Until a few years ago, shochu (or soju) was virtually unknown outside of Asia. My first taste was brought back directly from Japan. Like many spirits, it can be made from virtually anything; rice, sweet potatoes, barley, etc… However, generally it is lower in proof than a typical distilled spirit, and it utilizes the all-important Koji mold spores to begin fermentation.
The Northwest U.S. has been a hotbed for Asian beverages in the past decade with sake, teas and now shochu crafted there. Seattle’s Evenstar is the first in the U.S. to distill shochu and they began with an ambitious portfolio of four distinct styles. Each one utilizes pearled barley, Koji and fresh spices and botanicals.
Evenstar Chilies (60 proof)
Nose: Chili peppers are apparent, but held in check.
Taste: Dry and slightly sweet with a subtle chili pepper kick. The balance between the barley flavor and the chili is delicate. It’s almost dessert-like.
Finish: Heat is mild, but present. There’s an organic vegetal quality that reminds me of Mexican kitchen spices.
Overall: I think the burn could be turned up, but if you are looking for just a smattering of Scoville heat units this may be just what you’re looking for. Try this in a Bloody Mary as an alternative to vodka.
GSN Rating: B–
Evenstar Ginger (60 proof)
Nose: Barley and fresh pressed ginger juice.
Taste: Sweet and peppery with subdued ginger spice. The barley distillate adds a rounded and almost creamy body to the whole.
Finish: A slow fade with an almost cinnamon candy-like finish. Refreshing and Summery.
Overall: Not too hot, but with a satisfying warmth. Use this in a Moscow Mule instead of vodka.
GSN Rating: B+
Evenstar Mint (60 proof)
Nose: Initial nosings give no indication of mint. I only detect the shochu barley base.
Taste: After immediately tasting the shochu base, mint comes through after a few seconds. Again, with each Evenstar flavor, everything is quite subtle, natural and not overpowering.
Finish: The mint acts as a mouth freshener, but doesn’t work well with the flavor of the shochu. I’m left with a mild breath mint or mouthwash impression.
Overall: Not sure what to make of this one. It’s not bad, but unless you’re really into mint, I’m not sure what food to pair this with or how it can best be used as a beverage.
GSN Rating: C+
Evenstar Rosemary (50 proof)
Visual: Clear with a slight pinkish tinge.
Nose: Strong notes of barley, slight smokey overtones with a rock candy sweetness.
Taste: Light and elegant, with an unusual minty coolness. Similar in some regards to an Old Tom Gin.
Finish: A crisp and somewhat spicy tannic flavor.
Overall: Very easy to drink. Fine on its own, but also makes for a good base for juice based cocktails.
GSN Rating: B
For more information go to: Sodo Spirits