Hence, every country has its signature liquor, Japan also has a few renowned drinks and Shochu is one of Japan’s famous liquors. It is famous as the liquor that contains alcohol by volume percentage below 45%. The producers distill Shochu by using barley, rice, buckwheat, sweet potato and brown sugar. Some Shochu brands are also distilled from non-traditional ingredients like sesame seeds, chestnut, carrots and also by potatoes. Normally, every Shochu liquor bottle offers 25% alcohol by volume. It differentiates Shochu from its competitive alcoholic beverages like vodka and whiskey. It seems smoother against the spirit of whiskey and vodka, but it is much stronger than the sake and wine. Some producers distill Shochu multiple times to enhance its ABV percentage. They provide up to 35% ABV in their brand’s Shochus.
History of Shochu:
There are certainly no facts available to describe the real origin of Shochu. This drink is famous across various countries. The Japanese people use arak word to designate distilled beverages of the Middle-East in Japan. The historians believe that Shochu was originated in Persia. Later, its producing technique had spreader in the Western Europe and in the eastern countries like India, Russia, China, Thailand and Okinawa. The historians believe that it was the 16th century during which the Japanese people had got the way of producing Shochu in Kagoshima. Thus, the Japanese Shochu was born and since that time it is used by the Japanese people.
Even the Japanese historians believe that Shochu had been produced in Japan during the 16th century. During that age this drink was called arak. Japanese used to prepare it from rice at that time and it used to be quite strong. The ancient Japanese people used to distill Shochu only once during that age. The Great Britain had supplied the first repeated distillation to Japan and after that time Japanese used to distill Shochu more than once.
The types of Shochu:
Ko-rui and Otsu-rui are two different types of Shochu. The alcoholic beverage experts of Japan have divided this drink into two different categories by depending on the number of times these Shochus are distilled. Let’s explore the difference between both types of Shochu
When the producers apply consecutive distilling technique to produce highly pure Shochu by removing all the elements that do not contain alcohol, they produce Ko-rui Shochu. It is known as the purest form of Shochu. The Japanese winemakers have been applying consecutive distillation process since 1949. This method is applied mainly to enhance the Alcohol by Volume percentage of the liquor. Ko-rui contains minimum 36% alcohol by the volume of whole liquor. The producers dilute Ko-rui again and again with water to enhance ABV. Ko-rui releases no odor and it also seems tasteless that’s why you need to mix it other beverages to get some taste.
Otsu-rui Shochu is produced by applying single distillation method. The maximum Otsu-rui producers apply the traditional Shochu distillation method to produce this liquor. This method has been being applied since the 14th century. The local Japanese people call Otsu-rui the real Japanese Shochu or Honkaku Shochu. The producers use only raw material to produce this type of Shochu. Unlike Ko-rui, Otsu-rui Shochu releases fragrance and a great flavor that you can’t forget after tasting it. The producers dilute Otsu-rui Shochu with water to reduce its ABV content below 45%.
The methods of producing Shochu:
There are two methods of preparing Shochu, single distillation method or traditional method and multiple distillation method. Both methods are explained below.
Single distillation method:
It is the traditional Shochu distillation method in which different machinery used to enhance the ABV content up to 45%. The producers use ingredients like grain, potato, sake lees with rice, or brown sugar and mix all the ingredients with Koji for fermentation. The producers also mix some other substances to add taste during the fermentation process. The whole mix is poured into the pot still, which is the equipment used for single distillation process. The producers distill Shochu only once and pour it out for maturing. This method is famous across the world as the single distillation method of Shochu. Otsu-rui Shochu is produced by applying this method, which contains the flavor and aroma of all the ingredients used to produce it.
Multiple distillation process:
This method is different and from the traditional method. The producers ferment all the ingredients and then those ingredients are distilled multiple times to reduce the alcohol by volume percentage of Shochu below 36%. A special equipment used for this distillation process and both fruits, grains are used as the ingredient for producing this type of Shochu. The producers first germinate the grains and fruits and then fermented. The producers use a fermented liquid for distillation, which seems similar to the molasses.
Shochu is repeatedly distilled by applying this method to attain the purest form of alcohol. If any impurity occurred during the distillation process, it will be removed to improve the purity of the Shochu. The multiple-distillation removes the aroma and taste of the shochu. The shochu produced by multi-distillation process is known as the Ko-rui Shochu. Large factories of Ko-rui Shochu use potatoes, corn and sweet potato as the base ingredients for producing Ko-rui. It contains below 35% ABV and that’s why the native Japanese do not find it quite attractive. The distillation equipment, which is used for producing this Shochu, is called patent still.
The aging process:
The aging or maturation process of Shochu can vary by depending upon the type of storage vessel and the location. The storage barrel and the location of maturation can affect the flavor and quality of the shochu. That’s why the producers take special care of choosing the right location for aging according to the type and flavor of the Shochu. Most of the companies store this Japanese liquor in the steel tanks for aging. Companies also use the wooden barrels for the aging process of the Shochu. It depends on the brand that which storage vessel is perfect for its taste.
