As a black koji sweet potato shochu aged in unglazed clay pots for a minimum of 3 years, this promises to be a full bodied, richly flavored, absolutely decadent imo shochu. And does it ever deliver.
Brand: Aka Mosaku
Distillery: Hananoka Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Tamana-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: red sweet potato (aka imo)
Koji: black (kuro)
Distillation: atmospheric (joatsu)
Alcohol: 25% (50 proof)
This is the first in a series of shochu reviews that will review products that we tried or obtained while in Japan in July on our Shochu Tour 2012. This particular bottle was a gift from my guide and translator’s partner, who is from Kumamoto Prefecture and justifiably proud of this local shochu.
Hananoka Shuzo was founded in 1902 by Mosaku Kanda. Hananoka Shuzo is famous for being the first kura to produce sweet potato (imo) shochu in Kumamoto Prefecture. This red potato version is a tribute to their founder who had the foresight to distill this grain when most other Kumamoto shochu producers were content to distill rice.
We’ve tried red or purple potato shochus before. A handful are even available in the US. However, we’ve never had anything quite like this. The striking thing to start is the unmistakable scent of peanut on the nose. The scent I normally associate with an aka imo underlies this peanut overture. The taste is dominated by a rich, sweet, nutty flavor. The usual buttered mouthfeel is present as well, but unexpectedly this shochu has a dry, herbal finish with a lingering sweet tackiness.
The Verdict: Highly Recommended
Having tried Aka Mosaku back to back with another red potato shochu (Beni-Ikko), this is distinctly sweeter than the other and therefore may be best straight or with a splash of cold water. On the rocks isn’t bad, but you lose some of the lovely, rich flavors that predominate.