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?”
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!
Zuisen is perhaps the largest distiller of Awamori in Okinawa. This Hakuryu represents their entry level Awamori, though they have domestic varieties that are aged at more than 20 years. Like all Awamori, this represents a full flavored shochu with a great deal of complexity. These spirits are difficult to place flavor-wise and the only that I was able to distinguish clearly from Zuisen was a molasses palate. Unlike other Awamori I’ve had this one is quite balanced. I wouldn’t necessarily call it smooth, but it is mellow for the style.