Kampai! 

The World of Japanese Spirits from Awamori to Zakuro-shu

Entries in imo shochu (5)

Wednesday
Aug082012

Kokubu Kikojikura

   No sooner do I grumble about not getting summer gifts anymore than a student comes through and presents me not only with a gourmet selection of mentaiko-flavored[1] cheeses, but with a fine bottle of imo shôchû.

   One of the most difficult aspects in writing about shôchû is that differences in taste can be very subtle. I suppose that is to be expected, considering that the ingredients vary little from imo shôchû to imo shôchû: they are, namely, water, sweet potato, and kôji (malted rice). Granted, there are all kinds of sweet potatoes, as a visit to any shôchû shuzô (distiller) will quickly impress upon you. There are also different kinds of kôji which greatly influence the taste of a shôchû.

   The three types of kôji used in the production of shôchû are black kôji, white kôji, and yellow kôji, so named for the color of the bacterial spores. The type of kôji-kin (aspergillus) bacteria used affect not only the distillation process but also the flavor of the end product.

   Yeast and kôji-kin are indispensible for the distillation of shôchû. Starch from the potatoes are broken down into glucides (sugars), a process known as saccharification, by the kôji-kin and then yeast metabolizes the sugar, producing alcohol (ethanol).

 

Kuro Kôji (黒麹)

   Kuro Kôji, or black kôji was originally introduced to Kyûshû from the Ryûkyû Kingdom (present-day Okinawa). It is very good at producing citric acid which protects against both the propagation of bacteria and the spoiling of unrefined sake. It is perfect for the subtropical climate of Okinawa. For that reason, it is used in the production ofawamori. Generally speaking, imo shôchû made with kuro kôji pack a punch. They are fuller bodied and have a conspicuous flavor.

 

Shiro Kôji (白麹)

   Shiro kôji, or white kôji, is a mutation of the kuro kôji bacterium that is cultured and used mainly in Kyûshû. Because it has greater enzymatic power than kuro kôji, and does not release spores like kuro kôji which can soil both the clothes of the workers and the distillery, the use of shiro kôji has spread widely and quickly. It produces a mellow-tasting, mild shôchû bringing out the flavor of sweet potatoes.

 

Kikôji (黄麹)

   Kikôji, or yellow kôji, is usually employed in the production of seishu (清酒, refined saké) and saké. Because it lacks citric acid which protects against spoilage, it was not considered suitable for shôchû. In recent years, however, the use of yellow kôji has grown in popularity. With its fruity nose, imo shôchû made with yellow kôji, such as Tomi no Hôzan are changing the way people think about imo shôchûs.

 

 

Kampai!

国分 黄麹蔵 (Kokubu Kikôjikura)

25% Alc/Vol

   Made from potato and yellow kôji.

Nose: ★★★

   The fragrance belies somewhat how flavorful this shôchû is.

Palate: ★★★★

   Strong alcohol flavor, with unique after taste that fills the nose to the rafters when swallowed.

Overall: ★★★☆

 


[1] Mentaiko (明太子) is a local delicacy in Fukuoka City, made of cod roe marinated in red chili pepper powder and other seasonings. Well-known throughout Japan today as a souvenir from Hakata, mentaiko was first introduced to Japan after the Pacific War by Toshio Kawahara, the founder of Fukuya. Born in Busan, Korea, Kawahara returned to Fukuoka after the war where he adapted the flavor of Korean myeongran jeot such that it better suited Japanese tastes. He called his product Aji no Mentaiko (味の明太子) and started selling to bars and izakaya(pubs) from a shop he had in the entertainment district of Nakasu. Because Kawahara failed to patent the recipe, there are now hundreds of companies producing mentaiko today, including FukutarôChikaeKubota, and so on. That said, I am not crazy about the stuff.

Wednesday
Feb292012

Satsuma Shiranami Kuro

   When Shôkichi[1] first opened for business about eighteen years ago, Taishô[2] had a policy of taking ten days off a month. If it looked like it was going to rain or if there was a K-1[3] kickboxing match on TV, you could be fairly certain that Shôkichi would not be open for the night. Over the years, however, Shôkichi’s business hours have grown erratic. Taishô claims Shôkichi is now open twice a week, but I’ll be damned if I ever see his yatai[4] on the corner anymore. In those astrologically rare occasions that I do find that he is open, I am usually overcome by a sense of urgency, even imperative to go: there’s no saying when I’ll find him open again. It could even end up being six months later, as was the case last night when on my way home from my wife’s parents’ place, I saw Taishô assembling his yatai.[5] I hadn’t been feeling well that day—I had almost passed out while shopping earlier in the day—but there his yatai was beckoning me. My wife, who would have otherwise poo-pooed my going out for a drink in my condition, agreed. Why, she was even envious. Since the birth of our son almost two years ago, she has only been to Shôkichi a few times.

