Brand: Kawabe

Distillery: Sengetsu Shuzo Co, Ltd.

Location: Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan

Grain: rice (kome)

Koji: white (shiro)

Distillation: atmospheric distillation (joatsu)

Alcohol: 25% (50 proof)

Price: $$$


Tasting Notes

Just as champagne must come from the Champagne region of France, kumajochus must be made in Kumamoto Prefecture. These delicious rice shochus have earned World Trade Organization Appellation of Origin status, which is reserved for particularly culturally important agricultural products. Kawabe is one such shochu and may reflect the epitome of the style, at least among kumajochus currently available in the US.

Kawabe is a muroka kome shochu, meaning it was not pasteurized after distillation, leaving rich fatty acids to leave telltale droplets in the neck of the bottle. This unfiltered approach leaves the shochu with a rich nose and palate not found if charcoal filtration is used.

The nose in this case is bright with banana and hints of honey dew. The first sip leaves your mouth coated in a delicious buttered banana flavor that lingers on the tongue. The sweet middle is followed by the clean, crisp, dry finish expected from kome shochus. Yet this dry finish is not sharp like so many others of this style thanks to the luscious mouthfeel that leaves you wanting another sip.

I consider myself primarily an imo shochu drinker with a soft spot for Awamori, but Kawabe has opened up my mind to the possibilities of kome shochu. I have a feeling there’s a trip to Kumamoto in my future to explore these delicate spirits.

The Verdict

If you’re lucky enough to find a bottle of Kawabe in New York, grab it and enjoy. It’s been consistently out of stock at every liquor store and izakaya that carries it due to unexpected demand thanks to capturing the attention of several prominent izakaya bartenders and their customers. Some bars have resorted to shipping cases from California to assure uninterrupted supply.

I prefer Kawabe mixed with a bit of cold water, but it’s lovely on the rocks as well. If you insist on drinking it neat, use a splash of water to open it up a touch. It pairs extremely well with seafood and vegetable dishes, yet holds its own with light meat dishes. Consider Kawabe as an alternative to sake as its got plenty in common with that delicious brew.



3 Responses to “Kawabe”
  1. Zachary Moss says:

    Kawabe is in stock and ready to rock at Flatiron Wines & Spirits on 21st & Broadway…from my experience $28.99 ain’t too shabby for such a delicious, versatile and over all stellar libation. Thanks for the inspiration Stephen! Your reviews have been a major resource for our current line up. Kampai!

  2. Kawabe is a kome shochu 米焼酎, that is, a distilled spirit made from rice. Kawabe is 25% alcohol. It is smooth and mellow. This libation, along with Tori Kai, would be a good introduction to the World of Shochu. Another one for the novice is しろShiro. The rough edges that frequent your palate when sipping 麦 mugi (barley) or 芋 imo (sweet potato) are absent in any kome shochu. Kome shochu can be a lot of fun. Tori Kai’s nose is pineapple. Kawabe’s nose is perhaps more banana. Now previously I mentioned “rough edges.” I don’t mean this in a bad way. Mugi and Imo shochu is typically more robust and full-bodied. This umami rich fullness can be perceived as rough, macho, and/or round. Some folks describe this richness as “having hips.” I enjoy them all. Kampai, my friends. LaMonte Heflick ASP Sake Education Council Feb 2014.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] was at Sengetsu Shuzo, which makes the delicious muroka (unfilted) kuma shochu available in the US, Kawabe. Hitoyoshi Castle and the Kumagawa River are both visible from the 2nd floor of the kura. In 110 […]

Leave A Comment

Copyright © 2018 · All Rights Reserved · Kampai!