Shochu is a type of distilled beverage unique to Japan,
known for its rich, mellow aromas and expansive, concentrated flavor.
The history of Kagoshima shochu
Sweet potato shochu from Kagoshima, made with Satsuma potatoes, is one of Japan’s definitive distilled alcoholic beverages.
Shochu is also known for being easy for the body to recover from, and has fans of all ages.Sweet potato shochu made with the Satsuma potato is the number-one favorite among the people of Kagoshima.
Honkaku-grade shochu is distilled according to traditional methods–usually just once. This type of shochu is renowned both in Japan and abroad as one of Kagoshima’s leading specialty products.
Shochu has always been a part of everyday life in Kagoshima.
People here still immediately think “shochu” when they think of alcoholic beverages.
The origins of shochu are uncertain, but the leading theory has it arriving in Satsuma from the Chinese mainland or Southeast Asia via the Ryukyu Islands. At the very least, we know that shochu was already being consumed in Kagoshima by the sixteenth century or so.
When the Koriyama-Hachiman shrine, located in the modern-day city of Isa, underwent repairs in 1559, one of the carpenters scribbled:
The owner is so stingy, he won’t even treat us to a shochu.
This is the oldest documentation we have of shochu’s presence in Japan.
We know from these antique inscriptions that shochu has long been a way for the Kagoshima people to relieve the tensions of the day.
Brown sugar shochu from the Amami Islands
Sometimes called “Japanese rum,” brown sugar shochu made from sugarcane is crisp and clean on the palate.
Amami brown sugar shochu is yet another treasure among the shochu of Kagoshima.
The remote Amami Islands are located some 350 kilometers to the south of mainland Kagoshima, made up of more than ten large and small islands–the largest of which is Amami Oshima.
The entire area enjoys a subtropical climate, and is home to numerous species of unique plants and animals. These islands have a southern charm that is entirely different from that of mainland Kagoshima.
Honkaku-grade brown sugar shochu is made by brewing brown sugar derived from sugarcane with koji rice malts using a single distillation process.
Japan’s Liquor Tax Law limits the production of shochu made with sugar or sugarlike substances to the Amami Islands, making this a truly rare shochu that cannot be created anywhere else.
Almost all brown sugar shochu are clear, with no added sugar and a sugar content of 0%. They are clean and crisp on the palate.
Because they are only distilled once, they retain rich flavor notes from the brown sugar and rice-derived ingredients. A touch of unique sweetness is what inspires people to refer to them as “Japanese rum”.
The people of Amami typically drink this shochu with a splash of water or on the rocks, but it is the latter preparation that really showcases the crisp, clean finish of brown sugar shochu.
These days, younger people are also enjoying brown sugar shochu over crushed ice with a splash of club soda.