Open Sesame: Beniotome
Brand: Beniotome (紅乙女)
Distillery: Beniotome Co, Ltd.
Location: Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: 60% barley (mugi), 30% rice (kome), 10% sesame (goma)
Alcohol: 24% (48 proof)
Beniotome claims to be the only spirit in the world distilled from sesame seeds. This is probably true, because, of course, sesame seeds don’t hold a lot of sugar. Fortunately for us, the seeds are not the primary distillate – barley and rice in the mash provide the sugars (and alcohol) while the roasted sesame seeds provide a completely unique drinking experience.
I’ve had nut flavored vodkas and liqueurs – and that’s the only type spirit I can remotely compare this to. Yet that is unkind to Beniotome, which has a complexity and roundness that you don’t find in flavored vodkas. Those tend to be too sweet with little character. That’s precisely the opposite of the Beniotome experience.
The pronounced nose of roasted grains coalesces around toasted sesame, reminiscent of black sesame ice cream. In fact, that’s what I crave as I sniff the glass. The initial taste is surprisingly neutral, but that quickly gives way to a rich sweetness of full-on toasted sesame. A smooth, mellow mouthfeel slides into the finish of peanut butter. It’s completely unique in the shochu world and you’d be hard pressed to find a spirit of any kind that rivals its nuttiness without the sickly sweet of the flavored abominations.
The Verdict: Recommended
I enjoy Beniotome neat or with a touch of water (mizuwari), but I bet it will make a hell of a cocktail in the right hands. Much like the carrot based Akanone, which I initially dismissed as a gimmick, Beniotome has won me over as a legitimate honkaku shochu with all of the character of the traditional grains, but with a singular roasted flavor that provides an unmistakable drinking experience. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t something I’d drink every day, bur rather enjoy as a digestif. Beniotome is a luscious treat. Like a bowl of black sesame ice cream without the guilt.