Brand: Taiga no Itteki (大河の一滴)
Distillery: Unkai Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Gokase, Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: 100% barley (mugi)
Koji: unknown (barley koji)
Here is another JDM shochu picked up at a Narita International Airport (NRT) duty free shop. Not currently available in the U.S.
Taiga no Itteki is our best guess for an English spelling of the name, which means “one drop in a big river.” Finding information on this shochu is very much like one drop in a river. There’s virtually nothing reliable out there. What we do know is that this barley shochu is aged in oak barrels stored in a cool dry place. What’s unclear is if these are new barrels or repurposed barrels. The light whiskey flavor suggests they’ve been repurposed, but we don’t know for sure. Oak could probably do that to a shochu if aged long enough.
The nose is slight. A hint of tree sap. The initial mouth is full of sweetness – a mollassesy goodness. This quickly shifts into luscious golden liquor flavor. Intentionally vague – could this be whiskey? Brandy? Aged rum? This initial sensation quickly resolves itself. Nope. It’s whiskey. The same middle to finish of a nice bourbon. Where the shochu again separates itself from whiskey is in the light, almost minty finish. There is a persistent whiskey aftertaste once you’ve had enough of it, but all without the high alcohol content and hopefully the heavy head the next day.
The Verdict: Recommended
Given the seeming popularity of oak barrel aged shochus in the U.S., I would not at all be surprised to see Taiga no Itteki appear stateside in the not-too-distant future. They may give it a different spelling, but it should be the same nicely flavored oak aged mugi shochu we’ve reviewed. This is a crowd favorite – something we pick up nearly every time we’re in NRT, primarily due to its affordability. This bottle cost us 1100 JPY on our latest trip, or about $14. Something tells me it will cost quite a bit more if it makes it over here.
Oh and as to an actual verdict? Like whiskey, but prefer the low calorie, lower risk of hangover of shochu? You could do worse than Taiga no Itteki, the River’s Drop shochu.