Japan Society – Gohan Society – SIP Japan Event

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Sunday night the Japan Society, Gohan Society, and SIP Japan together hosted a nomi hodai (all you can drink) shochu event at Apartment 13, a restaurant in Alphabet City.  Ten different distillers attended and each brought 3 to 5 different brands of shochu to share.  On top of shochu neat, on the rocks, and with water, you could also try specialty cocktails made by house mixologists.  Apartment 13 also had free appetizers that were both creative and varied.  Basics like black cod worked well with shochu and they made it possible to try out raw oysters with shochu.  It was an extremely rewarding pairing!

It was very evident that the distillers had their own employees staffing the event.  Everyone was incredibly knowledgeable about their product and about shochu in general.  There were two standouts from the night.  Helios Distillery had a Kokuto (brown sugar) ume shu that takes a sweet drink and makes it sweeter… but in a good way.  Another big surprise was Iichiko.  To be honest, up until Sunday all I’ve tasted from Iichiko was their Iichiko Silhouette.  This is one of the most mass produced shochu brands, made by the largest Japanese shochu makers in the world.  Silhouette was not a memorable experience, so I believed that their other brands were also very well marketed and unremarkable.  This was not the case.  Kurobin was definitely an entertaining experience, and my reaction to one sip of Frasco was that it is “dangerous”.  Iichiko Frasco is one of the highest proof brands of shochu and it is extremely easy to drink.  Frasco reminded me of an extremely expensive vodka.  Reviews coming soon.

Check out the pictures of the event below.  They show the event far better than I can describe.  If attending one of these events in the future, it definitely pays to show up on time or even early.  We were one of the first to arrive and had 7 distillers and 3 waitresses at our complete disposal for half an hour.  The level of attention was definitely worth the awkwardness of showing up to the party early.

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Apartment 13

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Distiller prepping for the evening

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Satsuma Shuzo’s offering for the evening.

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The mixed drink selections

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Bartender hard at work

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Iichiko’s table for the evening

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The shochu on the right is a IWC award winner… that currently is not available in America.

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This is Helios Shuzo’s table. They had the unique kokuto Ume Shu.

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Sakamai’s Liquid Omakase

Shochu Mixed Drink 

Last Friday’s Shochu Omakase at Sakamai was great fun.  With the better half feeling a bit under the weather I headed off to this event by myself with the expectation of trying a new shochu and making it an early night.  Having arrived at the event, I was greeted by the event planner for Sakamai, and then introduced to Jesse Falowitz, one of the managing partners for Mizu Shochu.  He gave me a quick introduction to his brand and then placed me at the bar in front of Raphael Reyes, the mixologist responsible for the mixed drinks of the evening.  The staff proactively tried to make sure that most guests were given the same round of introductions.

With Haamonii Shochu now discontinued and EvenStar not available in New York City, I was excited to try my first shochu with American roots.  Jesse and his partner devised the product and have it produced by Munemasa Distillery in Arita Japan.  It is their belief that one of the hindrances to shochu’s popularity in America is that shochu tends to be 40 to 50 proof and Americans prefer a stronger distilled beverage.  Though shochu does tend to be a bit weaker than western liquor, I must say that shochu available in America tends to be even weaker than shochu in Japan.  I’ve even noticed that the exact same product exported to America is more diluted.

MizuShochu

Mizu Shochu is what is called a genshu shochu, this means that it is not diluted from cask strength when bottling.   At 70 proof, it’s certainly stronger than most shochu available in America, and ranks right up there with Lees or Awamori I’ve had in Japan.  What’s interesting is that Mizu shochu’s smooth flavor does not disclose its added proof straight away.  It is surprisingly smooth for being almost 50% stronger than many other shochu available here.  Though we will wait for a full review of the shochu for proper conditions, I will say that the smooth carmel nature of this shochu makes it satisfying on the rocks.

