2 days, 16 producers, 42 spirits


The Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) & the Japanese Sake & Shochu Makers Association (JSS) put on a pair of stellar events in New York City on February 12th & 13th. We’ve already raved about Shochu Night Out, but the next day (Monday, February 13th) was Experience Shochu at Astor Wines. The event ran from 2:30pm to 8:30pm. The first half was for trade (bars, restaurants, liquor stores, press) and the second half was open to the public.

The trade event was about as expected with a hundred or so professionals milling about discussing their needs with the 16 shochu producers in town to share their products with us. An accompanying one hour shochu tutorial and cocktail demonstration was well attended.

The public event was a mass of people (over 800 RSVP’d), many trying shochu for the first time. Others were experienced with sake, but had little exposure to shochu. While a few were aficionados seeking out new and interesting products. All seemed to enjoy themselves a great deal.

The following distilleries (alphabetical order) participated with the listed products. Here are a few our notes about these products – a list which reminded me just how many shochus we have left to review for this site!

Kaikouzu – A big, richly flavored imo that we enjoy pretty regularly.
・Fukiage Mugi – A straightforward, light mugi shochu.

・IKI – an authentic mugijochu from Iki Island – traditional home of mugi shochu. Light and nicely flavored.

・Gokoo – an oak aged mugi shochu with a supple mouthfeel.
Jinkoo – a balanced imo shochu with a similar supple mouthfeel; a trademark of the Kitaya shochus.
・Gyokuro – a green tea shochu. You read that right. Shochu made of green tea. Tastes like green tea. Remarkable.
・Yosaku – a kome shochu with that mouthfeel we enjoy so much.

KOMASA JYOZO  – a new player in the U.S. market made a splash with their products at the event.
・Kozuru Kuro – a richly flavored imo that’s just arrived on our shores.
・Kura No Shikon – Kozuru Kuro aged in porcelain. Even better than the first.
・Window’s Mugiichi – an unaged mugi with a light, balanced flavor. Also newly available in the US.
・Window’s Migaki – Mugiichi aged in oak barrels. A luscious, whiskey-like treat.

・Kumejima’s Kumesen – A very nice Awamori not yet written up.
・Aragoshi Kumi’s Umeshu – the first umeshu I’ve ever asked for seconds of. I’m not a fan of sweet drinks.

・Kappa no Sasoimizu – a light, smooth, delicious imo we’ll write up soon.
・Heihachiro – Kappa’s older, bigger, bolder brother. A rich big imo.
・Hebess Cool – A light infused cocktail mixer. Not a honkaku shochu.

・Ark Jakuunbaku – a light mugi shochu that was very popular among female visitors.
・Kintaro Mugi Shochu – Roasted Barley – perhaps the surprise of the event. So richly toasted.
・Tsukushi Mugishocyu Kuro – a hint of the roasted mugi of Kintaro thanks to black koji.
・Tsukushi Mugi Shocyu Shiro – a much ligher version of Kuro thanks to the white koji.

・Iichiko Frasco – the most expensive and rare of iichiko’s stable of light mugi shochus. Beautiful bottle.
・Iichiko Kurobin – a blend of mugi shochus that stands out in the style.
Iichiko Silhouette – the near ubiquitous mugi shochu. Available more often than any other.
・Iichiko Seirin – a ligher version of Silhouette. Just 20% ABV.

 SATSUMA SHUZO  – this large distiller brought more different products than anyone else.
・Satsuma Shiranami – a classic, classic imo.
・Kuro Shirnami – Satsuma Shiranami made with black koji.
・Satsuma Otome – a low alcohol (20% ABV), easy drinking imo shochu targeting women. It even has a pink hue to the bottle.
・Kuradashi Genshu – This made me wish more genshus were available in the U.S. Full strength = full flavor.
Kannoko – an oaked mugi shochu. Very nice and sweet.
・Kohaku No Yume –  another oaked mugi shochu.
・Mugiwara Boushi – a light unaged mugi shochu.
・Sengetsu – a mild kome shochu.
・Kawabe – a richly flavored kome shochu. Something else worth importing.
・Koisisou – a liqueur. Did not try.

・Sennen-no-nemuri – another richly flavored genshu & another reason to wish more genshu would come stateside.
・Amaou-Umeshu Amaou-Hajimemashita – an umeshu. Sweet. Tart. Plummy.

・Hakutake Shiro – a sweet, yummy kome shochu.

Ryukyu Ohcho – an herbal, earthy Awamori. Nothing quite like these Okinawan gems.

・Yama No Mori Shochu – a full flavored, traditionally distilled mugi shochu.

・Satsuma Godai – A traditionally styled imo.
・Satsuma Kurogodai – Satsuma Godai made with black koji.
・Satsuma Godai Umeshu – an umeshu. Sweet. Plummy. Tart.

Zuisen Hakuryu – A well balanced Awamori. Oh how I wish more Awamori were imported.

Needless to say, there are lots of great products out there. This is just a handful of what’s available in the states and a sliver of what’s produced in Japan. Yet it was such a thrill to have all of these producers under one roof to try all at one time. I’m hoping this is the first of many shochu events in NYC.


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