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.
Satsuma Hozan is the white koji sweet potato shochu from Nishi Shuzo, which also makes such premium products as Tomi No Hozan, Kiccho Hozan, and the ultra-premium Tenshi No Yuwaku. Besides these year round products, Nishi Shuzo also produces a line of seasonal limited edition sweet potato shochus including Ayamurasaki, Beniazuma, and Shiroyukata.
There's no better Valentine's Day shochu available in the U.S. than Tenshi No Yuwaku, which is translated as angel's temptation. This is a play on the idea of the angel's share, the part of a barrel aged spirit that evaporates "to heaven" ... In this case, the spirit is so good even the angel's are tempted. The Botticelli cupid on the label only makes it more sweet in its appeal to our romantic side.
Like so many imo shochus, this one has that earthy nose. Fresh dirt. But there’s an added element here. A hint of wild flowers. What makes it unique from other imo shochus is the yellow koji, which gives it much more floral aroma and palate. Tomi No Hozan is even drinkable neat. A buttery mouth feel accompanies the pleasantly sweet floral taste. Oyuwari (hot water) really opens up the flavor, tasting almost like a tea rather than a liquor, though the burn gives away its true nature.