Photo/IllutrationThe Tanqueray No. Ten (Provided by Kirin Holdings Co.), left, The Roku (Provided by Suntory Holdings Ltd.), middle, The Nikka Coffey Gin (Provided by Asahi Breweries Ltd.)

Centuries after the “gin craze” gripped Britain, the fruity distilled liquor is catching on with consumers in Japan--albeit in a much more refined style than those heady moral panic-inducing days in 18th-century London.

Major liquor manufacturers in Japan are releasing new, upmarket gin products in rapid succession, in hopes of tapping into what they see as a new business opportunity at a time when the domestic beer market is shrinking.

Gin’s rising popularity came on the back of a recent craze for highballs, which have spread the practice of drinking distilled liquor mixed with soda, according to sources.

Officials with Asahi Breweries Ltd. said the market for premium gins, with prices in excess of 3,000 yen ($27) per bottle, in 2016 grew 1.5-fold from the previous year. The company expects the market this year to double the size of last year.

Asahi Breweries is releasing the “Nikka Coffey Gin,” a domestic product, later in June. It will be flavored, among other things, with “yuzu” citrus fruit and “sansho” Japanese pepper.

Its production process uses a whisky still that was introduced by Masataka Taketsuru (1894-1979), the founder of The Nikka Whisky Distilling Co., an Asahi Breweries group company. Gin and whisky are made in similar ways until halfway through their manufacturing methods.

The process has helped extract the ingredients’ natural flavors and has also created a light mouth feel, company officials said.

The suggested retail price of the Nikka Coffey Gin is 4,500 yen ($41), excluding tax, which places the product in the category of “premium,” or upmarket, gins. The product is scheduled to go on sale in Western countries from September.

People are drinking gin in a broader range of settings, as exemplified by the emergence of bars that specialize in gin, the officials added.

In fact, gin-based concoctions took both top and second places in the Nippon Bartenders Association ranking of the most popular cocktails for 2016.

Suntory Holdings Ltd. is also releasing the “Roku,” a domestically manufactured gin, in July. Development of the product enlisted the participation of Beam Suntory Inc., a U.S. distillery that is affiliated with the holding company.

The Roku emphasizes a classic Japanese feel, as it is flavored with six typically Japanese ingredients, including cherry blossoms and leaves and top-quality green tea, and carries a label printed on “washi” Japanese paper.

The Roku’s suggested retail price is 4,000 yen, excluding tax, which is more than triple that of the Beefeater, a gin that Suntory Holdings imports and markets.

“A growing number of people are interested in enjoying alcoholic drinks with special flavors and special manufacturing methods, even at the cost of higher prices,” a Suntory representative said.

“Tanqueray No. Ten,” which is imported and marketed by Kirin Holdings Co., is another premium gin with a market price of around 4,000 yen per bottle. Its sales have been brisk, with year-on-year growth of 6.2 percent last year and 8.1 percent for the first three months of this year, Kirin officials said.