Depending on how shochu is aged will be reflected on the palate. Shochu is often aged in tanks, ceramic pots, or barrels. Aged in stainless steel tanks the shochu will retain more of the base ingredient. As ceramic pots are allowed to breathe the shochu softens and rounds out on the palate. Naturally, aging in a wooden barrel will add tannins and color to the shochu similar to whiskey.
Finally, aging a shochu for a long period will let it meld and come together making it smoother and gives it a longer finish. Ku-su (クース) is aged awamori. It must be aged a minimum of three years, and be at least 50% or more to be labeled as ku-su, and is often aged in ceramic pots.
Shochu is made in every prefecture of Japan, which can’t be said about sake as it is not brewed in Kagoshima. Shochu is so prevalent on the southern island of Kyushu, that in many places when you walk into a restaurant and ask for sake, a generic term for alcohol, you may be given shochu. Similar to learning village names of Burgundy, it is good familiarize yourself with the names of the prefectures of Kyushu.
Kagoshima 鹿児島 – imo (sweet potato)
Miyazaki 宮崎 – soba (buckwheat)
Oita 大分 – mugi (barley)
Kumamoto 熊本 – kome (rice)
Amami Oshima 奄美大島 – kokuto (brown sugar)
Okinawa 沖縄 – awamori
Shochu Authority 焼酎オーソリティ
Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Station, Yaesu Kitchen Street, 1st Floor
10:00 – 21:00, no holidays
Shochu Authority has one of the best selection of shochu and awamori in the city. There is so much to choose from and the knowledgeable staff can help you find whatever you are looking for. It is conveniently located inside of Tokyo station. It is inside of the station building, but outside of the ticket gate.
• The most important thing to remember when buying shochu, look for honkaku shochu 本格焼酎.
• Antenna Shops will have good selection of local shochu. Check out Kagoshima (antenna shop chapter) and Miyazaki (see Shinjuku).
• Depachika usually carry a selection of the popular brands.