Zuisen is perhaps the largest distiller of Awamori in Okinawa. This Hakuryu represents their entry level Awamori, though they have domestic varieties that are aged at more than 20 years. Like all Awamori, this represents a full flavored shochu with a great deal of complexity. These spirits are difficult to place flavor-wise and the only that I was able to distinguish clearly from Zuisen was a molasses palate. Unlike other Awamori I’ve had this one is quite balanced. I wouldn’t necessarily call it smooth, but it is mellow for the style.
Vast shochu selection at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, NJ. Easily the largest shochu selection I’ve seen outside of Japan. Really impressive selection.
What to choose?!
I came home with:
Gyokuro – a green tea shochu ($28.99)
Jinkoo – a mugi (barley) shochu from the same distiller ($28.99)
Kagemusha – an imo (sweet potato) shochu ($19.99)
Akanone Ninjin – a carrot shochu ($34.99)
Toki No Kokuin – a rice shochu ($24.99)
Enma – a mugi shochu ($29.99)
Akamaoh – an imo shochu ($24.99)
This represents just a small portion of their selection. I see many, many trips back to Mitsuwa in my future.… Read More “Mitsuwa Shochu Aisle”
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. Ginza is aged in repurposed American white oak bourbon barrels. This gives the shochu its yellowish tint and oaky, smokey nose and taste. On the pallette it starts with the strangely oaken, earthy flavor that transforms into a sweet caramel.
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.
More often than not when I introduce Americans to shochu, they almost invariably think I said soju, and unless they're indiscriminate drinkers they're not that interested in trying "soju" again. Like many Americans, I'd heard of Korean soju long before I'd heard of Japanese shochu. I suppose this is because in the U.S. soju is often available in Korean restaurants while shochu is rarely available in Japanese restaurants.
Jougo was my first introduction to “black sugar” shochu. Black sugar is a richer, darker Asian version of western brown sugar. It contains molasses and sugar cane. And it’s delicious. If you can find black sugar in your local Asian market, pick some up and experiment with it as a replacement for other sweeteners. Jougo is smooth, sweet, and rounded. It lacks the complexity of many other shochus, but it’s easy drinking. It’s not as sweet as you’d expect from something distilled from a sugar, which is probably due to the spring water added at the end of the distillation process.