Distillery: UNKAI SHUZO
Type: Soba Shochu (Buckwheat)
Available in USA: Yes
Unkai Soba Shochu is from Unkai Distillery in the town of Gokase in Miyazaki Prefecture. Unkai Distillery is attributed with inventing soba shochu back in 1973. It should be said that 12% of Miyazaki prefecture has been dedicated to national parks and nature preserves. Unkai believes that the uniqueness of their Japanese shochu is a product of the natural springs that flow down from the mountains near Gokase untouched.
Unkai Soba shochu is a very agreeable experience. For those who are looking to expand beyond kome shochu, but are not ready for imo shochu or awamori, Unkai is a good place to start. It’s relatively light in flavor, with a sensation similar to taking the first sip of a well made Guinness. The trading company that distributes Unkai Soba uses the term “creamy with green grass notes”. I would consider this an accurate description. The finish lacks the intensity of stronger shochu. The finish to be similar to that of Japanese curry. Not really a burn or hotness, but more similar to a warm spicy finish that is satisfying. I did not have the opportunity to try this shochu neat, but will not hesitate reaching for Unkai Soba shochu on the rocks when the weather heats up and the festivities head outside.
Like Tantakatan, Unkai Shochu is incredibly reasonably priced. Though scoring does not take price into account, its hard to contain the enthusiasm for such reasonably priced and interesting libations. In Japan it’s available for less than $10 per bottle and it’s currently available from Astor Wines and Spirits online for $18.99 per 750 ml bottle and $205.09 per 20 bottle case. At these prices its a very rewarding experience that is well worth the price of admission.