The maturation process is an essential part of preparing high-quality Shochu. This liquor gains aroma and strength during the aging process. The maturation period can be 6 months to 3 years. The producers mature this liquor at-least for six months to remove sharp flavors and enhance its signature flavor. Some companies also mature the Shochu for more than 3 years. This type’s shochu is known as the long-term aged Shochu. Well, there is no proof that Shochu gains a better flavor, if matured more than 3 years. The Shochu producers mature this liquor on several different locations across the Japan. You can check details on the bottle before buying it.
How to drink Shochu?
Shochu is alcoholic liquor and you can taste in many different ways. It is just like any other drink and you may already know some ways of drinking it. Here are some suggestions for drinking Shochu.
Drink it straight:
Drink it straight means try it neat. You may know how it seems, when you taste an alcoholic beverage neat. Well, the situation would not be quite troubling for you, if you taste Ko-rui Shochu because it is almost tasteless. Many people in Japan and outside Japan prefer drinking neat Shochu because they want to reveal the real taste of this Japanese liquor. Several Shochu brands add extra substances in this drink to enhance its deliciousness and alcoholic characters.
Try on the rocks:
The maximum foreigners in Japan drink on the rocks or Roku in Japanese. Several Shochu brands offer different tastes. Some may not seem bitter, but some may provide quite harsh taste. You would not like to taste such Shochus neat that’s why you should try it on the rocks. Order a bottle of Shochu in the bar and ask the waiter to bring a bucket full of ice cubes. Now put the ice cubes in the glass and pour your favorite shochu. Take the shot and get ready for the next. Shochu tastes really better, when you take it in the chilled form.
Qyuwari means with hot water. Certainly, it is only Japan, where people may drink an alcoholic beverage with hot water. There is no ritual of drinking any other western or eastern liquor with hot water. The Japanese people enjoy Shochu with hot water during the winter season. The Japanese people consider Shochu as the tea of winters. It helps them in improving the warmness of their body. Now you know that and you should try that to feel relaxed and warm.
Mizuwari means with cold water. Yes, it is a well-known method of drinking alcoholic beverages. People in the west, middle-east, south and north, everywhere drink alcoholic beverages with the cold water. The same you can do, when you are drinking Sochu. Just pour sochu in your glass and then mix some quantity of water in it to reduce its strength or bitterness. You can also add some ice-cubes in the glass to taste it cool.
How to store Shochu?
Probably, you might be thinking about storing the Shochu bottles into the fridge or cupboard and that is the best way of storing it. You should not store Shochu at a place, where it can come in direct contact with sunlight. The direct contact with sunlight can reduce the quality and taste of this drink. The beverage experts suggest users to store Shochu away from the sunlight so that they can taste it later, if they are not finishing it at the first attempt.
Best Shochu brands:
There are several companies in Japan that produce Shochus by applying different methods. We have listed the most famous Shochu brands, which have got good response from the users for their taste and quality.
The producers mix several grains to produce Lichiko. This liquid is distilled at very low temperature and that’s why it offers clear flavor. The Lichiko lovers taste it on the rocks and some also enjoys it as a cocktail with sake or other alcoholic beverages. The regular Lichiko drinkers prefer only this brand and that’s why it is one of the best selling Shochu brands in Japan.
It tastes sweet and its aroma may fascinate you. The producers use sweet potatoes as the base ingredient for producing Aka Kirishima. It is the ingredient sweet potato that enhances the sweetness of the liquor and provides a rich spirit.
It is another well-known Shochu drink from the same company. The Kuro Kirishima is thicker, sweeter and sharper than Aka Kirishima. All of these properties of this Shochu make it the first choice of many people, who prefer smooth taste of alcoholic beverages. Theproducers mix sweet potatoes with Kouji and then steamed rice’s melt bacteria during fermentation. Later, the produced liquor is distilled and matured and then packed into the bottles.
The foreigners may think that it is a healing liquid or any medicine by considering the type of packing. However, it is a widely available and very famous drink among the young adults. The experts suggest beginners to taste Funaguchi Kikusui, if they want to start drinking Shochu. It offers smoother taste and low ABV percentage and that’s why it is safe and enjoyable.
Make Shochu a part of your enjoyment:
Whether you live in Japan, outside Japan or on a trip to Japan, you should not miss an opportunity of enjoying the world famous Shochu of Japan. Of course, Sake and Nihonshu are also famous Japanese drinks, but Shochu owns a different spirit. It can offer up to 45% alcohol by volume or below 35%. You get many choices in Shochu brands. The prices for shochu shots would not be too expensive and it will taste awesome, if you try it on the rocks. You can buy a few bottles of Shochu and carry it with you to your country and let your friends drink it. One shot of shochu and you will fall in love with this Japanese beverage.