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[Herald Interview] Kyoto-inspired KiNoBi gin aims to elevate at-home bar experience

Sept. 26, 2022 - 15:58 By Kim Da-sol


Marcy Sakuma, manager of The House of KiNoBi poses for a photo during an interview with The Korea Herald. (Pernod Ricard Korea)

Pernod Ricard's Kyoto dry gin KiNoBi made its South Korean debut earlier this month, targeting a growing number of drinkers here who may drink less but are willing to spend more to elevate at-home bar experience after pandemic years.

“COVID-19 has reduced opportunities for people to mingle and socialize, so people looking for a luxury experience started to choose to enjoy them at home, trying out geekier types (of premium liquor) as they have more budget while staying in. With that, the tendency for premium category (drinks), including gins, has grown and continued to grow,” said KiNoBi’s manager Marcy Sakuma, who also represents the House of KiNoBi in Kyoto, Japan, during an interview with The Korea Herald.

KiNoBi, a Japanese word for “a beauty of the seasons,” is a premium gin brand by Pernod Ricard. Inspired by nature and traditions of Kyoto, where rich and fertile soil offers high quality natural ingredients for several renowned teas and liquors.

Unlike other premium gins, KiNoBi leaves a deep and elegant aftertaste with the fresh aroma of yuzu and refreshing bamboo notes, ginger and sansho pepper flavors, thanks to its unique production method, said Sakuma.

“Specially-picked 11 kinds of botanical elements are categorized into 6 types based on the taste, and those six elements are distilled with rice spirits one by one and blended with Fushimi water through the so-called Konwa process,” said Sakuma, who has a decade-long experience and expertise of bartending at finest bars and restaurants.

As the first premium gin distillery to be built in Kyoto, KiNoBi comes in a small-batch, promoting itself as an artisanal gin with a high-quality rice spirit and local botanicals such as yuzu, lemon, sansho pepper, ginger and gyokuro tea, all sourced at the peak of the season from local producers.

“Our philosophy is not to be an expert at all things, rather it is best to try to master one. For this reason -- and unlike many other distilleries -- we only make gin at the Kyoto distillery.”

Moving away from traditional drinking habits and occasions, people now want new discoveries and want to try out new consumption trend, according to Sakuma.

“Gin is a unique spirit, it is categorized as a white spirit but the flavor is added naturally, not artificially, so the people can start learning that each gin has different combination based on the pairing -- people can simply start enjoy mixing with soda, or remade into cocktail, or even used as aperitif or a palate-cleaning liquor in between meals for its refreshing taste,” Sakuma said.

Pernod Ricard Korea, celebrating the launch of KiNoBi gins, has run pop-up stores at six bars, offering a variety of cocktails that reflect six elements of Kinobi. Other than the original dry gin version, KiNoBi also comes in two other types: KiNoBi Sei which is accompanied by strong yuzu and fresh lemon, and KiNo Tea, blended with the Uji region’s superior teas that offer sweetness and creaminess.

“Korea is a true luxury market, trend-making country. Korean consumers look for something special, luxury, avant-garde that is not common, and KiNoBi will definitely suit their trend,” said Sakuma.