   “I’ll bring some oden[6] home for you,” I offered.

 

   When I peaked under the noren curtain, Taishô smiled at me and said, “Long time no see!”

   “And whose fault might that be?” I shot back. The customers sitting at the counter laughed.

   I took my customary seat in front of the oden tub and warmed my hands on it. Then, recognizing the woman to my left, I said, “O-hisashi-buri desu ne.”[7]

   The nice thing about Shôkichi is that most of the customers are regulars, motivated by that very same imperative to go to the yatai whenever they find it open. I’ve recommended using Twitter or Facebook to inform people when he’s open—I would be more than happy to help him set up an account—but Taishô is so hopelessly analog in his ways that he can’t be bothered.

   “You realize how long it takes me to answer your text-messages?” he says. “Takes me more than ten minutes just to reply to you that, no, I am not open for the night.”

   “How about sending up a flare or some fireworks just before you open?”

   Taishô groaned.

   You might get the impression that Taishô is an old fart, but he is in fact only a year older than me. When he first opened his yatai for business he was about 29 years old and had a full head of hair. (He now hides his balding head with a towel; his beard has more salt than pepper in it.)

   I was living and working in the neighborhood then and would pop into Shôkichi for dinner and drinks once or twice a week. And though I was studying Japanese at the Y[8] in those days, my real classroom was the yatai. It’s where I learned the local dialect, Hakata-ben. It’s also where I learned how to talk to Japanese men (though, I still have trouble catching everything Taishô says.)

   Over the years, Taishô and I have become friends. I think he’s been living vicariously through my romantic escapades. He often jokes to the other customers that it’s not fair that he is still a bachelor while I’ve already been married twice.

   The best time to be at Shôkichi is when there aren’t any other customers to interrupt our conversation. It’s when I can be truly honest with him. He has been critical of the things I have done, such as my womanizing past, but he has never allowed it to come between our friendship. In that sense, he’s been a tolerant observer of the vicissitudes of my life. Perhaps that’s because he, like myself, was raised Catholic, and he has managed to retain the positive aspects of that faith—tolerance, love, charity, honesty, mutual respect, and so on—while ridding himself of the baggage—guilt, sexual repression, rigid conservatism, mindless religious formalism, etc.

   Speaking of Catholicism, Taishô once relayed to me a funny story about the time he had to serve as an altar boy. He was assisting at Christmas Mass and dressed in the flowing altar boy vestments of a long black cassock under a crisp white surplice, the same kind of kit I had to wear when I was a naughty little Catholic schoolboy. During what I suspect was a special extended service for the holiday, he was standing next to the altar, holding a large candle in his hands.

   Anyways, as he was standing there with that big candle in his hands he dozed off for a few seconds and the burning end of the candle touched his surplice. It must have had some flammable chemicals in it keeping it so stiff because it suddenly went up in flames.

   “I was a ball of fire when I woke up,” Taishô recalled. “The priest took the decanter of water off the altar and threw it at me, then tackled me to the ground and rolled me over and over until the flames were out. It’s a miracle that I wasn’t burnt.”

   Taishô added that he was never asked to serve as an altar boy again after that.

   Ostracism by fire.

   “What’ll you have?”

   “Shôchû, o-yu-wari de.”[9]

   “Imo?”[10]

   “Yeah.”

   Shôkichi was serving Satsuma Shiranami Kuro that night. Why? Because it’s cheap and tastes okay. The food at Shôkichi, on the other hand, while dirt cheap—you enjoy a filling meal and a couple of drinks for less than ¥1,000 ($12)—is damn good, so much so I’ve given up eating yakitori anywhere else.

   After warming myself up with the shôchû, I ordered some oden for starters, then skewers of yotsumi, butabara, aspara maki, ume shiso maki, jaga batah . . .[11]

   “That’s a lot of food. Have you eaten?”

   “No, I haven’t,” I replied. “I’m going to take half of it back for my wife.”

   “I see.”

   “She isn’t expecting again, is she?”

   “No. We’ve been trying, but no luck.”

