Distillery: Takara Shuzo Co, Ltd.
Location: Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan
Grain: buckwheat (soba)
Koji: malted buckwheat (soba koji)
Distillation: atmospheric (joatsu)
Alcohol: 25% (50 proof)
Soba shochu are a relatively recent invention, having been introduced to the market in the 1970s. Sweet potato shochu have been around since at least the 1700s and rice shochu for probably the 1500s if not earlier. Soba shochu, on the other hand, first appeared in Miyazaki in 1970, owing to the difficulty in fermenting soba.
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. Takara Shuzo has figured out how to not only ferment soba, but also to grow soba koji to allow for the removal of rice or barley from the fermentation process.
The result is a rich, nutty, roasted shochu. The aroma is completely roasted grain while the toastiness turns sweet on the tongue. A sharp grassy finish brings you to the heart of the soba grain. Water mellows these flavors considerably and opens up a buttered caramel popcorn flavor that’s absolutely delicious. It’s expeically nice with hot water (oyuwari).
The Verdict: Exceptional
Towari is a special shochu that pairs really well with richly flavored foods, but is smooth enough to drink on its own. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself drawn to this unusual shochu as an appertif, digestif, or just because you want a glass. It’s the only 100% soba shochu available overseas so it is truly a unique experience.