Taiso, a relative newcomer to the US market, packs a robust smoky, but traditional Iki Island punch which pairs well with meals. Similar to its fellow ikijochu, Yamanomori, Taiso is made with a 2:1 ratio mix of barley to rice.
Brand: Kagura no Mai
Distillery: Kagura Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: 36% buckwheat (soba), 34% barley (mugi), 30% rice (kome)
Koji: white (shiro)
Distillation: low pressure (genatsu) – suspected
Alcohol: 24% (48 proof)
Soba shochus are not common in the US and Kagura no Mai may be the hardest to track down among the brands that are here. Like all soba shochus in my experience, this one comes from Miyazaki Prefecture, which has developed a bit of a soba shochu reputation in the northern areas near the border with Kumamoto and Oita. Miyazaki tends to be the most versatile prefecture as far as varieties of shochu. While Oita and Nagasaki are dominated by barley shochus, Kumamoto by rice shochus, and Kagoshima by sweet potato shochus, Miyazaki has freed itself to make everything. And they make so many things well.
Kagura no Mai, with its plain black and white label with abstract drawings of village life, doesn’t shout from you off the shelf. Nor does is grab you out of the glass. It’s light and clean with the forward aromas of sake yeast. This leads me to believe it’s a low pressure distillate and that the distillery has chosen to use a traditional sake yeast rather than one of the more neutral shochu yeasts.
The flavor is dry and grassy, likely thanks to using 3 different grains, and it finishes with the expected soba sweetness you’ll find in other soba shochu.