   “Need me to pinch hit?”

 

   The oden, as always, was served first. I’ve tried my fair share of oden over the years and nothing quite compares to Taishô’s. In the bottom of the tub, he’s usually got an egg that’s been simmering for several days and has got nice and brown. He’ll usually fish around for one of these and give it to me.

   I am reminded of a comic strip my wife drew after we had been to Shôkichi’s a couple years back.

 

   The skewers grilled meats and veggies came about twenty minutes and a second glass of Shiranami Kuro later.

   Like the oden at Shôkichi, the yakitori can’t be beat. And nothing is better than the butabara. Order butabara at any other yakitori-ya or robatayaki-ya[12] and you’ll be served a half-cooked slab of pork, but not here. Taishô always grills to perfection—nice and crispy. A niece of mine once stayed with me a few years ago and every now and then she mails me to say that she’s hungry for that “pork thing” she used to eat at Shôkichi.

   “The butabara?” I ask.

   “Yes! Butabara! I could kill for it right now.”

 

   I’ve mentioned already that most of the customers are regulars and that seems to be the way Taishô likes it. He can’t quite relax whenever a new customers sits down at the counter and you can see the relief in Taishô’s face when after a few dishes the stranger leaves. Nothing is worse than when a wet blanket comes around and lingers on for longer than he is welcome.

   One time a dreadfully nerdy man in his early thirties sat down between me and my wife in our usual spot and another group of customers with whom we had all been yukking it up. The guy tried in vane to strike up a conversation with Taishô but the normally loquacious master became tight-lipped. An awkward silence descended upon the yatai.

   The guy ordered a beer and asked for a second glass so he could share with Taishô’s.

   “I don’t drink,” was the brusque answer.

   It was a lie, of course. Taishô did drink from time to time, but with the punishment for drunk driving having become so severe of late, he can’t indulge the way he used to.

   When the guy tried to share some of his food with the others, there were no takers. And later, when he went to pay, he offered Taishô a tip. This in a country where tipping is a rarity.

   Taishô refused outright.

   “Well, then, give it to your wife.”

   “I’m not married!”

 

   As I ate, I ordered a third glass of shôchû and hot water.

   There are a number of ways to drink shôchû, o-yuwari being one of the most popular. Hot water has a way of bringing out the sweet fruitiness of the potatoes and as I write this I can’t help but wonder if the same is true of vodka. I tend to drink my shôchû o-yuwari in the wintertime to warm me up on cold night, and on the rocks the rest of the year rather than mizu wari,[13] like so many others prefer it. Shôchû can also be mixed with beer, called bîru wari,[14] coffee[15], or even with tomato juice, a drink I have christened the “Bloody Hanako”[16]. (Try it, you might like it.) One thing I have never seen is a person drinking shôchû straight the way vodka of is drunk in Russia. I don’t even think I, Boozer of the Hill, have ever had shôchû straight, which makes me kind of curious right now.

 

   When the alcohol is flowing and the atmosphere in the yatai has become convivial the conversation can be frank and downright hilarious.

   I remember once bullshitting with two men in their fifties. One of them was going on and on about how his friend here beside him was a womanizer and refused to settle down.

   “Fifty-five years old and he’s still chasing girls in their twenties!” the man chided. “Can you believe that?”

   I took a sip of what must have been my sixth or seventh glass of shôchû and declared, “As long as a man still has hair on his head, it is his moral Duty to fool around with women!”

   The man elbowed his friend in the ribs and said, “This guy’s got no hair!”

   Looking up from my glass, I noticed for the first time that his friend was wearing an awful toupee. How I failed to notice it earlier is a testament to how much I had been drinking.

 

   Last night, I stopped at three drinks. Ordered some more oden to take home to my wife and paid the ¥2,000[17] bill.

   As I was leaving, I turned around and said, “See you again, soon.”

 

 

Kampai!

 

さつま白波黒 (Satsuma Shiranami Kuro)

25% Alc/Vol

Rate: ★★★

 


[1] Shôkichi (小吉, literally “little lucky”) is one of the fortunes you’ll find on o-mikuji (お神籤, sacred lot, written oracle) at shrines. Daikichi (大吉, lit. “big lucky” is the best fortune you can get. Many people prefer shôkichi or chûkichi (中吉, lit. “middle lucky”) as there is room for improvement. With daikichi, there’s nowhere to go but down. (It’s always better to be at the beginning of a lucky streak than near the end of one.)

