They say some drinks are an acquired taste and with shochu that rings true. Because once you’ve developed a taste for Japan’s national spirit, you’ll fall down the rabbit hole and want to discover as many varietals as your hands and wallet will allow.
One of the latest drinks I’ve tasted on my shochu odyssey is Kaido blue from the Hamada Syuzou distillery, which is also responsible for the glorious Daiyame sweet potato shochu.
Brewing up a story
Based in Kagoshima Prefecture, Hamada Syuzou has a venerable history that dates back to 1868 and the brand is at the forefront of turning shochu into one of the world’s greatest spirits.
The distillery’s Kaido range is a mixture of imo (sweet potato) and rice koji that is single-distilled honkaku (authentic) shochu. The Kaido blue comes in an attractive (you guessed it) bright blue bottle and sports a pair of Japanese wrestlers on the front (perhaps they’ve been drinking shochu and it put them in a good mood).
The bottle is also designated by the Satsuma shochu GI, demonstrating that it has been created in Kagoshima Prefecture. To qualify for the Satsuma GI, shochu must be produced and bottled in Kagoshima and be distilled with sweet potatoes, koji and water in a single distillation pot.
There’s a powerful earthy aroma that comes from Kaido blue as soon as the bottle is opened. Cereal, petrol, nuts. The savouriness carries on in the first sip, with toast and mushroom fighting for attention and then giving way to the flavour of breadsticks in the middle of the mouth.
There’s a lot of bite in the mouthfeel, evening out into a smooth and mellow textures with a couple more sips. The finish is dry and lingers at the back of the mouth, bringing to mind a crisp autumn wind that has seasonal appeal in the colder months.
In terms of serving styles, I drank Kaido blue neat at room temperature. I suspect there’s a lot of versatility to it and could work beautifully served mizuwari (with cold water) and oyuwari (with hot water) too.
For a food pairing, I’d go with meaty dishes such as breaded chicken fillets and a side of sweetcorn and green beans. Kaido blue would also work well with tomatoey pasta dishes, with the savoury notes balancing out the acidity.
Kaido blue is an every-man type of shochu that is sure to please people who’re new to the spirit and long-time aficionados. Definitely a drink to be enjoyed for autumn and winter.
Ingredients: Sweet potato and rice koji
Type of shochu: Single-distilled
Tasting notes: Breadsticks, petrol, nuts, wood and cereal