MS Topic of the Week 12/4/2019 - Master

Montrachet's owners, producers and pivot selling tactics last week from , , and .

This week: Shochu

Where did this originate from? What is it made of? How is it made? Where else is it made? Name 3 examples

  • Shochu is a clear distilled liquor from Japan less than 45% alcohol (normally around 25%) from rice, grains, potatoes, buckwheat, etc (much like the base of vodka the range is large).  Its history goes back to the 16th century.  Much like sake different prefectures have different common base ingredients and variations of shochu.

    It's produced much like sake with the addition of distillation:

    Rice or grain steeped in water to release the sugars. Koji created (moto)  Moto added to the rice or grains and MPF commences (moromi).  The moromi alcohol is then distilled, either one time or multiple times determining type.

    A similar product called Baiju is made in China and Soju in Korea.

    Producers:

    Mizu

    Iichiko

    Hundred Years of Solitude if you have 6k to drop on some shochu.

  • To expand upon Brandon's comments

    Shochu is commonly consumed in the following ways.  As the base of cocktails.  Mixed with hot or cold water.  These methods will typically reduce the alcohol content of the beverage to around 12-15% alcohol.  The other method is on the rocks (rokku de).  Usually high quality single distilled Shochu (Honkaku shochu) is drunk on the rocks.  This is a single distilled shochu that helps to showcase the base flavor of the spirit, i.e. rice, sweet potato, etc.  Other shochu are distilled several times and begin to more closely resemble vodka.

    Shochu is most often made of barley, sweet potato, rice, or buckwheat.

    Another producer is Miyazaki.

    In Okinawa, shochu is calle Awamori.  It is made from a long grained rice and goes through a fermentation process similar to Sake.  

  • To nuance the conversation: one of the main differentiators between soju / shochu / baiju / awamori is a) the type of koji used to saccharify the base material and 2) the style and number of distillations.

    Shochu is classically saccharified with white koji, as opposed to the black koji used in awamori production, and unlike baiju, shochu is traditionally only distilled once to finished proof.  Some modernist producers are able to achieve classic spirit strength in a single run, but traditionally shochu would be bottled at 20-30% ABV after only a single pass through the still.

    Also unlike baiju, shochu's base material is technically (or more to the point, legally) unlimited: there is tomato shochu, sweet potato shochu, barley shochu, even shishito shochu.

  • There are two types of Shochu. The first is the traditional type which as Brandon stated, dates back several centuries. (I've even seen articles claiming as far back as the 14th century). This traditional method shochu called, otsu-rui (aka honkaku shochu or "real thing" shochu) sees one distillation and is made from one raw ingredient (besides rice). The second method, known as ko-rui, sees several distillations and raw ingredients. It was developed in 1911 and became a legal classification in 1949.

  • Since I haven't seen it mentioned, it's worth noting that Japan's Kagoshima prefecture is known for its sochu and not at all for sake. It's southern location is too warm for quality sake rice and in fact large parts of the area have the completely wrong soils for rice at all. Instead, sweet potato shochu is Kagoshima's calling card, called imojochu.

  • I should also mention the importance of normal temperature and low temperature/pressure distillation, which affects the aromatics of the finished product.  I'll let you all read up more on this if you're interested.