Pairing Cigars & Alcohol – Roku Gin

Cigars and alcohol. Two luxury products that go hand in hand, and sometimes even meet on business level. Aging tobacco in whisky, rum, or cognac barrels is a practice several brands do to achieve extra flavour to the wrapper for certain lines. The famous bourbon brand Maker’s Mark has their own cigar, sold in tubes with the signature wax coating. Drew Estate works with Pappy van Winkle and used to make Kahlua cigars. Mombacho had the now discontinued Diplomatico series. General Cigars works with Sazerac, which resulted in Fireball cigars, Weller by Cohiba and collaborations with Buffalo Trace. And there is the Diesel Whisky Row, a collaboration with Rabbit Hole Distilleries. Fratello Cigars also sells craft beer. Most famous are probably the Cuban collaboration between Martell Cognac and Cohiba. Dominique London, the European retailer with more than 20 shops in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and the Canary Islands takes it one step further. They bought a distillery in Wales and produce gin, rum, vodka and liquors, and bottle whisky. But other brands pair well with cigars as well.

Roku Japanese Gin

Japanese whiskies have been gaining in popularity over the last decade to become one of the most searched for and expensive whiskies outside of the classic Scottish Single Malt distilled spirits. One of the better known makers of Japanese whisky is Suntory, who started making whisky in 1923. But they also produce vodka and gin. And it’s the Roku gin that I’m pairing with cigars today. The story starts 1899 when Shinjiro Torii founded the Torii Shoten Store where he wanted to create original Japanese spirits. In 1936 he launched Hermes gin, the predecessor of Roku.

Roku uses six botanicals that are typical for Japan. I am writing this intro after I tasted the drinks and I did taste one of the ingredients very clearly. That ingredient is yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit that I happen to love. The other typical Japanese ingredients are Sakura leaf, Sakura flower, Sencha tea, Gyokuro tea and Sansho peppers. Then there are a bunch of botanicals, including juniper berries that are not exclusive to Japan.


I tried the Roku gin first in a highball glass over a big rock of ice instead of in a Glencairn glass. Usually I try new spirits in a Glencairn glass but I felt like shaking things up a little. The nose is strong and almost medicinal. The botanicals really shine with a hefty alcohol kick even though the gin is not that strong with 43% ABV. By the way, the Roku for the domestic Japanese market is a bit stronger with 47% ABV. I need to find a bottle of this and pair the two versions side by side to see if I can taste a difference.

As for flavours, the gin is fresh and spicy with some citrus. Here’s where I tasted the unique flavour of the yuzu. The peppers are also quite pronounced. The aftertaste is minty. This is clearly a gin that’s different from other gins with a nice sweetness and balance. It’s well rounded and would go very well with a cigar with floral notes such as the (non Cuban) H. Upmann Cameroon or the Cuban Fonseca Delicia. Since the gin is delicate, such mild cigars as the Fonseca Delicia can match with the Roku gin pretty well.

Gin & Tonic

On the nose this Gin & Tonic has a mild citrus aroma. And even a mild aroma is more than what I usually get on the nose with a gin & tonic. So that is promising. The cocktail self is very fresh, the yuzu gives this a unique citrus flavour which is clearly different from lemon, lime or any other citrus. The botanicals aren’t overpowered. I think a medium bodied cigar with a flavour palate that falls into the woody characters would pair best. The Bolivar Belicoso Finos for example, or the Ashton Cabinet Selection, Padron 1964 or the Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne.

And now for the gin tonic recipe:

2 ounces of 60ml of  Roku Gin
4 ounces or 120ml of Tonic water
Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. Add the gin, then the tonic and stir gently.

Pink Lady

I admit, when I saw this recipe, I thought “would I make a pink cocktail, with the name pink lady while writing an article for a website with mostly male visitors?” but then I thought to myself, why not? I mean, pink is a pretty colour, there are plenty of sisters of the leaf and the cocktail lovers here might enjoy this cocktail or if they aren’t secure enough in their masculinity, they can make this for their wives or girlfriends. I did not have Applejack nor could I find it locally, so I replaced it with some calvados. But in my first attempt I screwed up. I forgot the lemon juice and almost doubled the grenadine because I misread the recipe. The result was an overly sweet concoction that was undrinkable. The second try was better, with the right recipe.

On the nose this is an interesting cocktail. I smell the citrus from the lemon juice and the berries and sweetness from the grenadine. The first thing that I taste is the creamy texture of the egg white before a slight tart comes up from the lemon juice and the yuzu in the gin. This is countered by the sweetness of the grenadine. The apple flavour of the calvados shines through as well with the botanicals from the gin. The balance could be a bit better; the citrus tang is a bit overpowering but then again, not so much that it makes this hard to pair with a cigar. This will go well with an earthy or woody cigar. The cigars I recommended with the Roku Gin Tonic or maybe Ashton VSG, San Cristobal de La Habana or the Oliva Serie O.

And now for the Pink Lady recipe:
1½  ounce or 45ml of Roku gin
½  ounce or 15ml of Applejack *

3/4 ounce or 22½ml of lemon juice

1/2 ounce or15ml of Grenadine
1 egg white
* if you don’t have applejack, you can replace it with calvados or brandy/cognac*

Garnish: brandied cherry

Add all ingredients into a shaker and vigorously dry-shake (without ice). Add ice and shake again until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Inspector X

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