Tantakatan

tantakatanBrand: Tantakatan

Distillery: Godo Shusei Co, Ltd.

Location: Asahikawa, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Grain: unknown + Red Perilla (shiso)

Koji: unknown

Distillation: low pressure (genatsu)

Alcohol: 20% (40 proof)

Price: $$

 

Tasting Notes

 

I don’t usually do this. I’m reviewing both a non-authentic (not honkaku) shochu and one for which I am unsure exactly how the main grain sugars are extracted. Nevertheless, Tantakatan is a famous shochu both in Japan and among Westerners who have formerly lived in Japan. It’s a shiso shochu, though it’s production methods are opaque.

The base is either a grain alcohol, akin to Juhyo Suntory or Korean soju, or it’s a barley (mugi) or rice (kome) ferment. Given the price point and the flavor, I’m leaning toward the grain alcohol theory at this point, though I’m happy to be corrected. Either way, red shiso ( known in the West as perilla) is added during fermentation and before distillation. The reason for my speculation is that it does not qualify as honkaku shochu, but shiso is an accepted ingredient. So either it’s made using a patent still rather than a pot still, goes through a pot still more than once, or is made using an enzyme rather than koji to convert starches to sugars. I suspect more than one of these may be true.

Nevertheless, Tantakatan is an easy drinking shochu with distinct shiso notes and aromas, though it also carries a bit of seaweed funk in the nose. It’s not as strongly shiso-flavored as you get form a shiso-infused shochu (Uminoie in NYC makes it in-house if you’re ever hoping to try).

This is only 20% ABV, which is standard among Hokkaido shochu. Hokkaido is relatively new to shochu production, but has begun to grow a reputation for both jaga imo (white potato) and konbu (kelp) shochu. It’s unclear why 20% is favored over the usual 25% ABV of Kyushu shochu outside Oita.

The Verdict: Recommended

Not available in the U.S., but available in Canada, Tantakatan has a bit of a legendary reputation among American shochu lovers who haven’t spent much time in Japan. Nevertheless, it’s a convenience store shochu with a big reputation. There are authentic shiso shochu available, though harder to find, which will leave Tantakatan with its reputation intact for years to come. Certainly worth trying if you can get your hands on a bottle. Drink it on the rocks or brighten it with a splash of soda. Definitely not a shochu to drink warm.

Kampai!

tantakatan chart

Comments
4 Responses to “Tantakatan”
  1. Jason C. says:

    Glad to see some shochu lovers in the U.S.! I am half Japanese and have lived in Japan on and off through my life, and on my recent trip to Japan fell back in love with this shochu. My serious shochu drinking Japanese friends sometimes consider this a “cute” drink when I order it (always on the rocks), but for me, my love of this drink is deeply rooted in the shiso leaf. As a child I picked shiso leaves with my Japanese obaachan (grandma) and the shiso leaf is such a distinctly Japanese flavor. This fragrant shiso flavor is presented well in this smooth, easy-drinking shochu (though I don’t pick up on the seaweed funk that you mention – maybe my nose is not as sensitive). I just brought a bottle back with me to the U.S., and every glass is like taking a sip of Japanese nostalgia. I also brought back a roasted mugi shochu as a nice contrast.

    • Stephen says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I didn’t notice the seaweed (it’s almost a konbu dashi aroma) until I’d tried many other shochu and then returned to Tantakatan. My nose has definitely evolved over the past 6 years of doing these reviewers.

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  2. Luna says:

    I’m not particularly a fan of shochu. Though, some that I have tried have been pretty harsh and almost too difficult to even swallow because of its taste. When I visit my friend on Osaka, he’s always offering me a shochu. More or less, he’s playfully offering it to me now because I find it difficult to drink. That is, until we went to this one place that had this shiso leaf shochu.

    I was first drawn to the label of this shochu, when I noticed it sitting on the shelf, behind the bar. Not knowing what it was, I asked if I may see the bottle, and then discovered that it was a shochu, and was made with shiso leaf. Having never tried this, I ordered a glass of it on the rocks. Ever since then, I’ve been ordering it when I see that its available. I even brought home a 720ml bottle last May. Though, in hindsight, I should have taken home an 1800ml bottle instead.

    Because of this shochu, I may venture further into sampling others. More so from Aomori and Hokkaido. I have tried a couple others from those regions, and have come to the conclusion that I do enjoy the style of shochu from these areas. I myself am not very familiar with the different regional shochu there are, and the varying differences in the process that goes into making each kind. Though, I’m eager to see and try more to see which ones I do find palatable.

    • Stephen says:

      Thank you for your story. It sounds like you might prefer the lighter 20% alcohol shochu from Oita and Miyazaki Prefectures as well. Light barley shochu such as iichiko or Nikkaido might be pleasant to you. Hokkaido is also known for 20% alcohol shochu. I like the konbu and white potato shochus from Hokkaido as well.

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