Sunday, March 02, 2014

Shōchū and Awamori Taste Testing Event

Ever heard of Shōchū and Awamori before? Before this event, I haven't. And it's a shame because I was in Japan before and had many Japanese friends too but this authentic Japanese alcoholic drink has never been brought to my attention before.

So I was delighted to be a part of the taste testing event when the Japan Sake & Shōchū Makers Association had 11 of it's members to be a part of this event and introduce their beverage to us.
The 11 participants are:
  • Genkai Shuzo Co. Ltd.
  • Ikinokura Distilery Co. Ltd.
  • Sangetsu Shuzo Co. Ltd.
  • Tsutsumi Shuzo Co. Ltd.
  • Yachiyoden Shuzou Co. Ltd.
  • Satsuma Shuzo Co. Ltd.
  • Komasa Jyozo Co. Ltd.
  • Yamamoto Shuzo Co. Ltd.
  • Ogatama Shuzo Co. Ltd.
  • Himeizumi & Co. Ltd.
  • Kyoya Distiller & Brewer Co. Ltd.
Due to this event being organized by Japanese, I sorta expected it to start on time so I made my way there early just so I don't miss a thing. Fresh from a nap (and also dazed from it), I registered myself and proceeded to walk into the hall where the booths of the respective Shōchū makers each displayed their products on top of their tables.
But it wasn't time for the tasting yet. Oh no. It will happen after the seminar.

Upon getting to my seat, in front of me were neatly placed taste cups of different Shōchū made with different ingredients.
Laid out were 5 different types namely with Sweet Potato, Rice, Barley, Awamori and Barley (Traditional).

15 minutes into the stipulated time (due to heavy rain), the session started and soon after an introduction of the various makers of Shōchū present, the seminar went on with the introduction of Shōchū followed by how and what it's usually made with (the base) and later on described to us on what characteristics we would get as we sip away on the taste test cups in front of us.
 The Sweet Potato has a citrus-like aroma to it and it's pleasant on the throat and palate with a hint of sweetness in it.
The Shōchū made with Rice has a rosy smell to it when you nose it and the alcohol in it is quite apparent.
Barley contains a light barley taste and it's smooth and light while the Traditional Barley has a really strong roasted barley taste to it and the taste lingers on even after you've finished sipping it.
As for Awamori, it's slightly sweet and it's the smoothest of all in it's taste. When you smell it, it has a hint of vanilla aroma to it. Awamori by the way, is Okinawa Shōchū made from black koji.
(By the way, at the picture above, if you notice there is one elevated bottle in the middle. That Shōchū called Gokujyo Tsutsumi tasted the most similar to whiskey to me. It has an oaky taste and resembles very much like whisky).
If there's one thing that I discovered at this Shōchū seminar is that the secret ingredient to Shōchū making is Koji.
This ingredient aids in the fermentation of the typical ingredients that branches Shōchū like rice and barley and etc which is the bane of Shōchū's taste.
So after the seminar, it was time to taste some Shōchū while downing some dinner which was prepared by Renaissance Hotel's chef:
For women, usually they would prefer alcohol to be less bitter and easier to consume, hence, most women would prefer Shōchū that's made with plum. Plum Shōchū is sweet and is with lower alcohol percentage also has pinkish to brownish color as opposed to other types of Shōchū which usually is clear in color.
The event was certainly a delight to me to had witness, taste and learn more about Shōchū but ended earlier than I would've liked to had. I guess they had to do so since the exhibitors and the translators were hard at work without their dinner while we tasted away while chowing down ours.

Now that I've gotten a taste of Shōchū, I would certainly hope I'll be able to purchase one here in Malaysia to consume at my own pleasure and time.