Japanese spirits like awamori have some of the most unique brewing methods and flavours profiles to be found anywhere on the planet. Awamori comes from Okinawa and packs more of a punch than nihonshu and shochu with an ABV that ranges from between 30% – 43%.
Harusame Kari, produced by Miyazato Distillery, is a multi-layered drink that stacks oodles of flavour on top of each other. And the only reason I was able to discover it was by paying a visit to the UK’s first sake brewery Kanpai in Peckham. The stars had truly aligned for an awesome drinking experience.
Harusame Kari comes from the tiny Miyazato Distillery that’s been producing some of the finest Ryukyu awamori for over 60 years. The brewery was founded in 1946 on the tropic island of Naha.
Crafted with black koji mould and long-grain Thai indica rice, Harasume Kari goes through an intricate distillation process that differs from the creation of sake.
The rice is first washed and steamed for 45 – 50 minutes in a huge stainless-steel drum. Then, the rice is cooled and mixed with black koji mould spores, which kickstarts the starch-to-sugar conversion necessary for the birth of alcohol. The koji-inoculated awamori rice is then left for a day so the mould can propagate.
Next, the moromi (fermentation mash) stage happens in a single ferment, which is different from the two-stage fermentation method of shochu. The ingredients are left to ferment for between 10 – 20 days and then moves to the distillation stage, which involves steam from a boiler being injected into the metal drum. The alcohol in the mash turns to vapour and is then turned back into liquid in a condenser.
Afterwards, the Miyazato Distillery will age the Harusame Kari for 3 years.
The Harusame Kari has a clean aroma that masks complex flavours. The first sip reveals vivid notes of walnut and hazelnut undercut by traces of sweetness. The taste of fudge and cream burns in the mouth and crashes across the palate like a tsunami. Then, a third wave of flavour kicks in, carrying hints of vanilla and black pepper that leave behind a spicy aftertaste. Lingering notes of mushroom and ginger prickle on the tongue.
I tried the awamori with ice, but even that couldn’t hold back the strong savoury aromas that barrel over the taste buds. Drinking the awamori is smooth, though it may taste overpowering for someone who isn’t used to the robust flavours of Japanese alcohol.
If you enjoy strong aromas and creamy liquor, then the Harusame Kari is a must-try drink.