To get amped for our event tomorrow night with Akita Seishu Brewery, I want to highlight the little known category of kasutori shochu for this segment of Shochu'sday. I featured kasutori shochu for our latest Shochu Gumi selections – one bottle is by Akita Seishu called Namahage "Devil's Mask" Kasutori Shochu, which we'll be tasting together virtually during the event, with toji Akihiro Sasaki. Kasutori shochu is SO COOL because it is made by distilling sake lees. It's like the lovechild of sake + distillation.
I unearthed this special bottle of Zenshin Kasutori Shochu, that I had buried deep in my liquor cabinet. Yoshimasa Ogawahara, late owner of Shinkame Brewery, had gifted me this bottle when we visited him in 2015, asking him to export Shinkame sakes to the states. He was a soft spoken, kind man, and very strict and opinionated when it came to sake. Known to resurrect junmai sakes after the war – sakes made only with rice, koji, water, yeast; without additives – Ogawahara-san only drank his sakes warm, and looked down upon the trend of drinking it out of wine glass. His email address was something like "purericesake at gmail.com".
So you would think that a man of Ogawahara-san's stature would shun shochu as well, as it is sake's biggest competitor in Japan. But he appreciated all drinks, and told us he was a big shochu drinker and waved Yoko and me off with a bottle each of this shochu as a gift.
Made by Ochiai Shuzo in Miyazaki prefecture (same maker as Rihei Ginger Shochu), this shochu is decadent. Made with white koji, and aged for three years, it is custard in a glass. I enjoy it best 50/50 with hot water, which brings out some spicy anise tones. Also interesting to note that this is atmospherically distilled, which is rare for kasutori shochu, which is usually made by the vacuum method.
I wish I could sit down with Ogawahara-san again, and drink hot sake and shochu with him all night and ask him if he would start making shochu! But alas, I shall bring out this bottle of Zenshin now and again to remember him by – a great legend of sake who also loved shochu.