GSN Review: Honkaku Koji Spirits

Honkaku Spirits is devoted to bringing artisanal Japanese spirits to American customers with a particular focus on koji-based spirits including Honkaku (meaning authentic) Shochu, Ryukyu Awamori from Okinawa, and koji whiskey, an as-yet undefined but widely enjoyed category of whiskey. Working exclusively with family-run suppliers, Honkaku Spirits endeavors to introduce the finest traditional spirits Japan has to offer.

Yokka Koji 4-Day Koji Awamori (Chuko Distillery, Tomigusuku, Okinawa Prefecture) is a distinctly complex awamori made by one of the most creative distilleries in Okinawa Prefecture. Rather than the customary two-day koji propagation process, Chuko Distillery doubles the duration of this essential step, creating layers of flavor and aroma as a result. After a 22-day, all-rice koji fermentation, single pot distillation, and six months of tank aging, Yokka Koji is bottled at 43% ABV and exudes a luscious aroma profile. GSN’s Remarks: Remarkably delicate for the proof. Light in flavor, with a sweetish edge. However, as the flavor journey moves forward, there is a slight smokiness and salinity on the tongue. Then, a warming, with soft spice way back on the palate at the finish. Very elegant and exceptionally crafted. GSN Rating: A+

Jikuya Black Sweet potato shochu (Jikuya Distillery, Satsuma-cho, Kagoshima Prefecture) This sweet potato shochu is made from Kagoshima-harvested ingredients and begins its life fermenting in decades-old clay pots buried up to their shoulders in the distillery floor. Kogane Sengan sweet potatoes are added to the secondary fermentation, imparting distinct earthy and vegetal notes. After a single pass through a pot still, the spirit is rested for one and a half years in unglazed clay pots, which adds minerality and complexity. GSN’s Remarks: We definitely pick up on the minerality at the outset. Almost like an earthy vodka, but for the inherent sweetness and smokiness from the sweet potato. At only 25% ABV, this is a easy to drink spirit perfect for pairing with pork chops, tempura or even pizza. GSN Rating: B+

Jikuya White Sweet potato shochu (Jikuya Distillery, Satsuma-cho, Kagoshima Prefecture) This sweet potato shochu is made from Kagoshima-harvested ingredients and begins its life fermenting in decades-old clay pots buried up to their shoulders in the distillery floor. Anno imo sweet potatoes are added to the secondary fermentation, imparting equal parts sweet and spicy notes. After a single pass through a pot still, the spirit is rested for at least three years in unglazed clay pots, which adds to the drink’s depth of flavor. GSN’s Remarks: Quite different from the Jikuya Black, with a slight medicinal flavor, but also an unusual grape brandy character upon entry. Light in body, but rich with flavor, we prefer this one on it’s own, ideally as an aperitif. GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Honkaku Spirits

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GSN Spirited News: April 27th 2021 Edition

Pasote Tequila has debuted new packaging across its whole line of agave spirits. The new bottles feature the brand’s name on colored labels with Aztec gods and warriors—a black label for Blanco, red for Reposado, and orange for Añejo—as well as a new white band across the bottles’ stoppers. While the bottles and labels have changed the liquid inside remains the same and is still produced from 100% estate grown blue agave. Pasote’s Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo offerings retail for $49-$69, and its Extra-Añejo sells for around $190.

Austin, Texas-based Garrison Brothers Distillery will release Laguna Madre on May 8. The new, limited-edition Texas straight Bourbon is the most ambitious expression Garrison Brothers has produced, the result of four years of aging in white oak barrels followed by four years in French-imported Limousin oak barrels. Only 2,000 bottles will be available nationwide. Each bottle is housed in a display case framed by a photo of its namesake Gulf Coast waters and hand-signed and numbered by master distiller Donnis Todd. Laguna Madre is at 50.5% abv and will retail for $300 a bottle at the distillery and in select outlets nationwide.

Austin, Texas-based Ballotin Whiskey’s latest release is Ballotin Chocolate Peanut Butter Whiskey Cream. Blending the brand’s barrel-aged whiskey with dairy cream, the release elaborates on Ballotin’s previous Chocolate Whiskey Cream and is a permanent addition to the lineup, which also includes Chocolate Mint, Caramel Turtle, and Bourbon Ball, among others. It’s at 17% abv and retails for a suggested $22 a 750-ml. Ballotin Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream is available now across Ballotin’s more than 30 state distribution area.

Jura Whisky has added a new 12-year-old expression to its U.S. portfolio of single malt Scotch expressions. The new offering first matures in ex-Bourbon casks before finishing in Oloroso Sherry casks. It joins Jura’s 12-year-old, Seven Wood, and 18-year-old expressions, and retails for around $50 a 750-ml.

Honkaku Spirits is debuting Takamine Whiskey in the U.S. market. Made at Japan’s Shinozaki Distillery, Takamine is an 8 year-old, 80-proof, 100% barley, koji-fermented whiskey. Koji (aspergillus oryzae) is a mold that grows on grains, breaking the starches into sugars which yeast can then convert into alcohol through fermentation. Koji has been used in Japan for more than 1,200 years to make sake as well as soy sauce, miso, shochu, and other familiar umami-laden Japanese products, according to the company. Aged in virgin American oak and ex-Bourbon casks, Takamine is rolling out now across 15 states, distributed by Winebow and retailing at $99 a 750-ml.

Courtesy of Shanken News Daily