On Monday, November 23, 2015, I had the distinct pleasure of appearing on the Japan Eats radio show with host Akiko Katayama on the Heritage Radio Network. If you're not familiar with Akiko's show, it's a beautiful exploration of Japanese food and beverage in an easily accessible format through interview with local New York chefs, restaurant owners, and experts in a variety of areas.
Kiccho Hozan, the black koji version, is very popular in NYC among shochu aficionados thanks to the influence of Aya Otaka, the bartender-owner of Shochu + Tapas Aya, who always recommended Kiccho to her customers when she was holding court at the late, great Shochu Bar Hatchan.
The name Akamaoh, or Red Devil, coupled with the black label over black bottle would suggest a full bodied sweet potato shochu that would give you the deep funk that Japanese often refer to as "imo kusai" (smelly sweet potatoes). However, Akamaoh, may have a devilish name for a completely different reason. It's so easy drinking, it's dangerous in a "devil made me do it way."
Kitaya Shuzo is a nihonshu (sake) and shochu producer in Fukuoka Prefecture and the first stop on our shochu distillery tour. Seikai Ishizuka and I traveled nearly an hour south of Hakata (main station in Fukouka City) on a commuter train to reach Yame, a city of less than 40,000 people in southern Fukuoka Prefecture. There we were met by a Kitaya representative who drove us to the distillery.
Daigano Ideki is our best guess for an English spelling of the name, which means "one drop in a big river." Finding information on this shochu is very much like one drop in a river. There's virtually nothing reliable out there. What we do know is that this barley shochu is aged in oak barrels stored in a cool dry place.
Tsukushi Shiro is one of four premium mugi shochus now being imported to the U.S. from Nishyoshida Shuzo. Tsukushi Shiro is also the most smooth, mellow, and easy drinking of the four thanks in no part to the low pressure distillation that sets it apart from its counterparts. All are made with black koji and local barley, but only Tsukushi Shiro is made using modern pressurized distillation techniques.