Distillery: TENPAI SHUZO
Type: Mugi Shochu (Barley)
Available in USA: Yes
Tenpai Mugi Shochu (Barley) is produced by the Tenpai Distillery in Fukuoka prefecture. What is unique about their distlling process is the fact that they age their Japanese shochu 1 year in ceramic casks. In trying it, there were nothing that seemed apparently ceramic or earthy about it, but its hard to image that this doesn’t change the flavor given Tenpai Mugi Shochu’s very unique flavor. Though hailing from Kyushu it is unique that Tenpai is based in Fukuoka.
Shochu like Tenpai Mugi shochu are both good and bad to review. It’s good in the sense that the interesting flavor can be described accurately in just 1 word, but bad in the sense that using just this word to describe it feels like we’re oversimplifying its complex flavor. For Tenpai Mugi shochu the word is buttermilk biscuits. The beginning, middle, and end all taste like slightly undercooked fresh buttermilk biscuits. For those who are not familiar with this flavor, it be additionally described as yeasty, slightly hoppy bread dough, potentially with a bland nutty flavor. It’s unique flavor can be slightly surprising and off putting at first if you are not expecting such a unique flavor. Once prepared for a shochu of this nature, pairing it can be fun and unique. Great pairings include sausage, bratwurst, or chili. Generally anything spicy that compliments tangy breads. This shochu should also be considered when designing flights of shochu for friends to try. It’s unique flavor provides a special contrast that drives the conversation and helps a drinker think critically about the experience.
I found Tenpai Mugi (barley) shochu at one retail liquor store. What’s interesting is that this store only carries 3 types of shochu and online only displays 1 type under the sake selection in their online store. Beyond this, none of my favorite shochu restaurants carry this brand. I found it for $25, and I’ve come across it for $29 online. It is considerably cheaper in Japan at roughly $10. Given the price differential, unique flavor, and it’s rarity this makes for a great candidate to bring back on flights back from Japan. It’s a good value at the domestic price and a great value at its price in Japan.