Guest Maya Aley joins Stephen Lyman on this week's Instagram Live to discuss the Satsuma Imo.
Kagoshima is the southernmost of the mainland prefectures, located on the south end of Kyushu Island, and about as far as you can get from Tokyo without being in Okinawa. How did this remote place known for Satsuma Imo become so central in the shochu world? Good question. Shochu has a history of about 500 years, so let’s start in the middle.
I just spent 2 months in Amami-o-shima, an island off the coast of Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan. I went there to learn how to make kokuto, or black sugar, shochu. How did I get there? Well, that’s kind of a long story. Let me start at the beginning. In fact, before that.
Unique to the US market, Shima Senryo is a blend of white koji and black koji sweet potato shochu. While this blending style can be found more commonly in Japan, this is the only brand currently in the US that uses this unique approach. Blending has an interesting, but incompletely understood history in shochu production, but more and more distilleries are blending intentionally rather than as a way to cover up some off batches.
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.
In 2013 I wrote an entry for every day of my 3 week adventure in Kyushu. This year I didn't write a single post while spending 3.5 weeks in Japan. I'll blame a wonky laptop that was in the Fukuoka Apple Store until the day I left Japan, but mostly I wanted to immerse myself in the moment without the distraction of "What am I going to write about today?"