Distillery: KYOYA SHUZO
Type: Imo Shochu (Sweet Potato)
Available in USA: Yes
This is another Japanese shochu where the distiller took liberty with the English translation of the name of their shochu. Though I much prefer the translation of ‘Kappa No Sasoi mizu’, the translation ‘Kappa No Sasoimizu’ is what appears on the bottle, so that is what we will use. Kappa No Sasoimizu is made by Kyoka Distillery in Miyazaki prefecture. Koyoka Distillery, despite having just $50,000 in market capital according to their website, has been around for 180 years. It should also be mentioned that Kappa No Sasoimizu was awarded the Monde Selection award for 2013. Though this french review body is the not considered the authority on Japanese shochu, their award does represent an excellence in consistency and quality.
Kyoka Distillery describes their shochu as light and smooth. This is an accurate description, though not the most striking aspect of the flavor. This shochu strongly resembles a light vodka-like Jagermeister. The challenge of this review is that I tend to not love the licorice flavor that stands out most. I recognize that plenty of people go for this given the existence of Pernod, Jager, Absinthe, Ouzo and Sambucca. If this is a flavor that appeals to you, then definitely move this shochu to the top of your list as the remaining flavors tend to be subtle and easy on the pallet.
One thing of note, most shochu distilleries have a pretty poor website in Japanese and an even poorer website in English. Kyoka Distillery has 2 websites in English and both are better than most Japanese websites for other shochu distilleries. These are kyo-ya and kappa shochu. These websites have things ranging from clear and accurate descriptions of the products to live webcams showing their sweet potato fields growing.
Though I’ve seen the product on several menus I have since learned that this shochu is relatively rare. Besides retailing at Mitsuwa Market in New Jersey, it’s available at Greenwich Grill, Japonica Restaurant, Nippon, the East chain (including bar Hatchan), Robataya, Serafina, and Uminoie in New York City. At shochu bar Hatchan it is $9 for a relatively modest sized glass.