Distillery: Amami Oshima Kauin Shuzo
Location: Amami Oshima (Amami Island), Kagoshima Prefecture
Ingredients: Kokuto sugar (68%), rice koji (32%)
Koji: White (shiro) koji
Distillation: Single vacuum distillation (pot still)
Alcohol: 24% ABV
Price: $$[**Editor’s note: Even though Lento sold in the American market says “soju” on the label, it is not actually soju (which is mostly made in Korea). Lento is, in fact, a Japanese shochu.]
Lento Kokuto Shochu’s Curb Appeal
Lento Shochu, due to its distinctive turquoise bottle, is perhaps the most recognizable kokuto shochu in the U.S. and certainly a good starting point for exploring this style of shochu. What makes kokuto shochu different from other types of shochu is its base ingredient, kokuto sugar, which Christopher Pellegrini recently explained here on Kanpai. As with most sugar, kokuto comes from sugarcane.
After the sugarcane harvest, it is checked to remove impurities then squeezed into a juice. That juice then gets boiled to create kokuto sugar.
After having created a first fermentation of two types of yeast and kojified rice, Amami Oshima Kauin Shuzo adds the kokuto sugar to a second fermentation which gets distilled once in a pot still.
After distillation at reduced pressure, the shochu is aged in tanks in a process known as onkyo jukusei (acoustic aging) for three months where classical music (i.e. music of Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi) is played. The name “Lento” is an Italian musical term which means slowly or gently.
The result of the above production process is a gentle, light flavor that has an initial medium-rich sweet alcohol bite which mellows the more one drinks becoming softer on the back of the throat. Its fragrant, fruity, and sugarcane aroma is transporting to the point one envisions being on a tropical island. Having been made with sugarcane, it may be compared to a light rum.
As such a light shochu it is really flexible when it comes to mixing. I enjoy it on the rocks, but it can be great with soda or, as the master brewer-distiller of Lento surprisingly recommends, mixed with Hoppy, a non-alcoholic beer designed specifically for mixing with shochu.
The Verdict: Worth Drinking
Lento is a good beginner kokuto shochu recommended as an introduction to this style. Although light and mellow in flavor, it’s a more natural and mid-range flavor compared to other kokuto shochu brands and thus is smooth drinking.