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You’re finally here in Japan. It’s dinner time, and you open the alcoholic beverages menu. Beer, sake, whiskey, cocktails, and…what is an Awamori?

Here, I would like to introduce shochu, a popular Japanese alcohol made and consumed all over in Japan. Under the liquor tax law, shochu is defined with 4 conditions:

  1. It does not use sprouted grains
  2. It is not filtered through white charcoal
  3. It does not add anything that is not registered during distillation
  4. The alcohol percentage is between 36 to 45.

Shochu can be purchased in convenience stores, drug stores, super markets, and liquor stores. Here on, I would introduce 10 recommended Japanese shochu brands.

1. Iichiko (いいちこ)

www.iichiko.co.jp/

Iichiko uses whole grains and goes through distillation at a low temperature, resulting in a clear taste perfect for on the rocks or diluting it with other beverages. Their bottle designs are beautiful. It makes you want to keep it even after you’ve finished it. Official site here.

2. Kuro Kirishima (黒霧島)

netton.kokubu.jp/

Kuro Kirishima’s texture is thick, and tastes sweet, but has a sharp aftertaste. They use sweet potato and kouji (麹), which is steamed rice infested with rice malt bacteria. Official site in Japanese here.

3. Aka Kirishima (赤霧島)

www.kirishima.co.jp/

Aka Kirisihma is made from the same company that makes Kuro Kirishima. Compared to Kuro, Aka Kirishima uses a sweet potato called Murasakimasari (ムラサキマサリ). This creates a high aroma and a one-of-a-kind sweetness. Official site in Japanese here.

4. Funaguchi Kikusui (ふなぐち菊水)

www.niigata-sake.or.jp/

Funaguchi Kikusui is fruity and easy to drink, great for beginners. It also comes in a small aluminum can, so it’s convenient to carry around on outdoor trips. Official site in Japanese here.

5. Shiro (しろ)

tsukubasonbou.at.webry.info/

Shiro has a clear and sharp aftertaste, which is great for drinking while eating any kind of cuisine. You can have it on the rocks, straight, or diluted with other beverages–it’s your choice. Official site in Japanese here.

6. Ikkomon (一刻者)

www.ikkomon.jp/

Made from 100% sweet potato, Ikkomon has the aroma of the sweet potato, and leaves no aftertaste, making you want to take another drink. Also has another label called Ikkomon Aka (一刻者赤), which is sweeter. Official site in Japanese here.

7. Tominohouzan (富乃宝山)

www.urano-saketen.com/

Tominohouzan creates their own ingredients for shochu, which is sweet potato. It uses yellow kouji, and has a citrus aroma and a sharp aftertaste. Official site in Japanese here.

8. Torikai (鳥飼)

mall.fc2.com/

Made from rice, Torikai has an aroma like tropical fruits, and no sharp aftertaste. It is really easy to drink, and so is a big recommendation for shochu beginners. Official site in Japanese here.

9. Satsuma Musou (さつま無双)

satsumashochu.com/

Satsuma Musou is made in the Satsuma region in Kyushu. They use the sweet potato and water there to make this shochu. This shochu isn’t available everywhere. You need to check the restaurants or stores they sell or offer. Check the official site for further information. Official site in Japanese here.

10. Mitake (三岳)

item.rakuten.co.jp/

Mitake uses the water from Okuno Island, where it is said to have pure and delicious spring water. Because of this, it is said to hard to obtain. Consider yourself lucky if you see one. Official site in Japanese here.

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