Distillery: KIKU MASAMUNE SHUZO
Type: Sake Kasu (lees of sake)
Available in USA: No
We’ve done 20 reviews of Japanese shochu here at Shochu Distilled, but this may have the most storied history. Kiku Masamune Winery has taken the byproduct of their sake production and distilled shochu with it. To put the importance of Kiku Masamune in perspective, it should be realized that they have been around since 1659. That’s 117 years before the United States was a country. That’s 218 years before the last Samurai. That’s 344 years before Lost In Translation!!!
To put this in perspective, it may help to think British. When a prince or a duke has certified a product worthy of their usage they give it a royal warrant. Much in the same way, the current Emperor has chose Kiku Masamune as his sake of choice. The shochu reviewed today is made with the lees left over from the Kiku Masamune sake. Lees is the solid rice based by product left over from fermenting process of wine. In Japanese you’ll hear this by product called “kasu” or “sake Kasu”. Sake very much traces its roots to the outskirts of Kobe where there is a small neighborhood where many of the oldest sake wineries still exist today.
I know I have referred to Kappa No Sasoimizu or Ryukyu Ohcho Awamori as being black licorice or Jagermeister like. These need to prefaced with a “somewhat” after today. Kiku Masamune Lees shochu tastes like Jagermeister. It’s so close that I currently am hunting for a recent college graduate that I can Pepsi challenge Kiku Masmune shochu with Jagermeister and find out if they can tell the difference. The one contradiction to all of this is the fact that I truly dislike Jager, but find I enjoy this shochu after it settles a bit on the rocks.
For those who are more used to shochu than western liquor, it should be acknowledged that Kiku Masamune is 70 proof. It’s far and away the strongest shochu I’ve had. Iced down a bit, as I prefer, it’s still stronger than most other types of shochu neat. Given it’s unique flavor, it works better with strong meat such as lamb or barbecue.
Unfortunately, this shochu is not available in the United States. In fact, you can only buy it at the Kiku Masamune sake winery in Kobe. It costs less than $30 from the winery, and if you have the opportunity to bring it back, it should be at the top of you list. A side note, this is not a shochu for beginners. A year ago I gave a bottle of this away to a friend of mine. It has sat on their shelf since because they know not what to do with it, nor are they ready for a drink of this nature. I’ve thought for 6 months about how to convince them to re-gift it back to me.