Kokoro Gin’s story begins in the 1960s, when Uncle Nic made his way to Japan and ended up fronting several nature programmes, leading him to purchase as much of the woodland as he could and donate it to the Afan Woodland Trust. During Nic’s nephew James and his brother-in-law Barry Darnell, Uncle Nic introduced them to the sansho berries growing in the vicinity (“you pick a few off the bush and eat them and there’s this intense explosion of flavour, almost like an electric current over the tongue” James says) and encouraged them to drink water from a mountain stream, which took on a whole new glacial freshness when teamed up with the sansho taste.
When they returned to the UK, James and Barry began experimenting with the sansho berries. He soon realised that only fresh berries retain that unique, mountain-air zing, so abandoned any notion of using imported dried berries and work with Uncle Nic to embark a handful of locals in the adventure.
The gin has an interesting flavour journey; the sweet botanicals envelop the tongue, with liquorice making itself very well known. The sansho comes in with a warming spice, but that is quickly side swiped by a candied orange and lemon citrus. Fire dances at the back of the sip, with the sansho coating the mouth in pepper.From the story, to the taste and the bottle, everything is centered so Kokoro can embody the ‘heart of the forest.’