A bitter chill has fallen over the land, and now more than ever we are feeling emo. Or imo? We need the comfort and warmth provided by cozy oyuwari, soft and supple fruity flavor profiles, and rich, sweet, satisfying shochu goodness that only imojochu (sweet potato shochu) can provide. With that, we present to you a new edition of Don't Be Imo! To the uninitiated, this is an annual feature where we get ahold of new imo shochus and share them in an exclusive pack and release them for the imo-est day of the year – Valentine's Day!

While we are fairly faithful and don't usually stray too far from imo shochu on the daily, it's always special when we get an opportunity to find yet further stellar examples of just how much diversity there is in this particular style. In this edition of Don't Be Imo, we've nailed two variations on tried-and-true long-standing brands of Satsuma shochu (shochu distilled in Kagoshima prefecture using Kagoshima-grown sweet potatoes).

We're spotlighting this Kirishimacho Jyoryusho Distillery with two excellent bottles of imo shochu from their portfolio, that have been imported just for us! Both are made from local red and purple sweet potatoes, stated by the brewery to be prized for bringing amazuppai (sweet and sour) character to their shochu expressions – think notes of rich caramels and custards alongside tart berries and yogurt – taste the rainbow!

As it relates to the reason for the season, amazuppai koi 甘酸っぱい恋 is the all-too relatable idea of a bittersweet first love. In our case, we're ga-ga for killer imo shochu and can't stop thinking about it, but we only get the chance for a DBI feature once a year! Agh.

Appreciate the sweet in addition to sour – we can't have one without the other, so don't be imo!

Kirishimacho Jyoryusho Distillery

For over 112 years, Kirishimacho Distillery has been using traditional clay-pot fermentation techniques, local Kagoshima sweet potatoes grown in mineral-rich volcanic soil, and pristine water from Mt. Kirishima to make their Satsuma Shochu. They take pride in making stellar products from the best local resources. Enjoy this pack as a double-sampler of the sweet, fruity, and exciting expressions of imojochu that are possible when taking advantage of constantly-changing local raw materials.

Whether you've been enjoying the large format isshobin, have been in Shochu Gumi since December 2020, or are just a fan of imo shochu in general, Akarui Nouson is a staple in the genre, and a shining example of funky, bright, fruity, and easy to drink shochu. After much applause from Shochu Gumi members and regular customers alike, we brought Nouka no Yome on as well, and it has since been a longtime best-seller and staff and customer favorite.

If you're feeling intrepid, pick up the original expressions of Akarui Nouson and Nouka no Yome - drink and compare! These new shochus have so much in common with their predecessors, but have characteristics which set them apart and make for a fun study for the imo shochu freaks among us. 

Akarui Nouson Akaimo Jikomi Sweet Potato Shochu 

This has all the bright, fruity flair of the standard Akarui Nouson brand with more volume, complexity, and sweetness across the board. While Akarui Nouson is light, juicy, and fairly unassuming, the Akaimo Jikomi version is a more layered experience, with the perfect level of intensity at every stage. On the nose we get fresh blueberry, maple, and powdered sugar, while the palate is thick yet subtly sweet; we get aromas of pineapple cake, black pepper, and a strikingly clean mineral-rich aromatic finish of kokuto sugar. 

Our favorite way to enjoy this has been sodawari. The brightness of the club soda elevates the fruitier aspects of the shochu from deeper, sweet stonefruit and berry notes to brighter tropical notes of banana and mango. We enjoyed this with a greasy ol' pizza with pepperoni and vinegar peppers and it was smashing, like a bright, not-too-sweet fruit seltzer, cutting perfectly through the oil and complementing the meat and cheese. The brewer recommends rocks or mizuwari (cut with ice and water) for this shochu.

Nouka no Yome Murasaki Yaki Imo Sweet Potato Shochu 

Nouka no Yome Yaki Imo remains to this day the only brand of Yaki Imo (roasted sweet potato) shochu available in the U.S. (with the exception of the new Murasaki release, and whether at our bar, in the shop, or at home, we put it to pretty good use. It's basically our unofficial house go-to for oyuwari (cut with hot water) shochu. While the original Nouka no Yome has dry aromas and a subtle palate overall, the Eimurasaki and Ayamurasaki potatoes used offer so much more fruit and complexity to the matter.  On the nose we get root beer, red grape, and flan. The palate is sumptuous, with notes of tamarind, yogurt, and a lingering aromatic finish of honey butter. YUM.  

The brewer recommends oyuwari for this shochu, and we agree. The higher temperature brings out a ton more sweetness and complexity, and makes it rich and cozy. Treat yourself to notes of marshmallow, yellow peach, strawberry yogurt, and a hint of Thai iced tea on the finish. This succulent shochu shines as oyuwari, warming even the coldest of hearts. Grab an oyuwari glass and get to it!   

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We are constantly scouring the market for new shochus making their way into the U.S. so we can keep spreading the good word about this fine spirit, and our members usually get first dibs. If you love shochu or just want to keep learning more about it, consider joining our shochu club! You'll be in good company.

Don't Be Imo Pack 2023 - Kirishimacho Edition Features:

  • 1 - Akarui Nouson Akaimo Jikomi Sweet Potato Shochu (720ml, Kirishimacho Jyoryusho Kagoshima, 24% ALC/VOL)
  • 1 - Nouka no Yome Murasaki Yaki Imo Sweet Potato Shochu (720ml, Kirishimacho Jyoryusho, 24% ALC/VOL)
    Please note: We can not deliver alcoholic products to SD, UT, MS, AL, VT, KY.