I've decided to take a pilgrimage. This isn't easy for me since I don't speak much Japanese outside of restaurants and my “real” career is busier than ever, but I booked a trip to Japan this summer. In fact, I'm on Japan Airlines (JAL) flight #5 from JFK to Tokyo Narita as I write this. Planning this trip has been so daunting, I've only been able to tweet about it. I realized on my way to the airport that many of my friends didn't even realize I was going. A text from our graphic designer read, “Hey man, plans today?” I replied, “Heading to Japan.” He replied, “Hot damn. When you back?”
Kusu, or old spirit, is an Okinawan Awamori aged at least 3 years. According to Japanese law the youngest spirit in the bottle must be at least 3 years old - Awamori producers have a long history of mixing older spirits with younger spirits as the older spirits are consumed.
Most Americans have heard of Okinawa. There's been an American military base on the main island since the end of World War II. However, Okinawa as part of Japan is a relatively recent phenomenon. For centuries Okinawa was its own country, a cluster of hundreds of islands off the southern coast of Japan, stretching to within a few kilometers of the island nation of Taiwan. A rich culture with its on language, monarchy, economy, and culture. It was not and even today is not "Japanese". As a result of this long history of independence Okinawa has its own food & drink traditions. And that's what we're really interested in here at Kampai!
This Awamori is a fine example of the spirit. It has a strong herbal nose that is very rich on the palate. The strong herbal flavor subsides into a moderate licorice or anise flavor before settling into a smooth neutral finish. It has a warm, earthy mouthfeel that’s not at all unexpected from the herbal scent. It’s hard to place the taste beyond herbal, except that it tastes quite a bit like a lighter version of the Taiwanese & Chinese spirit, Kaoliang, a sorghum spirit that’s a much higher alcohol content than most Awamori.