Shochu is most commonly distilled from sweet potatoes, barley or rice. At Ochiai Distillery, they specialize in ‘Imo’ sweet potato shochu. The sweet potatoes are sourced from one designated farm that only uses plant-based fertilizers. The sweet potatoes grown via this method, or called green manure crop farming, have low moisture content. Shochu made from these firm, dense sweet potatoes are smooth to the palate and have a deep taste.
Honkaku Shochu or single distillation shochu involves:
(a) the use of koji mold; which is important for saccharification that converts the base ingredient’s starches into sugars
(b) the use of citric acid generated from the koji mold, which protects the mash from unwanted contamination
(c) the one-time-only use of the distillation pot. After distillation, nothing is added except for water. In other words, no food fragrances nor sweeteners, etc. are added.
Usually, shochu does not undergo cask maturation. Therefore, unwanted flavors do not get added and the original flavor of the base ingredient is retained in the finished product.
In 2004, the third generation of Ochiai Distillery, Ippei Ochiai, ventured on a new initiative and crafted unconventional shochu during a Honkaku Shochu boom that was occurring in Japan. Although it was a small portion against the total volume of products manufactured at the distillery, Ippei started making a unique shochu from ‘yomogi’ leaves or Japanese mugwort. This was something other distilleries did not make. Later, Ippei also made shochu from green bell peppers and other novel base ingredients. This created a buzz, and various people from Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, as well as local governments, started requesting they create a new shochu with their locally-grown produce. Hence, a brand new page was added to Ochiai Distillery’s 100 year history of shochu making.
Rihei Ginger (38% ABV)
Nose: Ginger and shochu in equal proportion. Very clean and crisp.
Taste: Mild and fresh ginger flavor with a rock solid shochu base. There is a depth and body in the distillate which has a somewhat berry fruit character which comes out towards the tail end.
Finish: Fairly long with the ginger fading well before the fruit ending.
Overall: The whole endeavor is quite beautiful and Asian in character. Delicate and subdued, but with a strong sense of personality. This should be on your short list for use in creative cocktails.
GSN Rating: A
For more information go to: Ochiai Shuzojyo