stores in the village during the green season, when the number of visitors is lower than during the winter season.

We are a year-round distillery, so there must be something we can do to liven up the summer season. That's what we're thinking about, and we're coming up with all kinds of plans.

This summer we will open a beer garden on a terrace under a cherry tree on the distillery grounds, and we are also considering the possibility of offering hands-on sake tourism.

For example, how about creating content about the behind-the-scenes of gin-making, such as harvesting oyster mushrooms and peeling lemons for use in craft gin?

When the distillery gets excited, that enthusiasm will spread to the surrounding area, and the entire village of Green Season will get excited. It would be great if we could be that kind of presence.

A bar opens in the distillery!

The distillery's tasting space was recently renovated into a bar in December, and now offers flights of four types of gin: NOZAWA GIN, CLASSIC DRY GIN, IWAI GIN, and SHISO GIN, as well as gimlets, martinis, and apple sours using each gin, Special cocktails such as Negroni, and cocktails made with whiskeys from around the world that inspire the "Nozawa Onsen Distillery" are offered.

The renewal is based on the needs of tourists and skiers, but they have received many inquiries from bartenders about private gin, and they would like to focus their efforts on bars in the future, so small-scale test distillations and test batches may be a possibility.

Of course, reservations for distillery tours are also being accepted with great acclaim.

We would love for bartenders to come and see our unique facilities and production that only Nozawaonsen-mura can offer, recognized by the world's top sake competitions!"


Nozawa Onsen Distillery
9394 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen Shimotakai District, Nagano