[2] Taishô, which literally means “general” or “admiral”, is what customers often call the owner of a Japanese style restaurant. Even though I know his real name, I always call him Taishô.

[3] K-1 is a kickboxing promotion based in Japan. It combines techniques from Muay Thai, Karate, Taekwondo, and so on.

[4] Yatai (屋台), food wagons or mobile food stalls which were once common throughout Japan, are something of a rarity nowadays. Fukuoka City, however, still has about 200 or so licensed yatai. While most yatai in the city serve yakitori and ramen, some specialize in Chinese, Italian and Okinawan dishes. The City of Fukuoka has an incomprehensibly schizophrenic policy towards the food stalls: promoting them as a tourist attraction on the one hand and, on the other hand, ensuring their eventual demise by putting strict limits on who is eligible for the licenses. It would be a crying shame if they allowed the yatai to die out.

[5] The yatai are usually hauled out by hand or towed to their regular spot and assembled a few hours before opening. Because Shôkichi opens for business at eight in the evening, Taishô can usually be found setting up his stall as early as five-thirty.

[6] Oden is a Japanese winter dish made with boiled eggs, Japanese radish, bamboo shoots, thick slices of deep-fried tôfu, kon’nyaku, and so on, stewed in a broth flavored with dashi and soy sauce. It is usually served with a mustard spicy enough to singe the hair in your nose.

[7] Japanese for, “Been a long time, hasn’t it?” Remember this phrase, you will use it.

[8] Yes, the YMCA. I also studied Japanese for several years at the YWCA.

[9] O-yuwari (お湯割り) means mixed with hot water.

[10] Imo means potato and refers to the sweet potato variety of shôchû that I like as opposed to the other types (rice, barely, sugarcane).

[11] That is, small cuts of chicken, fatty boneless pork ribs, asparagus wrapped in pork, thin slices of chicken with pickled plums and beefsteak leaf, and potatoes with butter.

[12] A robatayaki-ya (炉端焼き屋) is a restaurant which serves fish or meat and vegetables grilled over a sunken hearth as opposed to a yakitori-ya (焼き鳥屋) where skewers of (predominately) chicken are grilled over a charcoal fire. Incidentally, Fukuoka (and possibly Kyûshû) is unique in that you can find pork dishes, such as butabara and bekon maki, served at yakitori-ya.

[13] Mizu wari (水割り), mixed with water.

[14] A relative’s 90-something-year old grandfather drinks his shôchû this way.

[15] Yes, coffee.

[16] Bloody Hanako © 2011 Aonghas Crowe. All rights reserved. No unauthorized use of any kind.

[17] About twenty-four bucks.

Sunday
Jan222012

Whaddya Recommend?

   There’s a shop in Nakasu[1] that specializes in shôchû from Kagoshima. I thought this would be the place to go for something special.

   I asked the clerk for something that stank, something that stood out as a distinctive imo shôchû (potato shôchû), and she gestured to a bottle on the top shelf. A few hundred yen more expensive than the other bottles, the label stated that it was bangai, an “extra” or “additional” shôchû that had been produced in addition to the distillery’s main shôchû.

   Why not? I thought and bought it.

   Wasting no time, I opened the bottle as soon as I got home and, well, I wasn’t impressed. It had the distinct imo smell, but it wasn’t as strong as I would have liked. The flavor, both on the rocks and mizuwari (mixed with water) wasn’t impressive.

   Perhaps I’m just a boob and wouldn’t know a good shôchû if I were rapped against the head with the bottle, but I don’t think I’ll be buying this shôchû again.

   Mind you, it wasn’t so repulsive that I couldn’t finish the whole bottle. Waste not, want not, right?

 

Kampai!

新首あらいの焼酎 丹素 Shinkubi Arai no Shôchû Tansu 

25% Alc/Vol

Rate: ★★★

 

   There was a time that I thought I might be able to earn a comfortable living by translating and proofreading. The idea was that when I had gained enough contracts and had a reliable clientele list, I would no longer be confined to bricks and mortar. I would be able to work so long as I had my MacBook Pro and a good Internet connection, say in Centré Ville, Beirut or in a kneipe in Hamburg, on a lanai overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii.

