Brand: Kaido iwai no aka
Distillery: Hamada Shuzo, Co. Ltd.
Location: Satsuma, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
Grain: 83% kogane-sengan sweet potato & 17% rice
kojii: black (kuro)
alcohol content: 24%
I’ve been eyeing Kaido iwai no aka for well over a year. The stunning red bottle is undoubtably alluring and “iwai no aka” refers to the celebratory red color of the bottle. The shochu, however is clear. I remember sitting at an izakaya in midtown Manhattan and watching enviously as a Japanese customer poured from the gorgeous bottle.
Of course, you should never judge a book by its cover (and beauty is only skin deep), what really matters is what’s inside. This is where Kaido also surprises. It starts interestingly with a hint of juniper on the palate, but that’s quickly replaced with a light mellowness – a neutrality that would make this an excellent mixer for cocktails if you want to avoid korui shochu (multiply distilled). Kaido finishes with the slightest hint of cinammon, but just a tease like that gorgeous red bottle itself.
Verdict: Worth Drinking
This is the rare sweet potato shochu that doesn’t own up to the robust, flavorful, complex reputation that this variety so richly deserves, instead it is a mellow, extremely easy drinking spirit much more closely akin to a light mugi shochu. If you’re in the mood for something light, but still want some interesting flavors beneath the surface – juniper and cinnamon in the same glass – then it’s probably worth savoring the lady in red.