Brand: iichiko silhouette (いいちこ)
Distillery: Sanwa Shurui Co., Ltd.
Location: Oita Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: mugi (barley)
koji: white (shiro)
distillation: low pressure (genatsu)
alcohol content: 25%
I preform all of my shochu tastings straight followed by mizuwari (with cold water). If there are other characteristics I’d like to define I might also try it “roku” or “on the rocks” or oyuwari (with hot water).
This iichiko (‘ee-chee-ko’) silhouette is probably the most common Japanese shochu currently available in the United States. In NYC I’ve seen it in random mom & pop liquor stores as the only shochu among a shelf of sake options. It’s most commonly available in 750ml bottles, though I’ve seen other sizes in other countries.
This is a great starter shochu, which is why I’ve chosen it for my first tasting note. It was my introduction to shochu back in 2008. I’d had Korean soju before, but Japanese shochu is a strikingly different (and better) experience.
This is a crystal clear shochu – some can be various shades of gold – thanks to their single distillation process in which the barley grains are polished to remove the outer layer and then blended with pure spring water. The resulting product has a higher alcohol content, but is then cut with more spring water before bottling.
This is a very light, easy drinking spirit with no strong mouth feel or aftertaste. The relatively low alcohol content makes it much smoother than you might get from a stronger shochu (they can range up to around 45% in my experience). It is also smoother than other mugi shochus I’ve tried, which may be explained by the spring water they use, or perhaps they polish their barley to a greater degree.
This is also a great shochu for mixing into cocktails since it doesn’t have a strong flavor. I’ve had it with both Japanese plums and calpico (a yogurt drink), but I still prefer my shochu roku.
Verdict: Worth Drinking
If you’re interested in trying something stronger than sake with a Japanese meal it’s hard to go wrong with this solid, light shochu. If you’ve already had shochu, it’s very likely you’ve already had iichiko silhouette so keep an eye out for my next installment or go find a bottle and experiment with some cocktails using iichiko as a vodka replacement. Your liver will thank you.