It's shop manager Ian here, and it's my birthday! While not an occasion that typically warrants promotion on e-commerce (or anyone caring to know, for that matter), we here at the shop have stumbled upon a not-insignificant number of exclusive, exciting, and hitherto unavailable shochus that have just arrived here in the U.S. And while Kayoko's birthday is also in April, mine's first, so it's my pack, and thus the burden lay on my shoulders to curate, research, taste, and share these dynamite drinks with you. Tough job, right?!
Kayoko initially wanted to put together a 31-pack for my birthday, but I thought that would have been a bit of a logistical challenge. So we decided to just go with a tight two-pack instead. These shochus are both dynamic and expressive, and provide a little more insight into just how deep the shochu styles can get.
In fact, less than 1% of all shochu makes it out of Japan, so the more expressions I get to taste, the less I feel like I know and I love it! My birthday wish is you all get to explore these too, and we can discuss them over sips and coffee at our bar. I'll see you over there!
Ryugu 30 Kokuto Shochu
A popular brand in Kyushu, Ryugu represents one of the many new and exciting Kokuto expressions to be hitting our shores. For starters, look at that bottle format! 900 ml, baby. Larger format bottles were once a luxury afforded only to sake drinkers, but recent lifting of import restrictions for spirits have proven effective; we're finally able to access larger formats and simpler bottlings that you would find in Japan. Woot!
Tomita Shuzojo uses exclusively black koji rice and traditional kame (clay-pot) for their fermentations, imparting a rich and deep character to the Okinawan kokuto before single-distillation in an atmospheric pot still. This shochu is so engaging and versatile. On the nose I get banana bread, crisp mineral, and powdered sugar. The palate is wild! Up front I get notes of juicy peach, strawberry, and a fatty sesame-like umami. This is followed by the most rich and intense expression of kokuto sugar I've ever tasted in a kokuto shochu (surprising, right?). Raisin-like sweetness and rich minerals. Enhance this sweetness of kokuto and bolster the fruity notes by drinking this oyuwari (6:4 shochu to hot water). Or bring out the smooth custardy quality by enjoying on the rocks.
Tenguzakura Yakiimo Sweet Potato Shochu
The Tenguzakura brand from Kagoshima's Shiraishi Shuzo focuses on organic, often estate-grown (or grown nearby the distillery) sweet potatoes and terroir-driven fermentations. This Tenguzakura Yakiimo, while part of the same 2016 distillation run as the domestic brand, is a limited bottling available only in the U.S. This expression is bottled at 35% ABV instead of 34%, so pulled a touch earlier from the aging tank than the rest, and closer to genshu (tank strength).
It uses Koganesengan sweet potatoes which are roasted on hot tetsu (iron) plates instead of wood fire, adding deep woodsy aromas and developed sugars overall. Black koji rice in the primary fermentation gives just the right amount of intensity and funk to this complex shochu. This one is just bizarre, but in the best way possible. On the nose I get grapefruit rind, green apple, cascara, and agave. The palate is an onslaught of numbing black pepper, molasses, bright temple incense, smoke, and marzipan. Look out for the surprise pineapple on the finish (it'll take a while).
Ian's Birthday Shochu Pack features
- 1- Ryugu 30 Kokuto Shochu (BTL 30 oz)
- 1- Tenguzakura Yakiimo 35 Shochu (BTL 24 oz)