Nakanaka is the main brand of barley shochu from the very well respected Kuroki Honten in Miyzaki, which makes a wide range of delicious shochu across two different distilleries, but under the same ownership. Their premium barley shochu, Hyakunen no Kodoku, a 40% ABV barrel aged barley shochu, is arguably the most famous barley shochu in Japan. Nakanaka takes a more straightforward approach with atmospheric distillation and 100% barley.
Taiso, a relative newcomer to the US market, packs a robust smoky, but traditional Iki Island punch which pairs well with meals. Similar to its fellow ikijochu, Yamanomori, Taiso is made with a 2:1 ratio mix of barley to rice.
In the US, Satoh Kuro is simply known as "Satoh" as none of the distillery's other product lines reach our shores. In Japan, their national premium labels are Satoh Kuro (black koji sweet potato, Satoh Shiro (white koji sweet potato), and Satoh Mugi (barley). All are delicious, but only Kuro comes Stateside.
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.
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.
If you've tried other soba shochus, you're probably used to their lightly nutty aromas and flavors while still finding them light and easy drinking. Towari takes this in a completely different direction by using 100% soba. Most other soba shochus blend rice and even barley during the fermentation processes in order to smooth out the rich flavors of the buckwheat.