Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kagoshima Prefecture Shochu Bonanza

200 shochus presented at one event. The bounty of the Kagoshima prefecture. 300 Japanese. One stunned gaijin!

This was an extraordinary event. I learned a great deal, developed greater appreciation of shochu, and lived to tell the tale. For the record, I only tasted about 20 shochu. I appreciate that no one was spitting their shochu out, so I tasted mine and did not expectorate as you would at a more official sake or wine tasting. As they say, "When in Fukuoka..."

Kagoshima seems like fascinating place. The shinkansen (bullet train) was furthered to Kagoshima last year and that has cut the travel time to Kagoshima down considerably. Thus the reason for this event: to tempt the good people of Fukuoka with their considerable shochu bounty for the benefit of travel, tourism, trade...and consumption.  

Shochu and sake are from the same family and they should be better friends. After all, they share the same mother (Japan) but shochu is not limited to rice as nishonhsu. Last night, I had shochu distilled from rice, wheat, sweet potato, sugar cane (“black sugar” shochu or molasses) and buckwheat.

If you’ve been to the Church of Sake, but didn’t get any religion, I beseech thee: before you leave the church, the minister has some shochu he would like you to try.

The virtue of shochu; versus practically any other spirit; lies beyond taste alone--which is always going to inspire debate from drinking enthusiasts, especially those that worship at the altar of nihonshu. For me, great merit is found in how versatile it is in presentation. 

Do you prefer your shochu chilled, room temperature, on the rocks, with water, with tea, with juice? From what grain or tuber? Most of this variety in distilling and presentation is anathema to a sake zealot such as me, but they are acceptable methods to enjoy shochu.

I found a favorite shochu last night. I was surprised to learn it is distilled from brown sugar. Then again, I love brown sugar. ...The tall bottle on the left was the one that hooked me. Hard to describe, it is fiercer than sake and gentler than whiskey.

Thanks to my mates Chris and Tony for teaching me a thing or two about shochu and serving as interpreters. For the record, I woke up this morning strong as an ox and remember everything that happened to me. Especially the daiginjo I used to wash down dinner at one of the better izakayas I have ever been to. But that's another story.

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