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Shochu 101

We are lucky to have Shochu Expert, Taeko Tsukada-san to come teach us a little bit about Shochu.

A short 2 hours workshop about Shochu, we all managed to walk away with a basic understanding of Shochu.

Attentive students listening to Taeko-san. This time Adrian is a student instead!

Shochu is a distilled alcohol beverage originating in Japan from the 15th Century. It has an alcohol content between 20 and 40% abv. It is made of various ingredients, and there are multiple ways of drinking it.

A common question is, what’s the difference between Shochu (Japan) and Soju (Korean)? The short answer is that it is very similar.

A longer answer would be that Soju is made in Korea since the 14th century. It is mostly made from rice, combined with starchy ingredients such as wheat, barley, potato, tapioca and sweet potato. Shochu is made in Japan, using one of 49 ingredients, but usually Mugi (Barley) and Imo (Sweet Potato).

Taeko-san highlighted 2 different grades of Shochu, mainly Kourui and Honkaku Shochu;

Kourui Shochu is made using continuous distillation. It is more akin to vodka, mostly colourless and odourless. It is usually cheaper than Honkaku Shochu.

Honkaku Shochu is made using a single pot distillation method. It has a lot more aroma and character than Kourui shochu. It can be made from 49 ingredients, some even as exotic as shiso leaves, but 80% of all shochu made is split between Mugi (Barley) and Imo (Sweet Potato).

For her tasting today, we drank 4 different shochu, some in different styles.

(From left to right)

1. Honkaku Shochu – Ginko Torikai | Made from Kome (Rice)
2. Kourui Shochu - Takara Shochu “Jun” | Made from Molasses, Barley and corn
3. Honkaku Shochu – Kozuru Kuro | Made from Imo
4. Honkaku Shochu - Iichiko | Made from Mugi

These are the snacks that Taeko-san had prepared that go well with the shochu. So thoughtful of her!

Here is Taeko-san serving the shochu.

All the tastings were remarkably different.

The Mugi shochu was pleasantly refreshing, with a mild aroma. With a 2:1 ratio of hot water, the aroma was brought out tremendously

The Kourui shochu was very mild, very suitable to be drunk in a cocktail style, or just with lemon and soda water.

This is a Kourui shochu mixed with soda water and a slice of lemon.

Imo shochu was the style I most associated with shochu. A more pungent aroma, described as more dynamic with a stronger attack, it left a very strong impression. It was made more palateable diluted with water.

The Kome Shochu was very pleasant, like a mild baijiu. It has the frangrance of sake, known as Ginjo-kou. I was quite impressed with this shochu, tasted very nice either neat or on the rocks.


With plenty of laughter and hearty discussions about shochu, our night ended on a happy note. I have learnt that Shochu is different but also similar to sake in many ways. I will be definitely looking forward to another session with shochu!