Kumamoto Shochu: A symbol of tradition, history, and culture.

Kumamoto is often considered a shochu mecca. A wide variety of shochus are available in Kumamoto, including “atmospheric distilled” shochus made according to traditional methods, and “reduced-pressure distilled” shochus that match modern palates.

Kumamoto Shochu

Surrounded by the barley shochu distilleries of northern Kyushu, the buckwheat shochus of Oita and Miyazaki, and the sweet potato shochus of Kagoshima, Kumamoto lies at the intersection of many different Kyushu shochu cultures. As a result, numerous distilleries in Kumamoto make shochu with blends of rice, potato, and barley. Some distilleries also barrel-age their shochus to impart unique flavors, while others use huge old-fashioned earthenware jars to age their shochu. Kumamoto is unique in having so many styles and varieties of shochu produced in one single area.

Main Steps in Distilling Shochu

(processes differ depending on brewery or type of shochu being made)

1. Senmai (Senmugi) & Shinseki

Main fermentable (rice, barley, etc.) is washed in brewing water and soaked in water as necessary.

2. Mushi

Rice is added to an enormous steam basket called a koshiki and steamed.

3. Seigiku

Once steamed rice has cooled enough, a portion is inoculated with koji yeast and left to rest in the koji room. This results in the koji that is integral in making the rice fermentable.

4. Hakko (1)

The koji, water, and yeast starter is mixed in a large jar or tank to cultivate the yeast. This is called the ichiji jikomi (“primary fermentation”).

5. Hakko (2)

The primary moromi (“mash”) made in primary fermentation is mixed with what will be the main fermentable (rice, barley, sweet potato, etc.) and is allowed to ferment for multiple days.

6. Joryu

The moromi from the secondary fermentation is then distilled in a pot still. Stills can either be atmospheric stills, where the mash is heated and the evaporate is collected, cooled and turned into liquid; or reduced-pressure stills, where pressure inside the still is reduced during distillation.

7.Roka (1)

The raw distillate contains something called fusel alcohols that impart a savory flavor to the shochu but can also add off-flavors and aromas. The shochu undergoes roka (“filtration”) to remove the desired amount of fusel alcohols and adjust the aroma and flavor of the shochu.

8. Chozo & Jukusei

Freshly distilled shochu is stored for a period of time to allow it to age and mellow out.

9. Roka (2)

Secondary filtration heavily influences the final flavor of the shochu. Even with the same base spirit, the brand of shochu can change depending on how many times it has been filtered. Unfiltered shochus with a strong umami flavor are also available.

10. Warimizu

Raw spirit is around 40% alcohol, so brewing water is added to maintain flavor consistency and adjust the alcohol level. Some shochus are a blend of differently aged raw spirits to achieve certain desired flavors.

11. Binzume

The finished shochu is then bottled and shipped out.

Amakusa Shuzo & Company

Mercian Corp.Yatsushiro-Shiranui Brewery

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