Ryukyu Ohcho Awamori
Brand: Ryukyu Ohcho (琉球王朝)
Distillery: Tarawaga Co, Ltd.
Location: Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Grain: 100% aged indica (Thai) rice
Koji: Okinawa black (kuro)
Alcohol: 24% (48 proof)
Awamori is considered a distinct Japanese spirit from shochu, but is usually conflated into the same category. In fact, Ryukyu Ohcho (not “ocho”, Mr. Google!) embraces this fully by labeling the bottle “soju” prominently. Throughout this website they’ll be treated equivalently.
Awamori is distinct in that it is unique to Okinawa and is made with aged long grain Indica rice imported from Thailand (shochu distillers use Japonica rice). The rice is crushed whole rather than polished first as is the custom with shochu. A further classification of Awamori is kusu (old liquor) which is the term when the shochu is aged a minimum of 3 years. Ryukyu Ohcho is a Kusu Awamori.
Awamori are known for their strong, rich flavors and are famous throughout Japan as premium shochus. Kusu Awamori aged 10 or more years can get very pricey. Even the “young” Kusu Awamori such as this one carries a premium compared to other shochu types.
This Awamori is a fine example of the spirit. It has a strong herbal nose that is very rich on the palate. The strong herbal flavor subsides into a moderate licorice or anise flavor before settling into a smooth neutral finish. It has a warm, earthy mouthfeel that’s not at all unexpected from the herbal scent.
It’s hard to place the taste beyond herbal, except that it tastes quite a bit like a lighter version of the Taiwanese & Chinese spirit, Kaoliang, a sorghum spirit that’s a much higher alcohol content than most Awamori.
The Verdict: Recommended
This is a richly flavored Kusu Awamori. It’s got a distinct herbal flavor that may not be a favorite of those just exploring shochu, but if you want to try an Awamori this is not a bad choice. I’ve ordered it more than once. I always scan izakaya menus for new Awamori to try, because they’re always a full flavored treat, though you never quite know what you’re going to get, but that’s part of the adventure, isn’t it?