Distillery: TAKARA SHUZO
Type: Imo 63% 27% Kome Shochu (Sweet Potato & Rice)
Available in USA: Yes
For the second shochu from Takara Distillery we’re taking a look at Kuro Yokaichi Imo shochu, the first being Yokaichi kome shochu. Takara Distillery is a relatively large maker of different types of alcohol from the city of Kyoto, Yokaichi is a city across Biwa Lake fro Kyoto, in Shiga prefecture. Takara’s size allows them to setup their own companies around the globe and import their products without the help of Japanese trading companies. Their background and model is unique in the Japanese shochu industry.
Kuro Yokaichi Imo shochu is a relatively new shochu, introduced in the United States towards the end of 2012. Though Takara Distillery is located in the Kansai region of Japan, they’ve used sweet potatoes from Kyushu as the main ingredient for this product along with black koji.
Kuro Yokaichi is a shochu with an identity crisis. Two thirds of the shochu is in the traditional Kyushu style of combining Imo (sweet potato) and black koji. Potentially its the blending in of 1/3 Kome that mellows the flavor. The initial sharp flavor is deffinitely reminiscent of other Imo shochu, but it mellows quickly as the rice flavor starts to come into play. It presents a combination that is almost medicinal in nature. The combination is not unlike comparing single malt scotches to a blended American whiskey. Though the American whiskey is a pleasant and consistent experience, it tends to lack the complexity and character of a single malt scotch. Of the different ways to drink Kuro Yokaichi, I enjoyed it most on the rocks after the ice has had 10 minutes to melt some. At this point the initial flavor mellows and the it picks up almost a buttery finish. In this form its very enjoyable though best had when in the mood for a kome shochu as opposed to an imo shochu.
Like Yokaichi Kome, Kuro Yokaichi Imo shochu can be found at a great value, selling in Japan for less than $10. The one thing I’ve found is that Kuro Yokaichi is far less common than Yokaichi Kome or Yokaichi Mugi shochu. This has resulted in the price varying far more than normal. I found it at a local wine shop for $21 for a 750 ml bottle. A good example of this is that 36th Avenue in Long Island City sells it for $17, while Marukai eStore in California has it for $27. As a New Yorker, I feel like there is a required joke about California somewhere in there. Kuro Yokaichi a good value at $17, but less so at $27. For $30, there are other bottles that I would prefer.