WHAT IS SHOCHU?
Shochu is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Japan. While its popularity hasn’t spread much outside of the region, you can find many different varieties and brands of Shochu available in Japan, especially around the various islands.
This drink is generally made with grains such as rice, barley, wheat, buckwheat, or even sweet potatoes. It is a distilled drink that can either be distilled once to keep the strong flavors and aromas or it can be distilled in a continuous process that removes more of the flavors and makes a stronger alcohol content.
Many people like the enjoy strong Shochu in a cocktail mix or diluted with hot or cold water. Milder Shochu can be taken straight and is a great accompaniment to many of the local cuisines in the area the drink was brewed in.
BEST BRANDS OF SHOCHU
One of the most popular and most international brands of Shochu, iichiko is usually made with whole grains and is distilled at lower temperatures than other brands. This gives their drinks a cleaner taste that is very pleasant to sip alongside your meal.
Satsuma is a brand that comes from the region of the same name. Most of the Shochu bottles they distill are made with different varieties of sweet potatoes to achieve a sweeter or milder taste. In general this brand boasts a lot of rich flavors, sweet aromas, and delicious types of Shochu. Unfortunately, the brand does not sell all over Japan and is more localized in the Satsuma region and surrounding areas. It can also be found internationally in large cities within the US.
Yosaku Kome type Shochu uses a unique mix of rice and black rice malt distilled together. This brings a touch of sweetness to the drink which makes it much more enjoyable. It tastes great chilled, especially when served on the rocks, making it a better drink for warm weather than for colder months. Most people enjoy the smoothness that this drink offers and the enjoyable sweet flavor that is uncharacteristic of most Shochu brands.
While other varieties are available, one of the most popular Jinkoo Shochu bottles is made from sweet potatoes from Satsuma sweet potatoes, found in Kagoshima Region of Japan. This is thought of as a high quality Shochu and is even served on international flights on board some Japanese airlines. It is sweet and elegant, making it a perfect companion for a good Japanese meal or a nice drink it sip in the evening to help you relax.
You’ll find Shiro to be a purer Shochu. It is nearly colorless, but it has a strong, clear taste with a lot of aftertaste. Some people that drink this brand of Shochu find it too harsh for their liking, while others enjoy it with a meal. It’s a good brand to dilute with hot or cold water, as the alcohol content is generally higher.
Ikkomon is another brand that primarily uses sweet potatoes for their Shochu varieties. You can find bottles made from orange or white sweet potatoes, each with their own unique flavors and aromas, and you can also get your hands on bottles which have a higher sugar content. This brand usually does not have much of an aftertaste, if it has any, which makes it a popular brand for those who want something a bit sweeter and lighter to drink.
Many first time Shochu drinkers enjoy Torikai, as the flavor is mild and fruity. Although it is made primarily from rice, there are flavor additives that give it a wonderful tropical fruit aroma and slight flavor notes of fruits. There is no harsh aftertaste with this brand’s main brews, making it great for anyone that is not familiar with Shochu.
CHOOSING THE BEST SHOCHU FOR YOU
Shochu is not the right drink for everyone, but many people enjoy it with a meal or mixed into a cocktail beverage. The most popular cocktail made with Shochu is a simple blend of Shochu on the rocks with a twist of lime. Even in Japan you c