   For a while it worked. Whenever I traveled, I could still do some translation work. While I was in Rome visiting a sister, I would bang out a page of translation, do some writing, then around lunchtime go out and wander the city. I did it again while in Oregon for a month-long visit with family. But then, the novelty wore off, and though I was not confined to a cubicle, like a broiler hen, I was still tethered to a master, many of them, who were demanding and selfish. They would take their time getting a draught off to you, only to request that it be returned within a few days’ time. Before long, I was working through weekends. I was working late into the night nearly every night after my day job finished. And worst, because the deadlines forced me to prioritize the translation work, I seldom got my own writing done.

   And so, after a year of translating, I threw in the towel.

   Today, I only translate things in which I have a personal interest or jobs, which come to me from friends or students, people to whom I can’t easily say “No”.    

   One of the funny things about the work is that I often get the same job from different people. Fukuoka City Hall will renew its homepage, say, and ask a local translator to do the translation. Even though the changes will be relatively minor, they will have the whole thing redone all the same, and because rules are rules, they are obliged to ask a different translator to do the work regardless the translator’s ability as a Japanese to English translator. And because I teach many of the translators and interpreters working in this city, the job of proofreading invariably falls to me.

   Let me note that I don’t merely proofread these translations; I do an major overhaul of the text, editing and rewriting it to such an extent that the finished product often bares little resemblance to what had been handed over to me. More often than not, the translation is so awful that I am obliged to request the original Japanese text and translate it myself. Needless to say, it can be time-consuming and poorly compensated work. Hence, my desire to distance myself from these jobs.  

   Sometimes, however, I just can’t say, “No”.

   A month ago, I reluctantly accepted a proofreading job which quickly morphed into a translation job. We were putting together a book for foreign residents living in the city of Yanagawa. It instructed foreigners on how to register their domicile, what documents are needed when getting married, how to open a bank account, and so on.

   The work was seemingly endless and needed so much re-working that the woman who had asked for my help was guilt-ridden by the time we completed the translation. As an act of contrition she paid me handsomely for the work and gave me an exceptionally good bottle of shôchû. 

   “I don’t drink myself,” she said meekly, “so I asked the clerk at the department store to recommend a bottle.”  

   One sip of Satsuma Fuji and all was forgiven.

 

Kampai!

薩摩富士 (Satsuma Fuji)

25% Alc/Vol

Rate: ★★★★

 


[1] Nakasu (中州) Fukuoka City’s “adult” entertainment district. It is a small island cram-packed with hostess clubs, cabarets, gay bars, and brothels much like Tôkyô’s Kabuki-chô.

Monday
Aug222011

Slumping Shochu Sales

   Teikoku Databank released the results of their annual survey of the shôchû market August 12th, reporting that the top fifty shôchû and awamori makers had gross sales of \298.1 billion in 2010, a drop of 2.5% over the previous year. This is the second consecutive yearly decline--sales fell 1.1% in 2009. Reasons for the drop include a slump in consumer demand and the recent popularity of highballs. (I am guilty of this. I never enjoyed drinking whiskey until Suntory released it Kaku Haibôru which I drink like soda now. Hic!)

   The gross sales of the top fifty shôchû and awamori producers was studied from January to December of 2010. Forty-six of the companies are based in the Kyûshû-Okinawa region.

   Of the fifty companies, roughly sixty percent, or 29 companies, showed a drop in sales. The firm with the greatest sales, mugi shôchû maker, Iichiko, based in Usa City, Ôita Prefecture, saw a decrease of 4.9% in sales. (I have long been familiar with Iichiko from their ad campaign--every month they pin up large posters at train stations like the one at the top of this post--but I have never once tried their mugi shôchû. High time I did.) Four of the top five companies all experienced a reduction in revenue. Only second placed Kirishima Shuzô of Miyakonojô City in Miyazaki Prefecture enjoyed a 10.4% increase in sales. (Kuro Kiri, as everyone calls it, is okay. Not the best shôchû in the world, but not the worst either.)

   A leading force in the imo (potato) shôchû market with Kirishima Black (黒霧島) at the center, its sales have continued to grow. The company has placed second in gross sales for eight years running. The Kirishima Black brand is well known in metropolitan areas and has maintained steady growth.

   Among awamori makers, Kumejima’s Kumesen has enjoyed a 7.4% increase in sales, coming in 19th, up four places from 2009. On the other hand, Higa Shuzô of Yomitan City, Okinawa Prefecture, which produces Zampa brand awamori, has seen their sales slip 13.6%. (Kumesen is much better than Zampa--full stop. It's no mystery that one distillery's sales have gone up while the other's has suffered.)

