yamanomori

Yamanomori is as old school as they come among shochus imported to the U.S. Made using the traditional atmospheric (unpressurized) pot still, black koji to impart a rich earthy undertone, little if any filtration, and the very traditional 2:1 ratio of barley to rice, Yamanomori is a taste from the past. Much richer, bolder, and more exotic than most any other barley shochu that comes to our shores, Yamanomori is unapologetically an “old man’s” (oji-san) shochu.

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Yuki inside

Walking past the graffitti’d walls of a recently closed latin bar, you see the sign for Yuki. The immediate surprise is the live music emanating from inside. That shouldn’t be a surprise in New Orleans, but it is from an izakaya. Inside there’s a tiny “stage” (end of the bar) where artists perform live music every night of the week.

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daikaya

In the most unlikely of places, Daikaya sits atop an eponymous ramen shop, across the street from the city’s basketball-hockey arena. Through the door marked simply “izakaya” (in English with no accompanying aki-chochin lantern) you climb a narrow staircase to a large open space.

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pellegrini

I’ve never missed a flight before in my life, but this time was different. Not only did I miss my return flight from Tokyo to NYC, but I woke up after my flight had left. That’s what I get for having an izakaya crawl the night before a 6:50am departure. Missing a flight is never a good thing, but hoping to make the most of it I had one more night in Tokyo, which many would agree is the top culinary city in the world.

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photo 4

During my stay in Kagoshima in October 2013, Tekkan Wakamatsu, the toji at Yamato Zakura Shuzo, where I did my internship, told me about a legendary izakaya in downtown Kagoshima City where the owners was an “ancient magician” (Tekkan-san may have said “a yoda”, as he’s fond of Star Wars references) in the art of “maewari” shochu.

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Kagura No Mai

Kagura no Mai, with its plain black and white label with abstract drawings of village life, doesn’t shout from you off the shelf. Nor does is grab you out of the glass. It’s light and clean with the forward aromas of sake yeast. This leads me to believe it’s a low pressure distillate and that the distillery has chosen to use a traditional sake yeast rather than one of the more neutral shochu yeasts.

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