Tenpo: The Date Shochu
Brand: Tenpo (天歩)
Distillery: Inoue Syuzo Co., Ltd.
Location: Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: dates (natsumeyashi)
Alcohol: 36% (72 proof)
By “the date shochu” we don’t mean a shochu that’s good to drink when you’re on a date, though that may be true as well. We mean a shochu made from dates. In fact, Tenpo is the only shochu made from dates. That puts it pretty far afield from the usual shochu grains – sweet potato, barley, or rice. It’s also one of the only genshu (undiluted) shochus available in the U.S. As expected, the 36% alcohol is much more present than with diluted shochus. Further complicating this already interesting shochu is the aging process. The distiller, Inoue Shuzo of Miyazaki Prefecture who also makes the very light mugi, Aakoni, ages Tenpo in repurposed European oak barrels. A light golden color results and, of course, the flavor profile is enhanced with notes of golden spirit.
Unsurprisingly, the nose is of raisin with hints of freshly chopped wood. On the tongue are hints of grape jelly at the front, but these are never delivered. A hugely honeyed sweetness overwhelms the grape. Woodiness follows before descending into a faintly quinine bitterness. Not an unpleasant bitterness at all.
The Verdict: Recommended
Tenpo is one of those shochus that’s difficult to define. The dates coupled with the oak aging give this a brandy-like quality, though of course, with less golden color, less sugar, and slightly lower alcohol. The richness and sweetness are mixed with the wood and the bitterness giving it a complexity that goes well with richly flavored foods. Tenpo would also make a lovely digestif.