The HANAFUDA series

Playing cards were introduced to Japan by Portuguese explorers in the mid-16th century and the Japanese deck was created soon after.

However, after Japan closed its border with the western world in 1633, playing cards were banned.

During prohibition, gambling with cards remained highly popular which led to disguised card designs.

There are 48 cards in total, divided into 12 suits representing the months of the year with beautiful seasonal illustrations.

In our 'Hanafuda' series, each bottle refers to the illustration of the month the flavours represent.


Matsu ni Tsuru Whisky Umeshu: January

Since ancient times, the Japanese crane bird with its white feathers and silver hair like that of an old man has been regarded as a symbol of longevity. The same is said to be the pine tree and the tortoise of their long life span. The card symbolises eternal youth and longevity at the start of the new year, with the raising sun.


Torotoro no Umeshu: February

As the word 'flower' in Chinese poetry directly refers to 'plum blossom'; plum has long been known as a representative flower of China. Following the plum tree's arrival in Japan, its flower was often referred the ancient Japanese poetry and literature such as "Manyoshu" and "Kokin Wakashu", etc., the forms this beautiful flower to symbolise Japan. 'Uguisu' (Japanese Bush Warbler) is also one of the representative birds of Japan known for its characteristic cry. The Ume flower blossoms from around February together with the bush warbler song, symbolising the start of spring in Japan.


Miyoshi no Sakura Umeshu: March

From March to April onwards, it is the season for ‘sakura’ cherry blossoms in Japan. Often people gather under the cherry trees to enjoy viewing beautiful but short-lived blossoms. The word ``Miyoshino’’ refers to the Yoshino area in Nara prefecture, where famous for its cherry blossoms.


Aotan no Yuzushu: June

The June cards illustrate with peony and butterfly. The peony (= ‘Botan’ in Japanese) has long been regarded as a noble flower that symbolises happiness and nobility.


Aotan no Apple: October

The October card depicts ‘autumn leaves and "deer" which are considered to be an auspicious and picturesque combination, similar to the February card’s 'plum flower and Japanese bush warbler ’. The Japanese maple leaves change colour is representative of autumn, which is also the peak season for apple picking in Nagano prefecture, where the apple come from for this liquor. 


The bottle labels:
In order to express the true nature of old Hanafuda cards, we opted for a handmade design that emphasises the texture that makes you want to hold the bottle in your hand. With hand-drawn illustrations and letters on ‘washi’ (Japanese hand-made paper) that is torn by hand, these labels are then hand-applied one by one on each bottle, reflecting the ultimate ‘craftsmanship’ spirit in our making of the liqueurs.