Archie Rose Distilling Co's latest release is the first in a line-up of four limited edition gins infused with botanicals that paint a picture of the seasons in Japan. To create the gins, the first of which, Autumn, was released on 1 March, Archie Rose collaborated with Kian Forreal, a traditional Japanese tattoo artist who goes by the Japanese name Shodai Horisumi.
Forreal designed a beautiful, hand-painted label, and the distillery worked backwards, drawing inspiration from his design before making the gin. There were a few false starts playing with Japanese spirits - master distiller Dave Withers describes a particularly disastrous attempt at distilling sake as tasting like "alcoholic Panadol" - before deciding upon gin's suitably nuanced notes to evoke the season. "It's starting to get a bit cooler," he says. "You come home and you want a drink to invigorate the soul, so we looked towards spice and earthy Japanese characteristics to add to it."
In Autumn, the warm colours of Forreal's falling maple leaves and Japan's autumnal kiku flower, the chrysanthemum, are echoed in the earthy flavours of juniper, red miso, burdock root, sesame and sansho pepper, which is often found in Japanese chilli oil. The result is a heartwarming gin with savoury umami notes.
At 44 per cent ABV, it's slightly stronger than their signature gin, too. The potency is something of a nod to the koi fish also depicted on the bottle, which, in traditional Japanese folklore, swims upstream to become a dragon.
How should you drink it? "Personally, I like it as a straight G&T," says Withers. "But a gin and tonic, not a tonic and gin - it only needs a few dashes of tonic." At the distillery bar, Archie Rose pair it with a yuzu tonic for a sharp citrus flourish.
Like deciduous leaves in the colder weather, the batch of 3000 bottles is disappearing faster than expected. And once they're gone, they're gone. There's always the next release, Winter, which at the moment Withers says promises notes of green tea. But it's hard to tell what a season holds.
Autumn, the first gin of the Archie Rose x Horisumi collection, is available at Archie Rose Distillery Co, 85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery, NSW, and through their website. 700ml, $99, archierose.com.au.