Sometimes it is best to rely on good luck than preparation. On our third night in Fukuoka, after visiting Kitaya Shuzo & Nishi Yoshida during the day, we met up with Seikai’s friends from school for dinner at an organ meat izakaya (story on that experience coming soon). Afterward a few of us decided to have one more drink – shochu of course. One of the guys took the lead in finding a place, which consisted of running (literally) down the street in search of a shochu bar that was still open.
To our great food fortune, he discovered Otsu, a 2nd floor premium shochu bar on a narrow side street. Upon walking in it became obvious we were in for a treat. Right there on the bar were shobin (1.8 liter bottles) of the 3 M’s: Maou, Mori Izo, and Murao. We quickly settled into the front window tatami table and ordered one of each as well as a few otsumami (small drinking snacks). Mesmerized by the 3 M’s – the first time any of us had tried any of them – we fell in love with Maou in particular, but found all to be delicious.
This was also the first time we’d seen Satoh Shiro (white koji) or Satoh Mugi (barley). Satoh Kuro (black koji) is available in the U.S. (review coming soon), but we’d only heard rumor of other Satoh labels. Until that moment we’d been unaware of a barley variety from this Kagoshima-based sweet potato shochu producer. It was a revelation. Very, very nice.
Perhaps just as exciting was the opportunity to try Satoh Kuro oyuwari (with hot water) out of a traditional joka (photo above). What made this particularly special was that the Satoh Kuro was first secondary aged in a kame (clay pot) at the bar. This spirit was then mixed with water in the joka, a small clay kettle, which was then heated up to warm the mix. This method brings out the rich aromas of the spirit as well as more flavor than you’ll get when served neat or on the rocks.
All in all this happy accident of discovering Otsu turned into one of the most memorable nights on our shochu tour as we were able to try virtually every famous premium sweet potato shochu in one sitting. The warm environs, great company, and lucky find all only added to the experience. We’ll definitely return to Otsu next time we’re in Fukuoka.