Grain: 84% imo (sweet potato) & 16% rice
Location: Minamisatsuma, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
Koji: black (kuro)
We started the imo tastings with the easily drinkable, unassuming Kuro Kirishima. Neither of those words would be used to describe Kaikouzu. This is a single distilled imo using the golden chestnut sweet potato local to this region of Japan. This shochu smells like sweet potato in an oddly earthy way – almost unwashed.
The taste is a kick in the teeth – sweet yet biting. And it’s a big bite. Some anise. Some cigar smoke. This is not for the faint of heart (or palate). There’s a lot going on here before it smooths out into a mellow aftertaste. Oddly, it leaves you wanting that next sip almost immediately to experience the rollercoaster all over again.
This isn’t quite as whisky-ish as some of the aged or awamori shochus, but it’s got a big taste all its own. And I mean big.
The Verdict: Recommended
This is not a starter shochu. If you’re looking for a vodka substitute or something for a cocktail, look elsewhere. Kaikouzu is a big boy (grown up) imo – one you’ll find yourself coming back to time and again if you develop a taste for it. The bright orange label (picture doesn’t do it justice) is easy to remember. And worth finding if you’re ready to explore.