On the coast of Hatsukaichi lies a century-old distillery. In 1918, Chugoku Jozo began distilling brewer’s alcohol for the sake breweries in nearby Saijo. Today, under the name Sakurao Distillery, they produce some of the world’s finest spirits.
From the moment they began making craft gins in 2018, they started turning heads. Their most popular gin label is Sakurao Original. A London dry gin, Sakurao Original blends nine Hiroshima botanicals. The region is famous for citrus fruit, so Sakurao pays homage to this by including yuzu, daidai and sweet summer orange. Balanced with additions like Japanese cypress, green tea and ginger, the resulting gin can’t stop winning competitions. As of 2023, it boasted six different gold awards at competitions around the globe, one of which it won three years in a row. Sakurao is smooth enough to drink neat, but, to really appreciate it, visit bb:geek and ask for Sakurao Original in a gin tonic.
Surprisingly, award winning gin started out as a side project. Chugoku Jozo originally set out to make whiskey with the still they later used to make gin. Maturing in casks in the naturally temperature controlled environment of an abandoned JR railway tunnel is Togouchi, a sensibly composed blend of malt and grain whiskey. Named for a lost town whose name translates to “within the river’s mouth,” Togouchi has a young but overpowering nose with hints of honey, nuts and corn flakes and a hint of peat in the finish. To experience the best of this light, golden spring from the lost town within the river’s mouth, visit Omotenashi Hostel’s lounge and ask the bartender for a Togouchi and soda.
About half a century before Sakurao began brewing whisky and gin, they started brewing sake. Today their main sake label, Ichidai Misen, pays deep respects to Hiroshima. They only use rice grown in Hiroshima Prefecture. And the characters on the label were brushed by Soukei Ueda, a descendant of the famous Hiroshima samurai family and the head of Hiroshima’s Ueda-Soko School of the tea ceremony. Sakurao recommends Ichidai Sakura Misen, a sake hard to find in other parts of Japan. In addition to local rice, it is made with Setouchi 21, an original, local yeast. The flavor of this somewhat dry junmai ginjo is best savored when the beverage is served chilled. Enjoy Sakura Misen with wild boar hot pot at Onbanzai Lounge Yoube, or toast your trip with Sakura Misen and good friends among the rustic, wooden timbers of Shikisai Hiroba Ippo Ippo, a Michelin Guide recommended izakaya. And if you like what you drink from this guide, Sakurao’s beverages can be bought by the bottle at shops all over Miyajima.