Monday, March 5, 2012


SHOCHU awareness in America has been raised by the JAPAN SAKE and SHOCHU MAKERS ASSOCIATION hosting of seminars and tasting events throughout North America.

As a true fan of distilled spirits (I am from New Orleans you know) through the years of my existence, none has caused more curiosity at a later age in my life than SHOCHU.

The Japanese are trying to get the word out on their 'UNIQUE SPIRIT' and I am glad to be one of the voices to praise SHOCHU through the media outlets available to me.

A little history about SHOCHU:
+ Shochu can trace its roots to one of many countries including China, Thailand, Persia or Korea.
+ Shochu came to Japan through commerce.
+ Kagoshima is considered the Japanese birthplace and home of Shochu.
+ Shochu is known as AWAMORI in Okinawa and uses rice as its first ingredient.
+ Shochu was originally used for medicinal purposes.
+ Unlike SAKE, Shochu is DISTILLED.
+ The alcoholic content of Shochu is normally 25% and can reach as high as 42%
+ Shochu is made from various raw materials that can include, sweet potato, rice, barley, soba (buckwheat), brown sugar and chestnuts.
+ Each ingredient gives a distinct flavor and aroma to the final product.
+ Like scotch, Shochu can have similar characteristics from smooth and light to peaty and earthy.
+ Shochu is distilled in two fashions, one, the traditional (since the 14th century) method using only one raw material and only one distillation, much like a single malt scotch. This method is called OTSU-rui.
+ OTSU-rui Shochu is the most artisan of all Shochu methods, displaying a handcrafted appeal.
+ The second and most commonly used method for Shochu distillation is the KOU-rui process (since 1911) which involves numerous distillations, one after another to create a smooth blended product that is similar to a blended scotch.
+ KOU-rui Shochu exhibits a cleaner and lighter product on the palate.
+ Sweet Potato Shochu is perhaps the most popular Shochu product available. It is both complex and earthy with a heavy/smooth mouth appeal.
+ The production of Shochu can take anywhere from four months to one year to complete.
+ Findings support that Shochu benefits health by triggering thrombolysis, the breakdown of blood clots.

Shochu can be enjoyed with water, either hot or cold.

For example, if you pour hot water in a glass and add Shochu, the flavor is enhanced with sweetness, thus creating a soft, velvety texture on the mouth. Conversely, by adding cold water, a refreshing and smooth mouth feel overtakes your palate.

The recommended mixture is always 60% Shochu and 40% water.

Shochu can be drunk on the rocks, creating a sophisticated drink. Or you can mix Shochu with a variety of beverages including fruit juice, vegetable juice, green or black tea, ginger ale or milk.

I have found that Shochu is great to pair with food, as it subtle enough not to overpower the cuisines of the world.

Shochu is considered healthy by Japanese standards. There is no sugar and lower calories than other alcoholic drinks. Shochu dissolves blood clots, as mentioned earlier. Shochu contains 1.5 times as many enzymes that dissolve blood clots as red wine. Acidity levels of thrombolytic enzymes in Shochu are 1160 as compared to 801 in wine and 510 in whisky. The higher the number, the healthier the product.

Below is a list that I recommend of Shochu and Awamori products from Japan's unique koji (rice, barley, sweet potato,etc.) culture:

Kitaya Company Limited produces a wonderful, three year old barrel aged barley Shochu named GOKOO and a fabulous sweet potato Shochu named JINKOO.

Shinozaki Company Limited produces SENNEN-no-NEMURI, a malted barley product that uses the traditional method of distillation and is aged for four years in oak barrels.

Nishi Yoshida Shuzo Company Limited produces a roasted barley Shochu, KINTARO BARLEY SHOCHU ROASTED BARLEY that has the aroma of chocolate on the nose and the intensity of roasted barley on the palate.

If you desire a new world Shochu that is ripe with pear and cinnamon,try BARLEY SHOCHU IKI from Genkai Shuzo Company Limited.

SENGETSU is a mild and tasty Shochu that is popular throughout the world. The mild rice Shochu is distilled by Sengetsu Shuzo Company Limited.

HAKUTAKO SHIRO is an outstanding Shochu due to the mineral-rich water used from the Hiloyoshi Basin. Fruity and light, this rice Shochu is a product from the Takahashi Shuzo Company Limited.

Sanwa Shurui Company Limited produces several great Shochu products. I love the IICHIKO, an authentic barley Shochu (30% alcohol) and the IICHIKO SEIRIN, which is full of barley and malt on the palate.

Komasa Jyozo Company Limited produces a premium Shochu, KURA NO SHIKON, which is barrel aged for three years, thus producing one of Japan's premier sweet potato Shochus.

Satsuma Shuzo Company Limited distills a variety of great, affordable varieties od Shochu. My favorite ones include: KOKAHU NO YUME, SATSUMA SHIRANAMI, SATSUMA OTOME, KANNOKO and MUGIWARA BOUSHI.

Oone of my favorite food pairing Shochus is FUKIAGE MUGI from Fukiage Shuzo Corporation.

Yamamoto Shuzo Company Limited distills a special single-distilled Shochu, SATSUMA KUROGODAI that is bold and full-bodied.

My favorite producer and often Gold Medal winner is Kyoya Distiller and Brewer Company Limited. My top choices include: KAPPA no SASOL-MIZU, HEBESS COOL and HEIHACHIRO.

KEMEJIMA'S KUMESEN , produced by the company with the same name is smooth and light and perfect for all types of food.

Zuisen Distillery Company limited produces a wonderful, aromatic product, ZUI-SEN HAKU-RYU.

RYUKYU OHCHO is a robust malted rice Awamori from Okinawa that incorporates mineral water in this fabulous product. Taragawa Company Limited is the distiller.

2012 is a great year to begin your SHOCHU Journey, as I have. It is a great alternative to other spirits and wines in the marketplace.

The companies/distillers that I have listed are readily available at wine shops in America. Ask your local wine merchant for SHOCHU recommendations,as well.

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