Brand: Satsuma Godai
Distillery: Yamamoto Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Satsuma Sendai City, Kagoshima, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: 83% sweet potato (imo) & 17% rice (kome)
Koji: white (shiro)
Distillation: atmospheric (joatsu)
Alcohol: 24% (48 proof)
“History dances to a tongue.”
This is the English verse inscribed on the label. The meaning is likely a complete mystery to most Westerners who come across this odd label which includes a sketch of a Japanese man. It would be easy enough to mistake his rough, jowly visage for that of a sumo wrestler, but it is, in fact, the last samurai, Saigo Takamori. He wasn’t truly the last samurai, but he was the leader of the Satsuma Rebellion, which was the last stand of the samurai class against the modern Japanese Imperial army in 1877. His force of 40,000 was pitted against 300,000 soldiers. The rebellion lasted 9 months, at the end of which just 400 rebels fought against 24,000 imperial soldiers at the Battle of Shiroyama. Saigo was mortally wounded in the battle after which his remaining samurai, numbering about 40, charged the soldiers, ending the rebellion and preserving their honor. Saigo was posthumously pardoned for his rebellion and now stands as a tragic hero in Japanese history.
That Saigo appears on this bottle is no mystery since the shochu hails from Kagoshima prefecture, which was traditionally known as Satsuma, where the rebellion originated and ended. Satsuma was an independent and powerful domain in southern Japan and that pride still runs deep in the Kagoshima people. They also happen to make the most famous sweet potato shochu.
Satsuma Godai is a straightforward sweet potato shochu with a sweetly earthy nose. The white koji and atmospheric distillation give it a round, rich, sweet flavor. Molasses notes dominate the palate. This strongly sweet flavor settles into a cinnamon finish.
The Verdict: Highly Recommended
Despite the modest price point, this is a delicious, full flavored imo shochu with all of the character you’d expect from the style. It lacks the rich earthiness you find in the black koji imos, but the white koji rounds out the flavor profile and the full pressure distillation brings out the flavors in force. This is the kind of shochu you keep at home for those days when you want a classic, easy drinking imo. Sounds like most days, doesn’t it? Try it on the rocks or cut with some cold water. You can’t really go wrong.