Obsessed with Shochu?

shochu lineup

On Monday, November 23, 2015, I had the distinct pleasure of appearing on the Japan Eats radio show with host Akiko Katayama on the Heritage Radio Network. If you’re not familiar with Akiko’s show, it’s a beautiful exploration of Japanese food and beverage in an easily accessible format through interview with local New York chefs, restaurant owners, and experts in a variety of areas. She also occasionally has guests visiting from Japan. In each case she explores some unique aspect of Japanese food culture.

In my episode (#23), of course, we discussed shochu. I decided to write a post about it so you could follow the shochu brands I introduced on the show. All four were representative of the 4 styles of shochu that have been granted Appellation of Origin Status from the World Trade Organization.  I chose these specific brands based on their unique packaging, all of which are smaller than our standard bottle sizes. From left to right in the photo above:

  • An Awamori from Taragawa Shuzo in Okinawa aged for nearly a decade in clay pots. Awamori is always made from Thai rice with black koji and is usually aged in clay prior to bottling. In fact, in Okinawa, many distilleries will sell Awamori in clay pots to customers who live near the distillery. This particular Awamori is made in Miyakojma, Okinawa, and the clay pot aging rounds out the flavor with hints of maple syrup or molasses.
  • A great old school bottle from Isami, a Satsuma shochu, or sweet potato shochu made in Kagoshima. Unfortunately, I finished the original contents so I refilled this bottle with another Satsuma shochu, the unfiltered (muroka), Yamato Zakura Takumi, which I helped produce the first time I interned at Yamato Zakura distillery.
  • Torikai, which is the only of these brands available in the U.S. This is a Kuma shochu, or rice shochu produced in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto. Torikai is a ginjo shochu meaning it’s made with polished sake rice rather than food rice. It’s also produced in a sake style, which gives it a completely unique flavor profile among rice shochu. The bottle is approximately 100ml.
  • Choto Dake, which means “just a little”, and as you can tell from the graphics, is referring to flirtation. This is an Iki shochu, a barley shochu made on Iki Island in Nagasaki. The plastic bottle is meant for sale in convenience stores and since you often don’t have access to ice or water when drinking on the go, this shochu is diluted down to 12 percent alcohol rather than the usual 20-25%.

Hope this helps with your shochu exploration and I hope you enjoyed the show! Would love to hear your thoughts and whether you have ideas for future episodes.


akiko and stephen

2 Responses to “Obsessed with Shochu?”
  1. Marcus says:

    Obviously it’s been a while, but I’ve just managed to listen to your Japan Eats Podcast episode. It was excellent. It’s the first time I’ve taken notes from the show. I was excited to here that Tori Kai, which I discovered 16 years ago in Kagoshima as a shochu novice and consider a favourite, was featured on the show. I’m very interested in the Choko Dake from Iki. I will try to seek it out the next time I’m in Japan (hopefully this June). I will be in Tokyo. Do you think I’ll have a chance finding it?
    Anyway, great show, excellent website. Keep up the good (shochu) work!

    • Stephen says:

      Marcus, thanks for the feedback. Really appreciated. I’ve not seen Chotto Dake anywhere other than Iki, but if anyone has that or something in the same style in Tokyo, it’s likely to be SHOCHU AUTHORITY in Shiodome. They carry about 3,000 brands at any given time and stock is constantly rotating. Just ask for a “genatsu ikijochu” and they should be able to point you to something similar to Chotto Dake.

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