In late 2008, “Shochu Tuesday” began on a crisp fall night at Izakaya Ten in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Within a few weeks a regular group of friends gathered every Tuesday and over the next year we managed to visit “i10” at least 35 out of 52 weeks – mainly on Tuesdays. Birthday parties, shochu tasting parties, any excuse for a party, really. Izakaya Ten has now been reopened as Juban, but still has the same vibe we fell in love with.
Stephen Lyman (founder and editor). Stephen is one of the leading American experts on authentic Japanese shochu. He has visited approximately 90 shochu distilleries and has sampled around 3,000 different brands. In 2015, he was the first person to become a certified shochu adviser through the Sake School of America (SSA). He was also designated the first shochu ambassador through the Cool Japan initiative from the Japan National Tourism Organization. He works closely with the Japanese government, importers and distributors, and shochu makers to educate and promote shochu in the United States. In 2013 he began working at a handmade shochu distillery in Kagoshima every fall. in late 2018, a decade after discovering shochu in NYC, he relocated to Fukuoka, Japan. On International Sake Day 2019, his first book, The Complete Guide to Japanese Drinks, was released worldwide by Tuttle Publishing. To his complete shock, it was nominated for a 2020 James Beard Book Award and was chosen as Best in the World for Japanese Spirits by the 2020 Gourmand Book Awards.
Christopher Pellegrini (editor and writer). Christopher discovered shochu even earlier than Stephen, though his journey to shochu professional took place entirely in Japan. He was the first dual certified shochu advisor (SSA [English] and Sake Service International [Japanese]) in the world. He has visited well over 100 distilleries and has tried just everything he can get his hands on. His book, The Shochu Handbook, was the first English language guide to shochu on the planet. An updated version was released in 2019. Christopher is now a regular on the international drinks convention circuit and began judging spirits professionally in 2018. He is also the founder and editor of Shochu.Pro, an informational website for drinks professionals.
Maya Aley (writer). Maya was the first foreigner to complete the Kagoshima Prefecture Shochu Maker’s Guild “Shochu Meister” Program through Kagoshima University and can sometimes be found behind the bar at the legendary shochu bar, Ishizue, in the Tenmonkan neighborhood of Kagoshima City. Maya focuses her attention on Satsuma Shochu from Kagoshima and any other interesting tidbits she decides to share with us.
You can follow Maya @maya.aley on Instagram.
Bill Gunther (writer). Bill is a shochu lover who first met Stephen through his monthly Shochu’sday events. Bill became so enthralled with shochu that he began contributing guest shochu reviews to Kampai.US and took his first trip to Kyushu in 2017.
Chuck Malone (writer). Chuck is the second American to work in a shochu distillery. In the fall of 2017 he spent two months on Amami Island off the coast of Kagoshima, making kokuto sugar shochu. He’s now returned to the U.S. and is plotting his next move. He began writing for Kampai in January 2018 and will periodically share his experiences.
The look and feel of our website is courtesy of web designer extraordinaire Michael Slaven & graphic designer (and graphic novelist) Ian Bradley. Both are regulars on the izakaya circuit. Ian is a fan of barley shochu while Mike favors Japanese beers.
Japan’s Alcohol Traditions Japan Society Talks+ (2020)
The Spirit of Japan (trailer) – upcoming short documentary from director Joseph Overbey.
Shochu: Japan’s Best Kept Secret Japan Society Talks+ (2018)
Native New Yorker Lives Out Love of Shochu in a Foreign Land – Asahi Shinbun
The Kokoro Files: Christopher Pellegrini – Yamato Magazine
Okinawans Get into the Spirit with Awamori – Okinawa Stripes
A Sommelier’s Guide to Drinking Shochu in Tokyo – Culture Trip
Kampai Samurai – Stephen Lyman (Shochu) – nomunication.jp
The Case for Shochu – SevenFifty Daily
8 Ways to Drink Shochu like you’re Japanese – Food & Wine
Your Shochu Adventure Begins! – The Alcohol Professor
Kampai – Okinawan Style! – Okinawa Stripes
Honkaku Shochu and Awamori – No Recipes
Distilling the mysteries of shochu – Japan Times
Shochu: the session spirit – Draft Mag
Sharing Shochu in North America – JapanEats.TV
It’s Shochu’s Night Out! Lucky Rice