imo (sweet potato)

Imo shochus tend to be among the most popular and flavorful varieties in Japan. In the U.S. these are available, though because shochu is so often described as “Japanese vodka”, the rice and barley varieties are more popular.

When we first began exploring shochu a few years ago, the imos were challenging. Often herbal, “harsh” (compared to rice or barley), and a bit too adventurous. However, we’ve gradually come around and while we usually won’t order imos when introducing novices to shochu, we will drink it ourselves regularly.

If you’re ready to try imo for yourself, we recommend Kuratake as a nice introduction to the style. It’s light, not overwhelming, but if you’re ready to go full on into the rich earthiness that it’s known for, then you should start out with Kuro Godai.

Without further explanation, here are our compiled Imo reviews so far.


TOP 5 US MARKET IMO SHOCHUS (alphabetical): 

Ikkomon Made with sweet potato koji. A dry, peppery, delicious shochu.

Kozuru Kuro  A rich, sweet imo with notes of maple syrup & molasses.

Satoh Kuro An unbelievably rich sweet potato shochu with roasted notes.

Tomi No Hozan This is a premium imo made with yellow koji. Complex and refined.

Tenshi No Yuwaku The most expensive import shochu on the US market and worth it – an undiluted shochu aged for a decade in sherry casks.



Aisome We are taken with this shochu. It’s affordable, has a lovely bottle, and interesting flavor.

Aka Kirishima A very popular seasonal red sweet potato shochu.

Akamaoh A sweet, balanced smooth imo shochu aged in clay pots for a year.

Jinkoo The Perfect Skies shochu featured on JAL flights, won us over with its balanced flavor.

Kagemusha A balanced, nicely priced imo. Definitely worth drinking.

Kaido iwai no aka This is a light, mellow imo that if you didn’t know better you’d think was another grain.

Kaikouzu This is one “big” imo with tons of flavor and aroma. Not for the uninitiated, but a treat if you like imo.

Kappa No Sasoi Mizu A lower alcohol, but full flavored imo shochu. Delicious.

Kiccho Hozan A balanced, earthy black koji sweet potatos shochu.

Kura No Shikon A traditionally distilled black koji imo shochu with a rich and delicious flavor profile.

Kuratake A surprisingly light and interesting shochu from Kumamoto.

Kuro Godai An unfiltered, robust, earthy shochu.

Kuro Isanishiki An extremely dry, earthy imo. Perfect for tsumami.

Kuro Kirishima A solid entry and a good introduction to imo shochus for the uninitiated.

Kurokame A really lovely example of the imo style, yet affordable!

Satsuma Godai The last samurai shochu delivers on quality and value.

Satsuma Hozan Complex white koji shochu from the famous Nishi Shuzo in Kagoshima.

Satsuma Mura A bold, earthy, dry traditionally distilled imo. A mouthful of complexity.

Satsuma Shiranami A classic imo shochu made with white koji and traditional pressure distillation.

Shiranami Kurokoji  An affordable, flavorful imo.

Shiroku-No-Gon Dryness permeates thanks to earthy, herbal, and floral notes throughout.

Tenson Kourin A rich, complex, yet affordable imo shochu.


JAPAN DOMESTIC IMO SHOCHUS: We love these, but not available here.  

Aka Mosaku A red potato shochu from Kumamoto Prefecture with overt notes of peanut butter.

Kohitten An oak aged imo shochu with a rich, luscious palate. Unique in our experience.

Maou One of the 3 M’s in Japan. A sweet, delicate sweet potato shochu.




Sweet Potatoes courtesy of Petr Kratochvil.

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