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Besides Mizu Shochu on the rocks, the other three drinks were hand crafted by Raphael Reyes.  Though the “Ginza Rose” was a bit too sweet for my tastes, the “Sunset in the Garden of Edo” and “Kyushu Belle” were both incredibly satisfying.  The “Sunset” had a spicy tomato base that reminded me of a refreshing bloody mary and the “Kyushu Belle” had amazing bell pepper and pepper spice flavors that are not often present in a shochu based drink.  In order to serve the large crowd present on Friday evening, some of the artisan drinks were mixed before the event started.  I would have enjoyed seeing how all of these drinks went together.

 Sakamai

 

Event in NYC! Shochu Tasting at Sakamai

Image Courtesy of Sakamai

Image Courtesy of Sakamai

So I’ve previously mentioned that Sakamai creates exciting events but have had problems attending them all due to the short notice I have when I discover them online.  I saw this event on Tuesday, and though that’s not a huge amount of notice, I hadn’t made plans for Friday and the fact that this event is at 10pm means that work really shouldn’t interfere.  The event, as mentioned in this post’s title, is at Sakamai on the Lower East Side at the corner of Ludlow and Stanton.

Starting out with the important aspect of cost, the fee is $35 online @ http://liquid-omakase.bpt.me and $40 at the door.  This gets you 3 cocktails made by Raphael Reyes and one pour of Mizu Shochu.  Though I generally like the idea of most events at Sakamai, the fact that this one is also sponsored by Mizu Shochu also further peaked my interest due to them showing up in the news..  Mizu Shochu recently sponsored the premier party of HBO’s & Tom Donahue’s documentary “Casting By” and was highlighted for the tasty “Sting” bloody mary made with their shochu. Though my mixed drinks are “chef’s choice” I do hope that I get to try the Sting on Friday.  Chef for this event is Raphael Reyes, who may be either this accomplished bartender or this former president of Columbia.  Either way I am pretty excited.

Wednesday Event in NYC! Summer Night Market by Sakamai & Tengumai

Tengumai-ad

Sakamai certainly keeps an active event calendar.  Besides the biweekly shochu tastings with Stephen Lyman they also put on plenty of events such as this one tomorrow.  If I had one complaint it’s that I seem to find out about these events really late, so often I don’t get a chance to go.  If work cooperates tomorrow, I hope to write about the event.  Regardless, I wanted to pass on the opportunity to our readers.

Kameshizuku Imo Shochu (Sweet Potato)

87 Points

Kameshizuku

Kanji: 甕雫
Distillery: KYOYA SHUZO
Type: Imo (Sweet Potato)
Koji: White
Region: Kyushu
Prefecture: Miyazaki
Proof: 40
Available in USA: No

Kameshizuku is the second Japanese shochu we’ve come across from the Kyoya distillery, the first being Kappa No Sasoimizu. One of the most amazing things about Kyoka distillery is the fact that they have been existence for more than 180 years, despite having a market capitalization of $50,000.  Yes, that’s right, they’ve been making alcohol for generations with a capitalization that is less than the price of a luxury car, truly amazing.

What sets Kameshizuku apart is the fact that they use Beni Kotobuki sweet potato.  Beni Kotobuki is native to Miyazaki prefecture and it is what gives Kameshizuku its mellow earthy flavor.  As you can tell from the photo, it is served in a ceramic pot.  Kyoya recommends that you drink the entire pot in a timely manner once open, and if it must sit, it should neither be in direct sunlight or refrigerated.

Though Kyoka several times uses the term “fruity” to describe this shochu, the closest thing to fruit I could pick up was a citrus nose.  Other flavors that were present were hints of smokey bacon, as well as subtle notes of oak and leather.   In our review of Kappa No Sasoimizu we picked up a bit of anise flavor.  For those of us who do not like licorice in our drink, this was noticeably absent in Kameshizuku shochu.

