Kintaro – a roasted barley shochu
Distillery: Nishiyoshida Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: barley (mugi)
Koji: black (kuro)
Distillation: atmospheric (joatsu)
Alcohol: 25% (50 proof)
A number of shochus available in the US use roasted grains to impart unique flavor characteristics. Beniotome tastes surprisingly like black (roasted) sesame ice cream (without the sugar) while Towari (review coming soon) uses a similar approach to soba (buckwheat). Roasted sweet potato shochus also exist, but haven’t reached our shores. They’re definitely an acquired taste. Kintaro manages to do this and yet retain depth of character often lost with the overt roasted flavors.
Kintaro is a premium barley shochu from Nishiyoshia Syuzou in Fukuoka, which I was fortunate enough to visit last summer. I’d sought them out for that trip specifically because of their fantastic barley shochus, which have only recently begun appearing in the U.S. They’ve yet to catch on, but it’s only a matter of time.
Kintaro represents the extreme of the Nishiyoshida line-up’s flavor spectrum. A yeasty roasted grain nose pervades, promising a flavor experience unlike other barley shochus. The inital mouth is roasted and sweet, which slowly fades into a dry grassy bite before sliding into a faintly cinnamon finish. This flavor journey makes it one of the most complex and interesting in the variety and assures that you’ll find something new each time you reflect on a glass.
My personal preference is to use roasted grain shochus as after dinner drinks standing alone or paired with dessert. Kintaro would go great with a creme brulee or cheese cake. There aren’t many shochus I consistently drink straight rather than on the rocks or with hot or cold water, but Kintaro is one of those.