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Lemon twist and fresh ginger



Following our review of KURO Gin next from the gin shelf is Kokoro – another Japanese-influenced gin. While both set out to capture the essence of an area dear to the makers, Kokoro Gin has a unique story.

Kokoro Gin was Inspired by founder James Nicol’s visit to the country’s Afan Woodland in 2014 to meet his uncle, “Old Nic”.  For thirty years Uncle Nic has been restoring neglected woodlands, purchasing the land with his own money and gifting it back to the Japanese people.

In the wilds of these forests grows the sancho berry – the hero of James’ resultant gin. After being introduced to it by Uncle Nic, James knew its citrus and peppery qualities were perfect for gin. He teamed up with his brother-in-law – and branding specialist – Barry Darnell, to bring Kokoro Gin to market.

Perfecting the recipe with Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers, Kokoro was launched in 2016. Read on for our review.

Key flavours: citrus, spice, juniper


sansho berries, juniper, lemon peel, sweet orange, almond, angelica root, liquorice, savoury and coriander seeds

Kokoro Gin botanicals

Of the nine botanicals found in Kokoro Gin, most are the usual suspects found in a London Dry – juniper, coriander seeds and angelica root, with citrus from lemon peel and sweet orange. Liquorice and almond are also relatively common for adding some sweetness and texture.

It’s the sancho berry that’s the central ingredient, and one that James has built Kokoro around, with its warm, zingy, citrus characteristics.

Kokoro Gin Tasting Notes

Kokoro is an extremely well-balanced gin. Keeping the botanicals to single digits that traditionally work well, allows the flavours of the sancho berry to come to the fore, particularly when tried neat.

The sweetness of the liquorice flirts well with the citrus and the warming spice of the sancho.

There’s nothing too controversial on the nose – juniper is the first to hit the senses, with earthy and citrus notes close behind. To taste, the sweetness of the liquorice works well with the citrus and the warming spice of the sancho. Orange is strong at the finish, while there’s a lasting wave of pepper that lingers on the tongue.

It’s a delicate balance of flavours which allows the sancho to shine, but not overpower the taste buds. It’s still got that classic London Dry feel to it, with juniper making itself known, particularly on the palate.

When adding tonic, the sancho takes a step into the background; it’s still present but much more subtle, with less punch.

Kokoro gin perfect serve

  1. Add plenty of ice to a high ball glass (don’t scrimp!)
  2. Add 50ml of Kokoro Gin
  3. Mix with a premium classic tonic to taste (roughly 2/3 part tonic: gin)
  4. Garnish with a slice of ginger and a lemon twist


As we know, to make it in this increasingly crowded market place, it’s difficult to rely on the spirit itself. Back-story and branding are critical, particularly with the importance of highly visual social channels for marketing purposes.

Kokoro has both in abundance; a captivating story (which we touched on earlier), a stunning bottle, and clever branding. With their sancho berries coming from the Afan Woodland, the bottle and branding pay homage to the gin’s central botanical.

Kokoro means “heart” in Japanese; the gin transporting you to the heart of the forest. The beautifully simple logo which is central to the bottle design creates the sound “Ko ko ro” in the Hiragana phonetic alphabet. Meanwhile the symbols on the neck seal mean “soul of the forest” or “a forest spirit” depending on which way up you read them.

It’s incredibly clever and all kudos should go to co-founder Barry Darnell for his part in creating a stand-out brand and bottle. Its beauty is its understated design with the solitary logo on frosted glass. It’s certainly befitting of its place on our most beautiful gin bottles list.