Tantakatan is an easy drinking shochu with distinct shiso notes and aromas, though it also carries a bit of seaweed funk in the nose. It's not as strongly shiso-flavored as you get form a shiso-infused shochu (Uminoie in NYC makes it in-house if you're ever hoping to try).
Kagura no Mai, with its plain black and white label with abstract drawings of village life, doesn't shout from you off the shelf. Nor does is grab you out of the glass. It's light and clean with the forward aromas of sake yeast. This leads me to believe it's a low pressure distillate and that the distillery has chosen to use a traditional sake yeast rather than one of the more neutral shochu yeasts.
Mizunomai (Mizu for short) is a high proof barley shochu that was developed for the global market. Extensive taste testing with customers and bartenders throughout Japan, the US, and other Asian countries yielded this blend as the most popular all without compromising the artisinal qualities that make this class of spirits so unique.
"Made with pure water long loved by the fireflies." This is the statement Kougin No Sasayaki uses to try to draw you in. For me it evokes a riverside on a summer evening with fireflies flitting about as children chase them and adults clean up after the picnic. Hard to imagine shochu at a picnic, but I suppose on the banks of the Bansho River in Kyushu (where 90% of shochu is made and consumed), that's exactly what you'd find.
The first thing you notice about Window's Migaki and its sister shochu Window's Mugiichi is the "window" of the bottle with artwork by artist Ichiro Tsuruta. Our photo doesn't really do this artwork justice (her face isn't crooked). Don't let the pretty packaging fool you (with many wines the artistry of the label is directly inversely related to the quality of the product inside). Window's Migaki is a barrel aged barley shochu (Mugiichi is this same shochu unaged) of the highest quality.
What's in a name? It helps to understand the origins of Kappa No Sasoi Mizu, which is literally translated to "Kappa pump priming", but more subtly refers to the allure of the mythical Kappa, which will drown you if you come to close to the water (mizu). More subtly the Kappa is known to sometimes seduce women, which would explain this shochu most fully.