Hard to explain why I haven't reviewed Kozuru Kuro sooner. Perhaps in some way I wanted to keep it secret. It's an affordable, luscious black koji imo shochu from Kagoshima. It's the basic product from Komasa Shuzo, which I visited this summer.
Kuratake surprised me as soon as I opened the bottle. The rich sweet potato aroma and flavor I expect from imo shochus is largely absent from this spirit until you pay attention. It's got a subtle presence, but not the overwhelming sensation you'll get from a traditional Kagoshima style black koji imo shochu like Shiranami Kuro. This shochu takes the experience in a completely different direction.
Kiccho Hozan, the black koji version, is very popular in NYC among shochu aficionados thanks to the influence of Aya Otaka, the bartender-owner of Shochu + Tapas Aya, who always recommended Kiccho to her customers when she was holding court at the late, great Shochu Bar Hatchan.
If iichiko silhouette was not your introduction to Japanese shochu, then it was likelyYokaichi Mugi. This is another ubiquitous barley shochu, mass produced, though still in the honkaku (single distillation) style. The lovely parchment label belies the low, low price, undercutting even iichiko.
In honor of Chinese New Year we present you with a Taiwan Import Market Awamori not available in the U.S. Don't let the campy bottle art fool you. This is a very nice, easy to drink, and richly flavorful Awamori.