Yamasemi Rice Shochu
A heartfelt Shochu'sday greeting to you and yours. Ian here! I'm a Certified Shochu Advisor with Sake School of America, and Kayoko's resident shochu nephew here at Umami Mart. I assist Kayoko in keeping our shochu selections current and snazzy and spend a lot of time looking at shochus on Instagram that we can't get in the States.
While I can most often be found drinking imo (sweet potato) shochu, I am what you'd call an equal opportunity shochu drinker: if it's good, I'm up for it! That's why for this Shochu'sday I decided to go a few rounds with Yamasemi, a rice shochu from Osuzuyama Distillery with my cat Bruno.
You may be familiar with Miyazaki's Kurokihonten, makers of Hyakunen no Kodoku, Kiroku, and Naka Naka. This is their newer sister distillery with modern updates, but built for completely handmade traditional distillation with no automation, and way up in the mountains for access to pristine water. Skurnik's Japanese Portfolio Director Jamie Graves visited there in 2019, and you can see some beautiful photos here.
This shochu is distilled from rice grown at the distillery (a local variety called Hanakagura), and fermented with white koji. It uses atmospheric distillation, a method that allows for a high boiling temperature which results in more volatiles in the distillate. You can really taste this in the cup! It reveals layers of funk, florality, and spice, but is still remarkably clean like one would expect from a traditional rice shochu. I get lemongrass, mochi, cinnamon, and kinako.
I thoroughly enjoyed this on the rocks with Cook Do Buta no Kurosu Itame (you can read more about that here) and my favorite Talking Heads record. A fine night indeed.
Also, a quick plug for the Japan Distilled Podcast! It's hosted by two Shochu and Awamori professionals, and they go into deep dives on every conceivable category of these amazing libations. This is their recent episode about rice shochu. In addition to the podcast, they also do a weekly Shochu'sday episode on YouTube and Facebook live.
Until the next Shochu'sday, thanks for reading, and kanpai!