Brand: Kuro Kirishima
Distillery: Kirishima Shuzo Co., Ltd.
Location: Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
Grain: 83% imo (sweet potato) & 17% rice
koji: kuro (black)
alcohol content: 25%
Sweet Potato, or imo, shochus are perhaps the most common in Japan, though they don’t receive quite as much love in the United States. Rice & barley shochus tend to be smoother and easier to drink and since there is no equivalent Americn spirit distilled with sweet potato, imo shochus tend to have stronger flavors than we’re accustomed to from a clear spirit.
That said, for the shochu afficionado, it’s tough to top imo, except perhaps or the legendary Awamori, which are unique to Okinawa. And which Okinawans would claim (correctly) are distinct spirits.
Kuro Kirishima is a nice, relatively smooth entry into the world of imo shochu thanks to the rice content. With a soft, faintly yammy nose, the first thing that strikes you about the flavor is that it’s much richer than the barley or rice shochus. The taste is just a hint smokey, lightly sweet, with an underlying complexity that’s difficult to describe (I’ll amend this with a future tasting). It’s still clear so the rich flavor is unexpected. There is an almost warm mouthfeel despite the ice with the pleasant aftertaste of melon. It lingers unobtrusively on the pallet until you take a bite or have another sip.
If you’re intersted in trying imo shochu for the first time, this is a very nice choice. Same if you’re in the mood for an imo, but aren’t quite up to the adventure that some provide. While others may be richer, more bold, and more distinctive, this is an easy drinker that goes well with a wide variety of food. It’s definitely one of my go-to options when it’s available.