Distillery: Inoue Syuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Miyazaki Prefecture
Grain: 83% sweet potato (imo) & 17% rice (kome)
Koji: white (shiro)
Distillation: low pressure (genatsu) suspected
Alcohol: 24% (48 proof)
Akamaoh is one of those sweet potato shochu I find occasionally and for the life of me can’t figure out why it’s not everywhere. Since I drink it rarely it doesn’t always jump to mind when thinking of favorites, but time and again upon returning to it I wonder why I don’t drink it more often. This white koji based sweet potato shochu is aged for one year in a clay pot (kame), giving it a sweet, mellow flavor profile.
The name Akamaoh, or Red Devil, coupled with the black label over black bottle would suggest a full bodied sweet potato shochu that would give you the deep funk that Japanese often refer to as “imo kusai” (smelly sweet potatoes). However, Akamaoh, may have a devilish name for a completely different reason. It’s so easy drinking, it’s dangerous in a “devil made me do it way.” The aroma is lightly honeyed from the white koji while the flavor yields much more than expected thanks to the clay pot aging, which rounds out the taste. A sweet sharp start pervades and as the sweetness fades, you’re left with hints of clay and mint. Adding a splash of cold water mellows the sharpness while opening up a buttered mouth, maple syrup, and plenty of umami. Works with hot water as well, oyuwari style.
The Verdict: Recommended
Akamaoh is imminently drinkable and yet has plenty of flavor if you take your time to look for it. However, it’s so smooth it goes down without much thought, which could be its appeal. It’s easy drinking on the rocks, but smooth enough to enjoy neat or with a splash of water, which is where you’ll find the real flavors. With the buttered mouth and the hints of maple syrup, this is a lightly decadent devil of a drink.
(note: this post was updated on 6 February 2019 based on further reflection).