Distillery: Yatsushika Sake Brewery, Co. Ltd.
Location: Kusu, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
Grain: 100% mugi (barley)
Koji: white (shiro)
Distillation: vacuum still (genatsu)
Ginza is best known as a popular neighborhood in Tokyo so the name of this shochu could be misleading, suggesting a trendy product that’s more commercial than it is quality. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ginza is an aged shochu from a distillery in a remote village on Kyushu Island that has been producing sake since 1864.
Ginza no Suzume Kohaku may be the first shochu I tried that showed just how diverse and complex this style of spirit can be. Ginza is a barley shochu, much like iichiko, which I consider a super easy drinking, mild, tasty starter-shochu, yet the two couldn’t be more different.
Kohaku is aged in repurposed American white oak bourbon barrels. This gives the shochu its golden tint and oaked, smokey nose and taste. On the palette it starts with the strangely oaken, earthy flavor that transforms into a sweet caramel. The finish is reminiscent of mint, as if you’ve just finished a piece of chewing gum. Overall it tastes remarkably like a very light whiskey thanks to the aging.
The Verdict: Recommended
This is an exceptionally flavorful shochu. Great complexity, interesting nose, lovely finish. I really don’t have any substantive complaints except perhaps that if I wanted to drink whiskey, I’d drink whiskey, but I guess that’s not entirely true, because I’ve had this bottle more than once.