The entire reason for this trip was to come learn how to make shochu. Tekkan-san, toji of Yamato Zakura Shuzo in Ichiki, Kagoshima Prefecture, was kind enough to allow me to come work under his instruction. I'd met him thanks to Komasa-san, president of Komasa Shuzo, one of the largest distilleries in Kagoshima.
95% of Nishi Yoshida's production is barley shochu. They also make small runs of some niche products such as chestnut and carrot, but barley predominates. In the past they made sweet potato and rice shochu, but switched to barley in the 1980s, distilling for their own labels and for other shochu makers. Their production facility is also substantially smaller than Kitaya, producing approximately 1,200 kilo-liters per year.
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.
Yoroshiku Senman Arubeshi (aka, Hakkaisan Sannen Chozo) is a moromi shochu produced by Hakkaisan, one of the most popular sake brands in the U.S. This particular shochu is distilled from raw sake mash (moromi). The only difference between this shochu and one of Hakkaisan’s famous sakes is that it’s distilled instead of brewed.