Distillery: Nishi Shuzo
Type: Imo Shochu
Available in USA: Yes
It’s taken me 3 attempts to write this review due to the nature of Tomino Houzan. In retrospect, I believe that it’s from the combination of sweet potato (Imo) and yellow koji. Generally Japanese shochu made of sweet potato have a smoky flavor that’s not unlike certain types of whiskey. What’s unique is the pairing of this base with yellow koji. Yellow koji tends to be used in shochu to produce a flavor that is fruity and smooth. These two in combination provides a lot of contradicting flavors, but this complexity works in the case of Tomino Houzan.
In drinking this shochu over the span of a week, I noticed that the balance of these flavors changes greatly with the amount of rocks you pair it with, and the amount of time you give the rocks to melt. Drinkers who prefer the earthy or leathery overtones should use less ice, or potentially just a bit of water like a single malt scotch. Drinkers who prefer the citrus or cherry notes should be prepared to let their drink sit a bit to get the full experience.
On top of being popular in Japan, it also appears to be fairly easy to find in America too. During recent trips to Sakagura and Shochu Bar Hatchan it was available, and it appears that it is available for purchase at Sakaya. For those of you who can’t find Tomino Houzan near your home, Sakaya delivers. If you are looking to experience your first imo shochu, you could do far worse than Tomino Houzan. It’s definitely not the cheapest imo shochu, but its complexity and flexibility make it a very agreeable experience. We give Tomino Houzan 90 points.