Brand: Satoh Kuro
Distillery: Satoh Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: 60% sweet potato (imo) & 40% rice (kome)
Koji: black (kuro)
Distillation: atmospheric (joatsu)
Alcohol: 25% (50 proof)
I have a bad habit of waiting to review shochus I love. I don’t know why I do this. It’s not like all of you are going to drink it all up and I won’t be able to find it anymore. In fact, getting more people to drink it is exactly how it will become more popular, available more places, and assure that I’ll always be able to find it in NYC (and hopefully elsewhere). Satoh Kuro is the product I’ve done this with the longest, inexcusably. So please accept my apology.
In the US, Satoh Kuro is simply known as “Satoh” as none of the distillery’s other product lines reach our shores. In Japan, their national premium labels are Satoh Kuro (black koji sweet potato), Satoh Shiro (white koji sweet potato), and Satoh Mugi (barley). All are delicious, but only Kuro comes Stateside. They also have 2 additional brands that are simply local Kagoshima sweet potato shochus that you’ll rarely if ever find outside of Kyushu.
Without further delay, let me introduce you to Satoh Kuro, a rich, earthy, black koji sweet potato shochu made with the unusual 3:2 ratio of 1st moromi to 2nd moromi, giving it more rice content than most sweet potato shochus, which usually range from 17% to 33% rice.
More than any other shochu available in the U.S., this is one I like to pour into a glass, add a little cold water (7:3 ratio), and then just stick my nose in the glass periodically for 3 or 4 minutes before taking my first sip. The nose on this shochu is unlike any other alcohol avaialble in the U.S. Roasted, rich, umami, sweet, and starchy all at the same time. It’s a simply amazing aroma and one I always look forward to when I order this shochu.
Taste wise, the nose does not fool. Rich, roasty, sweet potato flavors greet your palate followed by a surprisingly spicy middle before a lingering finish carries you away until you’re ready for your next sip.
There is nothing else quite like Satoh Kuro in the US and there are few shochus that can match it even in Japan. It’s clearly among my favorite shochus. In fact, my friends know just what to get me to celebrate. I’ve always got 2 or 3 bottles around the house and I hate to open them, because as soon as I do that lovely gold foil disappears.
I prefer to drink Satoh, as I mentioned, with a 7:3 ratio with cold water. It’s also fantastic oyuwari with a 7:3 hot water mix. I haven’t tried it atsukan (heated), but I imagine that’d be special as well. It pairs extremely well with grilled meats, especially pork or chicken. You’ll also get a completely different experience if you enjoy it with yuzu kosho (yuzu pepper paste), perhaps with some fried or grilled pigs feet or cheek.