After winning some awards on the international spirits circuit (including double-gold at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition), there's ample evidence that iichiko Saiten deserves serious consideration by bartenders everywhere.
My personal favorite iichiko brand available in the US is iichiko Kurobin. Kurobin is literally translated as "black bottle," which is a pretty on the nose description of this evocative packaging. It is simply too pretty to throw away after finishing.
Humid evenings wearing a jinbei or yukata, fireworks over the water, and being reminded once again that old-school strawberry kakigori doesn’t taste much like strawberries at all. These are the indelible hallmarks of summer for many. But I am happy to propose a new addition, Japan’s summer shochu and awamori category.
Semi-officially known as natsu (summer) shochu, the seasonal sub-category is an industry newcomer, interfacing smoothly with the trend toward carbonated drinks such as chuhai and highballs. Summer versions of various sweet potato shochu brands have been joined on the market by rice, barley, kokuto, and awamori (also made with rice) to name a few.… Read More “Shochu for the Summer Months”
Nakanaka is the main brand of barley shochu from the very well respected Kuroki Honten in Miyzaki, which makes a wide range of delicious shochu across two different distilleries, but under the same ownership. Their premium barley shochu, Hyakunen no Kodoku, a 40% ABV barrel aged barley shochu, is arguably the most famous barley shochu in Japan. Nakanaka takes a more straightforward approach with atmospheric distillation and 100% barley.
Unique to the US market, Shima Senryo is a blend of white koji and black koji sweet potato shochu. While this blending style can be found more commonly in Japan, this is the only brand currently in the US that uses this unique approach. Blending has an interesting, but incompletely understood history in shochu production, but more and more distilleries are blending intentionally rather than as a way to cover up some off batches.
Tantakatan is an easy drinking shochu with distinct shiso notes and aromas, though it also carries a bit of seaweed funk in the nose. It's not as strongly shiso-flavored as you get form a shiso-infused shochu (Uminoie in NYC makes it in-house if you're ever hoping to try).