“Shochu is the national spirit of Japan, and while most Americans’ first free association of alcohol and Japan will be sake, shochu is more popular and has outsold sake in Japan for the past decade. Still, the two have a lot of similarities, and while shochu fans and producers like to remind everyone who will listen that shochu and sake are two very different things, the easiest way to describe the spirit is as a spirit that tastes sort of like sake. Sake is confusing enough, because it is almost always described as rice wine, but it is actually brewed, more like rice beer than rice wine (it also is not usually called sake in Japan, but rather nihonshu or seishu). It has far more alcohol than either wine or beer, usually around 30-35 proof, though still much less than hard liquor.
Shochu on the other hand is a distilled spirit, most akin to vodka in the sense that it is typically clear and can be made from different raw materials, unlike most spirits (bourbon from corn, rum from sugar cane, etc.), and is most often distilled from barley, rice, sweet potatoes, or buckwheat. More than half of all shochu is made from barley, the top choice. The production process is far more complex than vodka’s however, and there are myriad styles of shochu based on whether it is distilled once or multiple times, there is shochu fermented with mold, there are shochus aged in wood, and so on. Shochu is on the weak side for a distilled spirit as far as alcohol, at only about 60 proof, which also makes it easier to drink and much lower in calories (it contains zero sugar and has about a quarter of the calories per ounce of vodka).” Information from an article by Larry Olmstead published on Forbes.com, August 6, 2013.
Iichiko Kurobin (50 proof)
Nose: Beer-like with a lot of high fruit notes. Quite engaging and crisp.
Taste: Immensely smooth and well distilled. Like a watered down vodka, but with more of a slight sour tang instead of minerality.
Finish: Clean, short and dry. Only a hint of spice and bitterness linger briefly.
Overall: A very well done shochu. I would recommend this to anyone who is curious about this spirit. Try it chilled and at room temperature and see how the character changes.
GSN Rating: A-
For more information go to: Iichiko