Gin Differences: Comparison of Japanese Gin vs American Gin

There are many types of gin. You should know the classics such as London Dry or Plymouth. You may also hear of newer gins that are becoming more popular such as American and Japanese gins. 

But of these gin types, which one tastes better? Suppose you have bored with the classic London Dry and want to try something new. What about Japanese or American Gin? Will they taste good? How are they similar and different from each other?

Japanese and American Gin are both newer, emerging styles of gin. Both focus on mellowing the juniper flavor to allow other botanicals to appear. Both use their own local botanicals. This results in exciting new flavors that may be refreshing to gin drinkers.

This article explores Japanese gin vs American Gin. We also try to see how similar and different they are. Finally, we look at some of the more popular brands of both types of gin. 

Want to skip straight to the tasting bit? Pick up Roku, a popular Japanese gin. Want to go All-American? Try out Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin instead.

What Is American Gin?

American Gin is made and distilled in the United States. It usually has a lighter taste than London Dry Gin and may have a more complex flavor. It is popular with mixologists, who use it to create a crisp, refreshing drink. Popular brands include Seagram and Aviation Gin.

American Gin refers to gin that is made in the United States. It does not refer to a particular style of gin with a set way of making it. 

This means American gin is different from London Dry Gin. London Dry Gin has specific requirements before any gin can use the name.

The process of making American gin is rather like regular gin. Distillers mix botanicals and base alcohol together, either by infusion or mashing. Some may also distill both together for more flavor. 

American Gin usually has a mellower flavor compared to traditional gin. The juniper berry taste is less strong, which allows space for other flavors to come in. 

American distillers then experimented with many botanicals to fill the void. As a result, American Gins can have a more complex and interesting flavor. 

This also makes it interesting for mixologists, who like to use it to create new cocktail recipes. Its lighter taste allows it to blend well with other drinks and not overpower them.

QUICK TIP: Popular American Gin brands include Seagram, Aviation Gin, and Breckenridge.

What Is Japanese Gin?

Japanese Gin is distilled and made in Japan. It commonly uses pot still, and local botanicals enhance its flavor. Japanese Gin is mellower and more complex than London Dry Gin. Popular examples include Roku and Nikka Coffey Gin.

Japanese Gin refers to gins made in Japan. Like American Gin, it does not have set criteria. The only criterion is the gin must be distilled and made in Japan.

Japanese Gin may have a different makeup than common gin or American Gin. This is because Japanese distillers love to experiment with production methods. 

Japanese Gin uses the local spirit, Shochu, as base alcohol. This is unlike other gin, which may use common grain alcohol. Japanese distillers also tend to use a pot still to distill gin. It is less efficient but is believed to make better-tasting gin. 

Japanese Gin makers also love to add their own botanicals. These botanicals include Sakura flowers, green tea, Yuzu peel, or Sanshu peppers. 

As a result, Japanese Gin may have a unique taste. Unlike London Dry Gin, Japanese Gin is lighter than the juniper flavor. This allows you to taste other flavors in Japanese Gin. 

QUICK TIP: Some popular Japanese Gin brands include Roku, Nikka Coffey Gin, and Ki No Bi.

How Are Japanese & American Gin Similar?

American and Japanese Gins are emerging producing regions without a specific style. Both are also milder gins with more complex flavors. Both also enjoy using local botanicals and have largely kept a crafty, artisanal image.

Despite being half a world away from each other, Japanese and American Gin are quite like each other. These are:

Both Are Emerging Gin Producing Regions

The more traditional places for making gin are in the British Isles. You may also include some countries in Europe, such as the Netherlands. 

But the sure thing is that Japan and the United States are not your traditional gin-making regions. They are, instead, called the ‘new world’ or ’emerging’ gin regions. 

A similar example would be how wines from France, Italy, or Spain are seen as ‘Old World’ wines. ‘New World’ wines come from the United States, Australia, or New Zealand. 

Both Refers To Geography, Not Style

American Gin and Japanese Gin do not refer to a particular style of gin. Instead, the term refers to the geographical location where the gin is made. 

This means as long as the distiller makes the gin in the United States, it qualifies as American Gin. You can assume the same for Japanese Gin too.

This concept also means Japanese and American Gin may come in flavor and style. For example, you can have floral, fruity Japanese Gin, or extra dry, bold ones. 

This is unlike types such as London Dry Gin. A distiller must make the gin in a specific way before it qualifies as London Dry Gin.

Both Are Milder, Complex Gins

American and Japanese gin also share a common characteristic in flavor and taste. Both are milder, mellower gins with complex tastes. 

Distillers achieve this by dialing down the juniper flavor. The void is then filled with other botanicals. Many distillers use this as an opportunity to experiment around. Infusing local botanicals are common. 

As a result, besides being milder, American and Japanese Gin also have a more complex flavor. This makes them appeal to people who want to try new tastes in their gin. 

This is the opposite of London Dry Gin. London Dry Gin tends to be heavy in juniper flavor and has a bolder, more assertive taste. 

CHECK IT OUT: Japanese Gin vs London Dry Gin

Both Are Popular With Mixologists

The milder, more complex Japanese and American gin flavor makes them unique. Aside from getting their own fans, many mixologists also experimented with them. 

By having mild flavors, mixologists can blend them easily with other drinks. This is because strong flavors may overpower everything else. 

The juniper’s soft hint also gives cocktails that soft, gin-like, alcoholic taste. Many cocktail drinkers love this. 

As a result, American and Japanese Gin features heavily in light, refreshing cocktails. Some examples include Negroni and Gin Fizz. These cocktails are great on hot summer days or enjoyed by the beach. 

