craft gin

When we said we want to introduce somewhere cool, a friend of my husband living in Gujo brings us to “Alchemiae Tatsumi Distillery”.

Mr Shohei Tatsumi, aged 30 in 2017, established this distillery by his own. He is still producing liquors like gin and absinthe.


Distillery producing a botanical taste and smell in Gujo

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First, they show us the distillery located at Innakidani Valley. Innakigawa River flows powerfully like a waterfall, showing the vitality of the earth.

“With the weather in Gujo and water coming from this old piece of land (around 250 million years ago), many kinds of plants are found here. I know that it is suitable for brewing spirits. I moved to Gujo when I was 29.” Mr Tastumi told us about the reason he started producing spirits here.

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“The southern part of Gujo Hachiman is mainly limestone and basalt. There are many limestone caves here and the water of Innakidani Valley also origins from one of the caves. The water is medium-hard water, with lots of mineral inside, that makes the spirits taste softer but with strength. Rocks here are limestones which are the same as those in Kentucky, America. Water used for making Bourbon is limestone water which is similar to water in Innakidani Valley.”

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Wara-cho’s wasabi in March. Takasu-cho’s fuki-no-hana (Butterbur flower) in April. Meiho’s blackberry and wormwood in August. Hachiman’s Osmanthus in October. Innakidani’s Yuzu in November. You can find botanical spirits throughout the whole year.

“The most attractive thing in Gujo is they have so many kinds of plants. I sometimes go picking on my own.” Mr Tatsumi said. Gift from season and nature is all inside this bottle.

Currently, spirits distilled from local plants are sold at liquor stores in Gujo Hachiman. Botanical spirits harvested from all over Japan are shipped to liquor stores throughout the country.

How you made this unique taste in the distillery

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Returning form Innakidani Valley, first I saw this equipment that I have never seen.
“This is a Kabuto-gama (Helmet shaped) distiller. You put Shochu (Clear liquor) and plants inside for distillation. It is widely used in Southeast Asia for distillation. Only 7 ~ 8 distilleries including Ohishi Shuzo, where I am trained, are using this kind of distiller. I think only I use it for distilling spirits.”

Other spirit distilleries are using distillers from Europe.
“Distiller in Europe is originally designed for perfume. It is made to keep the fragrance of all ingredients while the kabuto-gama distiller is for steaming crops. I found that this distiller from the kitchen is better in making food than keeping fragrance, so I decided to use this. The spirits made are much better in smell.”

My husband is so excited and said “Although you are making gin and absinthe which are both from Europe, the production is taking place in Asia, or in Japan. You use Sho chu, a Japanese distilled spirit, equipment for steaming and water in Gujo which we have tried several times. We feel much familiar when we know you are using plants in Gujo too.”

A phantom company shop, “Sake Shop Abushin” serving Mr Tatsumi-made spirits.

After knowing the production of these spirits, we are going to try they at the company shop “Abushin”.

As Mr Tatsumi’s main duty is production, so he seldom opens “Abushin”. You can find the opening day on Facebook “Sake Shop Abushin”. The shop has been closing since 2nd Feb, 2020 (Because of COVID-19) till now Aug, 2020.

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First of all, let us talk about gin. Wasabi flavor in March tastes spicy and thrilling, not refreshing as I expected. This strong taste will make you addicted to it. The next one is Osmanthus flavor. I am surprised by the mild and sweet smell. It just like little flowers making a nice melody. “This gin is popular. When we have restocked, everyone comes to buy, and all sold out very soon.”

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The next we would like to try in absinthe. “Peppermint we used is from Takinoue-cho, Hokkaido. We are using a rare species ‘Akamaru’. I fall in love with this freshness with a soft sweetness. The deep smell of spring flower of fuki-no-hana together with a bitter taste gives me a time to enjoy.”

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We seldom hear about absinthe because there are only 5 companies producing it. I am so surprised that there are only 5! Absinthe is a herb liquor that mainly produced in France, Switzerland, Czech and Spain. Several kinds of herb like wormwood with flavor of spice are used to make this cloudiness with pale green color. Painter Van Gogh from the Netherlands, painter Lautrec from France and poet Paul Marie Verlaine from France were addicted to this liquor. Because too many people were addicted to it, this liquor was prohibited in Switzerland from 1915 ~ 1988.

My husband enjoys more gins and absinthes after that and said “After hearing these all and trying all of them, I know making spirits in Gujo means so much to Mr Tatsumi. Local people know too much about the water and plants in the region and they do not notice the advantages. An outsider, Mr Tatsumi noticed as soon as he arrived at this place. He found and started producing high quality spirits. This encounter is a miracle!”

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Abushin seldom opens and all stock sold out so quickly. If you want to try the spirits made by Tatsumi Distillery, the locals recommend visiting “Ito Cafe”. Let us visit there at once!

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Linking the spirit of Tatsumi Distillery
Comfy café “Ito Café”

Linking the spirit of Tatsumi Distillery
Comfy café “Ito Café”

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Ito Café is a café using the relationship with people, things and culture in Gujo as its theme. It is located at the middle of Gujo Hachiman opening from morning to evening (till night only on Friday). This café is popular with locals and visitors. When you enter, you can feel the breeze flowing inside. Ms Ayaka Kamimura comes to welcome us.

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Around the counter, there are spirits from Tatsumi Distillery (5 from the left). The bottle is very stylish that you can decorate your room with them!

When I tell Ms Ayaka that we come here for the spirits from Tatsumi Distillery. She said “Many people come to us because of the spirits. It is so difficult to buy and so few places providing all kinds of spirits. Although we are a café maybe not suitable for drinking and we only operate dinner time oayn Friday, many fans come to us when they see our lights are on. Many visitors come and enjoy after they receive recommendation from the locals.

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Here in Ito Café, usually provides 4 to 5 kinds of seasonal gins and absinthes. Gin is 1100JPY , with tax and absinthe 1650JPY, with tax, with snacks. You can choose to have it on the rocks, with tonic water or with soda. Extra 550JPY, with tax is need for tonic water. Ms Ayaka recommends us to have it on the rocks or with soda in order to taste the real flavor.

“We, Ito Café, cherish the relationship with local producers and makers. We share the same idea with Mr Tatsumi who is using local plants for production. We use the same blackberries and strawberries from the same farmer.”

I have visited Ito Café for lunch or a drink for several times in the past.
All are made sincerely and so delicious. I refresh so much here and fully charged! I am able to enjoy the rest of my trip because of this café. You should also visit some time.

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A unit, to promote the food culture in Japan leading to the future in the next 100 years, is formed by husband “A farmer and a maltster” facing with the blessings of nature and wife “A soy sauce sommelier and designer”. They aim to introduce Japanese food culture with fermented food supported by agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Husband : Mr Takashi Miyamoto

He started a new koji venture in the Koji industry. He uses pesticide-free and chemical-free fertilizers in preparing miso. He was fascinated by the world of fermentation and started running a Koji shop in Nishihazu-cho, Nishio-shi, Aichi-ken. He also holds a Miso and Soysauce Study Circle for more than 1000 people a year.

Wife : Ms Keiko Kuroshima(Miyamoto)

A soy sauce, olive oil sommelier & designer. She was born in the soy sauce town of Shodoshima Island and grew up with the brewers. Based in Shodoshima, she continues to visit brewers nationwide and continues to connect people and things through design, writing, and recipe making. She published “Soy Sauce Book” from Genko Publishing.

Photographs by miyamoto