After sake (nihonshu), shochu is the second traditional drink of Japan.
Shochu is a destillate that was originally produced in Japan, contains about 25% alcohol by volume and was first produced on the island of Kyushu in the south of Japan.
Shochu is normally divided into two categories: the singly distilled premium brands such as Honkaku shochu or Awamori and multiply distilled mass-produced products such as Korui shochu. Here at shizuku, the expression shochu always refers to the singly distilled premium brands.
Honkaku shochu and Awamori are spirits that are produced in a process called pot still distillation. The majority of this destillate contains about 25 per cent alcohol by volume, some up to 45 per cent alcohol by volume. In Japan, this is the upper limit regulated by law. Honkaku shochu and Awamori are therefore stronger than wine or sake but are mostly weaker than whisky or other spirits known in Europe or the US.
Honkaku shochu has been produced in Japan since the sixteenth century. Machines for distillation were imported to the Ryukyu chain of islands from Indo-china and then sent to Satsuma – the western part of the present-day Kagoshima Prefecture on Kyushu. This is one of the reasons why Kyushu is the home of shochu. Depending on the area, shochu are produced on the island of Kyushu with different regional main ingredients.
Awamori, which was originally produced on the Ryukyu islands (Okinawa), has also been brewed in Japan since the fifteenth century. Only long-grained Thai rice and black koji are used in its production. With 30 to 43 per cent alcohol by volume, it is higher than that of Honkaku shochu.
Honkaku shochu is brewed from the following main ingredients: barley, rice, sweet potato, sugar cane, sesame or buckwheat. It is clear from such different ingredients alone how broad the bouquet variety of shochu is.
Shochu is a multifaceted drink, which can be enjoyed in different ways depending on the season and your personal taste (drinking experience). Shochu is also a great accompaniment to meals.