Brand: Kozuru Kuro
Distillery: Komasa Shuzo, Co. Ltd.
Location: Kaogshima Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: sweet potato (imo)
Koji: black (kuro)
Distillation: atmospheric (joatsu)
Alcohol: 24% (48 proof)
Hard to explain why I haven’t reviewed Kozuru Kuro sooner. Perhaps in some way I wanted to keep it secret. It’s an affordable, luscious black koji imo shochu from Kagoshima. It’s the basic product from Komasa Shuzo, which I visited this summer. They also offer a clay pot aged imo shochu in the U.S. known as Kura No Shikon, which is actually made in a different facility and with a different distillation process than Kozuru.
This represents their basic introductory sweet potato shochu and comes in white, yellow, and black koji varieties, but only the black koji version is sold in the U.S.
So what’s it like? Thanks to the black koji, it has the distinct earthy nose we expect, but this is unexpectedly accompanied by a maple syrup aroma. It’s forwardly sweet, almost molasses like with a round, rich mouthfeel. An unexpected roasted caramel finish completes the package.
The Verdict: Highly Recommended
Unlike other black koji imo shochus, which can be dirty and dry, Kozuru is a rich sweet, delicious shochu that might be best served straight. Adding water mellows everything out considerably, but the sweetness pervades, though the finish is almost too faint to enjoy. Don’t bother drinking this one on the rocks. The ice masks everything that’s luscious about this shochu. It took me a while to figure this out. I remember absolutely loving it the first time I tried it, but then being less impressed when drinking it “rocks” at an izakaya. Skip the ice.