Ever tried Japanese shochu? If not, you’re missing out on a world of incredible flavour and history. Yamato Magazine has become something of an evangelical space for Japan’s indigenous spirit and diving down the shochu rabbit hole continues with the beautiful kinjo shiro shochu from Takahashi Shuzo.
Killer Kumamoto shochu
Founded in 1900, Takahashi Shuzo has been spreading the love for kome (rice) shochu for over one hundred years. Straight out of the Hitoyoshi Kuma region of Kumamoto Prefecture, the distillery is focused on enriching the history of Kuma shochu, which has been going strong for 400 years.
It’s been said that people of the area started enjoying shochu in the Sengoku Period (1467 – 1590) and the rulers of Hitoyoshi Kuma, the Sagara clan, were fans of the beverage.
Stories point towards Kuma shochu being the oldest known in Japan. This is substantiated by the oldest remaining record of shochu being discovered in Koriyama Hachiman Shrine in Okuchi City, Kagoshima in 1954. On a wall, written in graffiti, a complaint was left by a carpenter that said:
“The head priest of the shrine is stingy, and not once did he treat us to shochu.”
This message was written in 1559, during the time when the Sagara clan were highly active. Their territory reached beyond the modern-day borders that surround Kagoshima Prefecture and Kumamoto, so there is evidence the shochu the carpenter was referring to was Kuma shochu.
Craftsmanship and tasting notes
Kinjo shiro shochu is a honkaku (authentic) shochu that’s been aged in three different barrels: American white oak, cognac and sherry. Vacuum distilled and bottled at 25% ABV, the shochu comes in an elegant bottle with a beautiful label of the sun shining against a golden backdrop.
On the nose, kinjo shiro smells of cream, yoghurt and bubblegum. It’s smooth to the taste, the yoghurty notes ramping up and combining with rye bread, caramel and rice. The shochu is robust and light, mixing and matching sweet and savoury flavours.
I enjoyed drinking kinjo shiro shochu straight and it’ll go equally well on the rocks at a cold temperature. For a food pairing, I see it harmonising with fish-centric dishes or heavier meat dishes. Sip the shochu alongside a plate of sushi or enjoy it with a venison steak paired with mashed potatoes.
Ingredients: Rice and rice koji
Type of shochu: Single-distilled
Tasting notes: Cream, bubblegum, rye bread, caramel, rice and yoghurt
Food pairings: Sushi, venison steak and mashed potatoes, linguine with mussels and prawns, cheeseburger and fries.