Kameshizuku is not available in the United States.  Though Kyoya Distillery does sell another shochu here, the flavor is different enough that it is not really a substitute.  Additionally, given the clay pot, I’m not sure how confident I would be bringing this back from Japan in my suitcase.  Potentially this is a shochu best left to be enjoyed while out at an izakaya in Japan.  If presented with such a situation, definitely make sure at least one round is Kameshizuku imo shochu.

If you can tolerate the 80′s anime techno music, the video below shows a lot of interesting images of Kyoya’s shochu creation process.  If it’s not tolerable, the video probably is just as good on mute, given the amount of English subtitles. Enjoy!

 

LA Shochu Tasting

Image Courtesy of the Sake Social Club of LA

Image Courtesy of the Sake Social Club of LA

Sake Summer Slam

A much as it pains us here at Shochu Distilled, often many of the best shochu tastings are done on the side by sake organizations.  The Social Sake Club is having a tasting event featuring many different types of shochu and sake at the Doubletree hotel at 120 S. Los Angeles St. on August 17th.  Cost is $40 if you register before July 26th, $50 afterwards, or $60 at the door.  Their website is a bit light on details as no information is given about how many or what shochu distilleries are participating in the event.  That said, the event is having a Sake & Shochu Queen USA contest and attendees get to vote.  Voting for a pageant queen alone should ensure that this will be a fun way to spend the afternoon. Beyond this, attendees are encouraged to attend wearing a kimono!

http://www.socialsakeclub.com/

Have you tried Kannoko Light shochu?

We’ve reviewed the regular Japanasch Zachy Kannoko shochu from Satsuma Shuzo in the past. Given this, we were intrigued last month when we saw advertisements for Kannoko Light while traveling in Japan.  While there we saw advertisement everywhere from TV to postings within the subway cars.  This intrigued us, but while on the flight home we realized that we never actually had the opportunity to try Kannoko Light while out in bars or shopping in liquor stores.  So this begs the question, have you tried Kannoko Light?  What does it taste like?  Were you able to buy it in America?  We’d love to try this new heavily publicized shochu, but have not had the opportunity.

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Route 382 Mugi Shochu – LIMITED EDITION

91 Points

Route382 Mugi Shochu

 

Kanji:国道382
Distillery: GENKAI SHUZO
Type: Mugi (Barley)
Koji: White
Region: Kyushu
Prefecture: Nagasaki
Proof: 76
Available in USA: No

We came across Genkai Shuzo’s  Japanese shochu while shopping at Hanshin Department Store in Osaka, Japan.  They were handing out tastings of their new Route 382 mugi shochu (barley) in celebration of winning the Monde Selection award for 12 years in a row.  Now I’ve mentioned that we do not put a ton of weight in the Monde Selection awards, but winning 12 years in a row caught my attention so I had to give it a try.

Route 382 is named after a scenic highway that bisects Iki Island from north to south.  Iki Island is the home of Genkai Shuzo, and the name of their most popular lines of mugi shochu.  Iki Island is the home of mugi shochu.  They have been making it since the 16th century.  In 1995 Iki mugi shochu, along with Kuma sweet potato shochu and awamori received the protection of a formal designation of origin by the World Trade Organization.  This means that only alcohol from that region can carry the name Iki mugi shochu.  This is similar to Champagne or Bordeaux wines only coming from those regions in France.  In honor of winning a Monde Selection award for 12 years in a row, they came out with this special edition.

For those who are familiar with Iki shochu, Route 382 is similar but the 28 proof difference definitely does not go unnoticed.  The distributor describes Iki shochu as having a pear flavor with hints of cinnamon.  This description is accurate and holds true for Route 382.  I also tasted nice lemongrass notes that spoke to both the complexity and lightness of this intriguing shochu.  Mugi, which is barley, is only really present in the shochu bouquet.  I also should note a flavor that was pleasantly absent.  For some reason shochu above 70 proof often has a strong anise flavor.  Anise is where the flavor of Jagermeister, Sambuca, Ouzo, or Absinthe comes from.  Pleasantly Route 382 packs the flavor punch you would expect from a 76 proof alcohol, but lacks the anise flavor that often is an undesired side effect.

