Konnichiwa, fellow proponents of botanical curiosity! The 10th year of our obsessive hunt for exotic aromas took us to the Land of the Rising Sun – to our most trusted cooper, to be exact. After starting our effort to acquire the Holy Grail of ageing barrels back in 2016 and spending two years pleading our case, we finally secured the right to purchase five of these prized vessels. We’re thus proud to present our 2020 Distiller’s Cut: a very special Monkey 47 that was aged in Mizunara Barrels!
Like all other species of oak, the scent of mizunara wood comes from the lignin molecule. Along with a low tannin content, refined coconut notes, and hints of spice and incense, spirits aged in Mizunara Barrels are mainly known for their vanilla aroma.
But let’s get back to the matter at hand. Gin? Mizunara Barrels? It’s actually quite easy to explain. On his many travels, our very own Alexander Stein encountered the Japanese art of distilling – which includes the use of a unique type of oak in whisky ageing barrels. He was immediately intrigued by the history and tradition in which these barrels are steeped. Their roots lie in the scarcity of imported goods in Japan following World War II, which made it virtually impossible to obtain oak barrels from Europe or the United States. Since whisky had been the main libation consumed by the Japanese army, the country’s coopers and whisky producers set about searching for a home-grown alternative for the maturation of their distillates. They found it in the Japanese oak – better known as the mizunara oak – which had previously only been associated with the artisanal manufacture of exclusive, luxurious furniture. Along with Japan, the tree’s eastern Asian habitat includes the Korean peninsula, northeast China, and the southern portion of Russia’s largest island, Sakhalin.
The mizunara oak is a variant of Quercus mongolica; translated literally, the word’s two components – mizu and nara – mean “water oak”. The wood owes its name to its high moisture content. This, however, is also what makes the wood softer and much more difficult to form into the desired shape. Moreover, mizunara trees develop more branches and grow in a rather crooked fashion, which presents coopers with further challenges. As if that weren’t enough, a mizunara oak needs to be at least 150 years old to reach a size suitable for obtaining staves that can be used to manufacture 500-litre puncheons. It’s not just that the costs involved are significant; the finished barrels are very hard to come by, as well. The same can be said of smaller hogshead barrels, which are even more difficult to produce because their shorter staves are more apt to break whilst being bent into the desired form. All these obstacles notwithstanding, Mizunara Barrels make it possible to achieve aromas that are unmistakable and truly unique.
In crafting a one-of-a-kind limited edition that sets the hearts of barkeepers and gin enthusiasts to racing year after year, we’ve once again pushed the envelope of what’s possible in distilling botanicals and practising the finest arts of barrel ageing.
Our 2020 Distiller’s Cut is a soft, elegant dry gin with a refined top note of sandalwood and a touch of coconut that combine to offer a supple sensory experience – one that’s not just for fans of a delicate vanilla bouquet. Cheers!