Shochu – Mitake Imo Jochu 三岳芋焼酎

Mitake 1

Mitake first came on my shochu radar when I was working at Nihonbashi Takashimaya in the saké department. One large bottle (1800 ml) was sitting in the storeroom as a customer had special ordered it. It wasn’t a shochu that we normally carried. I asked one of my colleagues about it and she told me that it was a premium shochu. Premium is tricky in Japan. In this case, it is a popular shochu that is available in limited amounts, creating a premium price for it.

Fast forward about ten years later and you can imagine how thrilled I was to see Mitake being sold in our local department store saké department as part of a fukubukuro, the lucky grab bags that are sold on January 2nd at major department stores.

Mitake 2

Can you see the beautiful imagery of Yakushima island on the label?

Mitake is made on Yakushima island, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site for its rich flora and ancient sugi (Japanese cedar trees). Yakushima island is also famous for its delicious water, essential in making Mitake sweet potato shochu. In the shochu making process after it is distilled it is often diluted with water to lower the alcohol percentage. Some on Yakushima will tell you that the local water has umami, hence the Mitake shochu also has umami.

Mitake 3

On the upper left corner there is a circle with what looks like three red E’s in it. This symbol is important as it recognizes that all of the sweet potatoes used in making Mitake shochu comes from sweet potatoes that were grown and harvested in Kagoshima prefecture. Apparently some shochu distillers are using imported sweet potatoes from overseas.

The red characters reading down is honkaku shochu 本格焼酎, or single distilled shochu. If you are drinking any shochu, it should be honkaku shochu. The other style, distilled several times, is better for making umeshu or other sweet shochu that is steeped with fruit like yuzu, lemons, or even coffee beans.

Mitake 4

 On the right side of the label there are two other important kanji to take note of.
 屋久島産  Yakushima-san or from Yakushima island
 薩摩焼酎 Satsuma Shochu or shochu from Kagoshima
Much like D.O.C. in wine, there are four regional types of shochu that can be labeled as such:
 薩摩焼酎 Satsuma Shochu from Kagoshima (made from sweet potatoes)
球磨焼酎  Kuma Jochu from Kumamoto (made from Japanese rice)
琉球泡盛  Ryukyu Awamori from Okinawa (made from Thai rice)
壱岐焼酎  Iki Shochu from Nagasaki (made from barley)

On the nose, Mitake has a sweet aroma, somewhat like sweet potatoes. It isn’t funky like some sweet potato shochu can be, but more on the mild side. On the palate it is slightly sweet, somewhat like steamed sweet potatoes. It’s slightly dry with a bit of umami on the palate. Overall a mild and easy drinking shochu. I liked it with hot water (oyu wari) but that is because it’s cold this time of year. It is also very nice on the rocks or as mizuwari (mixed with water).

If you ever come across a bottle of Mitake be sure to pick it up.

Mitake Shuzo started in Showa 33 (1958) and is currently a 2nd generation shochu distillery.

三岳 Mitake

芋焼酎 imo jochu (sweet potato shochu)

麹:米麹(白麹) shiro kome koji

原料:コガネセンガン base ingredient: koganesengan sweet potato

900 ml

25 degrees alcohol (Mitake also makes a shochu with the same label that is 35 degrees, so double check when purchasing)

Kagoshima-ken, Kumage-gun, Yakucho Awa 2625-19

鹿児島県熊毛郡屋久町安房2625番地19

TEL 0997-46-2026

 

You may like these other blog posts on shochu.

Shochu 焼酎 – Futan 風憚

Fuutan

Fuutan

My favorite type of shochu is an imojochu, or sweet potato shochu. It comes in a wide variety of aromas and flavors. Some can be really funky and others very smooth. Fuutan is on the easy-drinking and light side. This is a great starter shochu if you are interested in sweet potato shochu but are not too adventurous. Fuutan can be had on the rocks or with hot water (oyuwari), so a good shochu to have anytime of the year.

What makes Fuutan unique is that it uses a sweet potato called kurikogane. Most sweet potato shochu is made from a variety called koganesengan. Kurikogane is a unique sweet potato, not often found.

Fuutan

25 degrees alcohol

base ingredient – kurikogane sweet potato

koji – kuro koji (black koji)

Fuutan Genshu

Fuutan Genshu

Fuutan Genshu is the undiluted version (most shochu is diluted with water to bring the alcohol down). At 36 degrees it is on the high side for shochu. I don’t come across this as often and would have this one on the rocks. If shopping for this, look for the kanji for genshu on the label. 原酒

Fuutan also ages a small amount of bottles, either three or five years. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying these, but typically as time passes the shochu becomes softer and more gentle on the palate. These bottles are numbered on the label.

Fuutan is made by Fukiage Shochu in Minami Satsuma, Kagoshima.