Kurokame: Exceptional Imo
Distillery: Kame Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: 100% Satsuma sweet potato (imo)
Alcohol: 25% (50 proof)
Kurokame is a surprising imo shochu. Given the relatively modest price and the consistent imo shochu style, we expected another earthy, herbal imo. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – we enjoy imos of all types. This imo is made with “purple” Satsuma sweet potatoes. These potatoes have a robust reddish purple skin, but are a pale yellow inside.
There doesn’t appear to be any grain filler in this shochu – just pure sweet potatoes (waiting on a Japanese translation of their website to confirm). It’s distilled traditionally in earthen pots (kame) using black koji (kuro koji) – thus the name, Kurokame – or black stone pot.
Kurokame has a surprisingly neutral nose. There’s that “surprising” word again – imos tend to smell like fresh dirt (in a good way). This imo smells more subtle – almost a roasted essence. The initial palate is spicy with a rich sweetness. And then the roast hits – a roasted wheat flavor. The roast holds along with a hint of sweet spiciness throughout the finish.
The Verdict: Highly Recommended
In a word this is a delicious imo shochu. It’s difficult to decide whether we prefer it neat, cut with water (hot or cold), or on the rocks. This is the first shochu of any variety that has topped 90 points in our admittedly subjective scoring. We liked it so much we made a special trip to a Japanese market (Marukai Pacific Market in the Gardena neighborhood in Los Angeles) and bought another bottle for our personal collection.