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.
Taiso, a relative newcomer to the US market, is a traditional barley shochu in the Iki Island style. Iki shochu is always made with a 2:1 ratio of barley to rice koji.
Arriving under threat of rain (June is rainy season in Japan), but not typhoon conditions, the first stop in Iki was the smallest distillery in Iki, Omoya Shuzo. Just 11 shochu producers currently exist in Iki and Omoya-san is the only tezukuri (handmade) distillery left on the island. Due to the demand for the light, clean flavors and aromas of barley shochu throughout Japan, handmade production is not always possible.
Yamanomori is as old school as they come among shochus imported to the U.S. Made using the traditional atmospheric (unpressurized) pot still, black koji to impart a rich earthy undertone, little if any filtration, and the very traditional 2:1 ratio of barley to rice, Yamanomori is a taste from the past. Much richer, bolder, and more exotic than most any other barley shochu that comes to our shores, Yamanomori is unapologetically an "old man's" (oji-san) shochu.
The yakitoriya was an small place with old men smoking and drinking bottles of shochu while watching American sports on a tiny TV over the bar. We sat on a tatami and tucked into lots of yakitori and a bottle of shochu. The strangest food was cod intestines in Korean red pepper sauce. Goes great with shochu once you ignore what you're eating.
The typhoon (#24 this year if you're counting) wiped out classes for Mai-san's university so my presentation to her class was canceled as was my hoped for trip to Iki island the next day. By 7am it was raining heavily, though the winds hadn't yet really started. By noon there were frequent gusts but that didn't keep us inside.