All the characteristics described above makes this a great alcohol for a hot summer day, or when you are out on a Saturday night after a morning workout.  For scotch drinkers, it’s an interesting drink neat.  I definitely preferred it with a dash of water so as to bring out a bit more of the flavor.  Given its punch, it stands up nicely to being served on the rocks.  I have mixed feelings about having Route 382 in a mixed drink.  Given that it lacks the black licorice flavor and is of a similar alcohol level of vodka, it makes a great low calorie vodka replacement in mixed drinks.  That said, given the exquisite flavors and rarity of the product, it’s definitely not the the best way to appreciate the effort that went into this shochu.

Route 382 is not available in the United States.  In fact, on my next trip back to Japan, I have no hope of finding it again, as it is a limited edition shochu. Given its similarities to the standard Iki mugi shochu, those who are curious should definitely seek out this bottle.  This is available at Sakaya Sake Shop for $39.  Though this is a bit steep, for those who love mugi shochu, this is definitely worth a try at least once at this price.

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Shochu Website Update – NY Mutual Trading

Rice-Shochu-Cocktail

Image courtesy of NY Mutual Trading

We at ShochuDistilled would like to be a one stop shop for all information about Shochu.  That said, when a website puts out useful information, we feel its our responsibility to make our readers aware.  New York Mutual Trading Corp. recently updated their website dedicated to shochu.  A bit interesting is the fact that their obligatory promotional information links are all currently dead.  That said, their FAQ is up and quite interesting, and the highlight of their website is a batch of 41 drink recipes that was created by Gen Yamamoto of Lounge Zen in Teaneck NJ.

Though I don’t make it out to Teaneck often, the recipes look worth a try.  They range from obvious shochu versions of classics like the Pure Screwdriver to drinks that are more tailored to asian ingredients, such as the Towari of the Soba-ya.  We look forward to sampling and experimenting with these drink recipes soon!

Kumejima’s Kumesen Awamori (Japanese Edition)

84 Points

Kumesen Awamori

Kanji: 久米島の久米仙
Distillery: Kumejima’s Kumesen Co.
Type: Awamori
Koji: Black
Region: Okinawa
Prefecture: Okinawa Prefecture, Kume Island
Proof: 60
Available in USA: Yes (*)

Our newest Awamori review since Ryukyu Ohcho and Kikunotsu V.I.P. Gold, happily it’s the highest rated awamori to date as well.  As the name of the distillery suggests, Kumejima’s awamori comes from Kume Island.  Kumejima is located 60 miles west of of Naha.  It’s picturesque location is ideal for making awamori due to it’s abundance of pure fresh water.

Kumesen Awamori is incredibly entertaining to drink.  It was strong enough to have flavor but not over powering.  It’s a bit earthy with a pepper kick that was interesting but not overwhelming in spice.  The shochu ends with a bit of vanilla that rounds out the experience nicely. The distiller recommended this shochu neat, on the rocks, or with warm water.  The starch like flavor is incredibly rewarding on the rocks during a hot humid day.

So you’ll notice that I put an asterisk next to the affirmative answer about this shochu being available in the United States.  In the USA you can get an Awamori of the same name, but its a different bottle and a different proof.  The Japanese Kumesen awamori comes in at 60 proof while the American bottle is 48 proof.  This is odd because American tend to not prefer their alcohol watered down, and neither shochu or awamori is expensive to begin with.  I have a suspicion that this has something to do with American import taxes as this isn’t the first awamori or shochu that I have seen with the alcohol content lowered, and 48 proof is unusually common among the Japanese imports.  So all this being said, you can’t buy 60 proof KumeJima’s Kumesen awamori in America, but you can buy something that at a minimum is similar, and hopefully simply requires you to be a bit lighter in your helping of water or rocks.  Astor Wines and Spirits carries the American version for $22.00 USD.  For this price, its a great option given the limited number of awamori brands that are available in here.