Kagoshima, situated on the southern tip of Japan, is a paradise for shochu enthusiasts. Probably, one of you may wonder what exactly it is. Like whisky and brandy, shochu is a Japanese traditional hard liquor made from various ingredients. The most common base to make this distilled drink is rice, sweat potatoes (called in Japanese “imo”), wheat, sugar cane and so on. Since each of the base components brings its own unique flavor, authentic shochu, called Honkaku Schochu, comes in a wide variety of aroma and taste. If you are keen on exploring Japanese drinking culture, shochu is an absolute must try.
Take A Shochu Factory Tour in Kagoshima
Kagoshima is the major producer of Honkaku Shochu (authentic Shochu.) It has the distinguished taste and it is made using traditional brewing methods which you can observe during a tour at Satsuma Shuzo located in Makurazaki, outside Kagoshima City. There you will learn about the brewing process, see how it is produced and at the end you will be able to taste few different types of this alcohol. Moreover, if you want to buy it, it recommended to buy it at the factory shop, along with some food products from the local area.
As you learn during the tour, there are two types of this liquor: one is made from continuous distillation and the other is produced from single distillation. That means it preserves a rich flavor and the taste of the base ingredient. Honkaku shochu refers to singly distilled Shochu, and it is considered a fashionable and chic drink, and it is usually very expensive.
Kagoshima – Home to Thousands of Shochu Varieties
Kagoshima has more than 100 distillers and over 2,000 different shochu. You can taste it in numerous Izakayas, a Japanese version of a “pub” where you can drink and order various palette of tapas dishes, scattered around Kagoshima City and in the local areas. The staff with abundant knowledge can give you some recommendations for shochu and its matching foods. To my own astonishment and experience, the best one is Imo Shochu, a sweet potato liquor. It has a sweet aroma so it goes amazingly well with fatty dishes or fried foods such as tender pork, one of the local specialties of Kagoshima “Satsumaage,” a fried fish cake with various ingredients.
Shochu can be served straight, on the rocks, mixed with soda or water of different temperatures and also used as a cocktail base. In Kagoshima, it is common to enjoy Imo Shochu with hot water at a 60:40 ratio. This serving style enhances the natural sweetness and aroma of the sweet potato. However, once you try it you will find your own way of enjoying its rich taste.
Useful Links and Information
Shochu Factory tour: here