READ MORE: Best Ways To Enjoy Japanese Gin

Both Experiment With Local Botanicals

Both Japanese and American Gins use more than just traditional botanicals. Many distillers enjoy experimenting with local herbs, plants, and fruits as botanicals. 

Japanese Gin may use botanicals such as: 

  • Green tea
  • Sakura flowers
  • Yuzu fruit
  • Sanshu peppers
  • Hinoki (Japanese Cypress)

American Gin may use local botanicals less common in traditional London Dry Gin. Some examples include Pinyon Pine, Sarsaparilla, and lime.

As a result, both gin types may have unique tastes not found in traditional gin. 

Both Kept A Craft, Artisanal Image

Due to its huge demand, London Dry Gin distillers often produce a large amount of gin. They are also commonly made in a large-scale, industrial approach. 

Craft gin distillers are making London Dry Gin. But it is a lot easier to see a bottle of Gordon’s or Bombay Sapphire than to hunt for craft brands.

This is usually on the reverse with Japanese and American Gin. There are few large-scale producers. In fact, most Japanese and American distillers are small-scale, artisanal gin makers. 

As a result, Japanese and American gins tend to retain that crafty, artisanal image. This also means Japanese and American gin may fetch a higher price too.

How Are Japanese & American Gin Different?

Japanese and American gins are different in their origin and choice of botanicals. The production method and its popular brands are also different. Yet, Japanese and American gins may have more similarities than differences. 

It may be safe to say that despite many similarities, American and Japanese gin also differs. The differences can be in many aspects, such as:


American and Japanese Gin originates from very different places. You can only make Japanese Gin by distilling it in Japan itself. To qualify as American Gin, you must also distill it in the United States.

This also means you cannot make Japanese Gin in the United States or England. You also cannot make American Gin in Australia or Argentina. 

This is unlike London Dry Gin, which refers to a style without geographical limitation. This means you can distill a London Dry Gin in Japan or the United States. You only need to follow the strict guidelines set. 

Production Method

American and Japanese Gin generally focuses on geographical reference and not production methods. This means American and Japanese gin distillers are free to experiment around. 

But, you may notice some conventions or common practices within these distillers. 

For example, Japanese distillers use Shochu as the base alcohol when making gin. Shochu is a local Japanese spirit commonly made by distilling rice or buckwheat. This may relate to Japanese gin’s history.

Japanese distillers also tend to use pot stills when making gin. Pot stills are generally seen as slow, inefficient, and cumbersome. But, many drinkers notice that pot stills produce a gin with better taste and flavor. 

American gin distillers may not follow these conventions. This means American gin and Japanese gin can differ in production methods.

Botanicals Used

American and Japanese Gin tend to use different botanicals. Japanese and American Gins often start with essential botanicals common to gin. 

These common botanicals may include: 

  • Juniper berries
  • Angelica root
  • Coriander
  • Orange peel
  • Lemon peel
  • Ginger
  • Liquorice
  • and more. 

This is where Japanese and American gins divulge. Both have a tendency to infuse local botanicals into their gin. 

For example, the Japanese Roku gin starts with common traditional gin botanicals. It also has six local botanicals, such as green tea, Sakura flowers, and more. American Gins such as O’Pinyon use unique American botanicals such as Pinyon pines.

This helps to make Japanese and American gin taste unique. It also makes Japanese gin harder for other gin distillers to replicate.

What Are The Popular Japanese Gin Brands?

Popular brands of Japanese Gins include Roku, Nikka Coffey Gin, and Ki No Bi. This gin may taste different, as it may be made differently and not in the same style.

Suntory Roku Gin

The most popular Japanese gin is the Roku, which translates to “six” in Japanese. It is distilled by Suntory, one of the largest distilleries in Japan. It features a floral, mellow tone and a green tea-derived tannic flavor. 

You can easily recognize a bottle of Roku. It has a transparent bottle and a large Japanese Kanji writing of the digit six. The bottle also has a hexagonal shape.

ABV: 43%
Country: Japan
Check Price On Tipxy

Nikka Coffey Gin 

The Nikka Coffey Gin is made by another major distillery in Japan, Nikka. Nikka is also known for its high-quality Japanese whisky. Despite the name “Coffey,” Nikka’s gin does not include coffee. 

Instead, it has a refreshing citrus and apple flavor. Sanshu pepper also makes a cameo appearance, adding to the dry finish. Make Gin and Tonic with a Nikka, and surprise your palate. 

What Are The Popular American Gin Brands? 

Popular American Gins are brands such as Seagram’s, Aviation Gin, and Breckenridge. These gin brands may use different botanicals and production methods. As a result, they taste different too.

Aviation Gin

Aviation gin was born in Portland, Oregon, in 2006. Aviation Gin gets its name from the Aviation cocktail, a classic gin cocktail popular in the early 20th century.

It has a light, smooth, well-balanced flavor profile. This helps it to stand out from London Dry gin, which is bolder in flavor. Aviation gin also became popular because actor Ryan Reynolds acquired a stake in the company in 2018.

Aviation Gin
ABV: 42%
Country: United States
Check Price On Tipxy


Probably the most known American Gin, Seagram started production in the early 20th century. Seagram’s gin has a smooth and well-balanced flavor, making it popular with cocktails.

Order your classic cocktails, such as martinis and gin and tonics, and you may have some Seagrams in them. 

Final Thoughts

While there are some similarities between Japanese and American Gin, each has its own unique flavor profile and style. The use of local botanicals is a common thread, but the way they are blended and distilled creates distinct differences.

Whether you prefer the traditional juniper-forward flavor of American Gin or the more complex, nuanced flavors of Japanese Gin, there are plenty of options to choose from in both categories.

It’s an exciting time for gin enthusiasts as these emerging styles continue to evolve and bring new flavors to the table.

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