Get to know Shochu, Japan’s lesser known distilled beverage, and understand its differences from Sake in Part One.

Shochu is a distilled alcohol that is produced in three stages.  It can be made from many different ingredients including sweet potato, barley and sesame.
First Fermentation:
  • Shochu is made by steeping rice and/or barley in hot water and, after cooling it down, adding Koji Mold to convert the starches into sugar
  • The mixture is turned into a ‘mash’ (moto), which is then fermented for a period of days to weeks in a vessel (ranging from steel tanks to bamboo casks to earthenware pots) to create the unrefined alcohol


Second Fermentation:

  • A second fermentation takes place when the steamed main ingredient (sweet potato, black sugar, chestnut, etc.) is added to the mash
  • After two fermentations, the alcohol is then distilled at least once
  • The shochu is then diluted with spring water to about 24% – the water used here is very important in determining the elegance and flavor of the shochu
  • Shochu typically goes through a maturation period – maturation techniques vary in storage vessel and location, both of which affect the shochu’s character
  • The most commonly used containers for aging are stainless steel tanks, clay pots, and wooden barrels or casks
  • Maturation generally takes 1-3 months; however, unlike with Whisky, longer maturations of shochu do not always improve flavor, so most shochus on the market are released relatively young

Photos by Miwako Suzuki

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