   As consumers continue to turn to cheaper products (more on this in a later post), competition among shôchû producers has intensified. With the popularity of the comparatively inexpensive highball, Suntory Holdings has seen sales of whiskey increase 17%. It can be said that some of the demand for shôchû has been “drunken” by thirst for highballs. (This pun works better in the Japanese.)

 

From the Nikkei Shimbun

Wednesday
Jul272011

Tomi no Hôzan

 

   I can’t see dead people or bend spoons. Nor am I able to read people’s minds. But, I do possess a sixth sense. While it is not the kind of talent which a person might profit from no matter how sharply it is honed, it amazes friends and family, nevertheless.

  In class, I ask a student if his girlfriend has returned from Brazil. He replies that she had, in fact, just come back a few days ago. Another student wonders aloud how I could have known such a thing. I reply that I didn’t. The thought had merely popped into my head and I was only asking out of curiosity.

   It’s always like that.

   I’m walking in the neighborhood of Momochi one day when I start thinking about Machiko, a girl I taught several years earlier. Her home is nearby, so it isn’t that unusual that my thoughts would turn to her. But then, that train of thought derails and I begin to wonder if her youngest sister-- what is her name again--has started junior high school yet, and is she going to Momochi Junior High or some other school. And who should I bump into as I turn the corner, but Machiko’s youngest sister--Nana! That’s her name--in a Momochi Junior High School uniform.

   I’m passing through the Tenjin underground shopping arcade in Fukuoka City and as I near the Pietro Mio Mio stand, which sells pasta salad in a cup to go, it occurs to me that I have never heard anyone talking about having tried Mio Mio. Wonder if it’s any good. A few minutes later, I emerge from the underground shopping arcade and my thoughts turn to Eiko, a pretty student of mine who if I am not mistaken works in the area. Just as I’m thinking, I wonder where Eiko has lunch--speak of the Devil, there Eiko is walking by with, lo and behold, a bag of Pietro’s Mio Mio in her hand.

   One of my most frequent greetings when I bump into people is: “I was just thinking about you!” I’m afraid they sometimes get the wrong impression, mistakenly believing I had been pining for them.

   Similarly, I will envision someone falling, and a moment later, right before my very eyes, a woman will stumble down the stairs at the station, or a man will slip on the pavement. It happens all the time.

   And so, the other day, I suggested to my wife that we might take our son to the airport to let him watch the planes take off and land.

   “He’ll like that,” she replied.

   “Oh, and while we’re there,” I said, “let’s pick up some Kasutadon.”

   Kasutadon, a custard-filled sponge cake made of Satsuma sweet potatoes, is Japan’s answer to the Twinkie. Unlike the venerable Twinkie, which contains more than twice as many ingredients, Kasutadon will quickly spoil if not refrigerated. The airport happens to be one of the few places in Fukuoka City where the confection is sold.

   Hardly a minute had passed after saying that when the doorbell rang. It was my wife’s mother. The in-laws apparently had just come back from Kagoshima City and were now bearing gifts: a bottle of Tomi no Hôzan imo shôchû and--surprise, surprise--a bag of Kasutadon.

   When my mother-in-law left a few minutes later, I suggested to my wife that while we’re at the airport we also get some gold ingots and bags of cash, as well. Sadly, there were no more visitors or souvenirs to be had.

   And that’s the downside of this otherwise extraordinary faculty of mine. I am not able to summon people or things to appear or happen when I’d like them to; I can only vaguely predict their arrival or occurrence a few moments early. Like I’ve said, this is not going to make me rich or famous anytime soon.

 

  Tomi no Hôzan with its gold label, however, does make me feel rich.

 

   A friend who seldom, if ever, drank imo shôchû introduced me to Tomi no Hôzan. He claimed the brand was the only one he could appreciate. When I tried it myself, I could understand why.

   The pungent sweet potato smell of imo shôchû often divides drinkers into two camps: those who love the spirit (people like myself) and those who are revolted by it. If you belong to the latter, then you owe it to yourself to give Tomi no Hôzan a try.

   Produced by Nishi Shuzô (Hioki City, Kagoshima Prefecture), Tomi no Hôzan is premium shôchû made with carefully selected koganesengan (黄金千貫) satsuma sweet potatoes. Frequently described as “fruity”, it can be enjoyed on the rocks, or more preferably mixed with hot or cold water to bring out the bouquet.

 

Kampai!

 

富乃宝山

25% Alc/Vol

Rate: ★★★★

   Always predictably good!