Passing Down the Shochu Traditions (Sunday, January 1st, 2012)
Long before the rise of shochu consumption began in Japan in the last 10 years, Satsuma Shiranami, sweet potato base shochu, has been widely enjoyed throughout Japan. With full bodied potato flavor and a pleasant, nutty aroma, Satsuma Shiranami have attracted Japanese people of all ages for almost 60 years.
Satsuma Shuzo Co., Ltd., the producer of Satsuma Shiranami, makes its home at the southern tip of the peninsula in Makurazaki City in Kagoshima Prefecture, the region overlooking the warm East China Sea, famous for catching bonito. The region is well equipped to produce shochu. First, it is a well known sweet potato producing area. Also, their manufacturing plants are surrounded by potato fields, so they always use freshly harvested potatoes to ultimately make high quality shochu. In addition, the shirasu plateau in the region provides quality spring ground water that is optimal for shochu making.
At Satsuma Shuzo, traditional shochu-making techniques have been passed down from generations using handcrafted production. They refurbished “Meiji-gura” about 20 years ago, which are renovated facilities of old breweries from the Meiji Period. Using over a hundred-year old ceramic storage pots, pot stills, and stone cellars and employing traditional techniques, they create a unique variety of shochu in the Meiji-gura. Some examples are: Meiji no Shochu, made with a method brought back from the Meiji Period; Banshoko, which uses a method based from a book in the Edo Period; and Tezukuri Meiji-gura made from a variety of sweet potatoes including the famous koganesengan.
Among a variety of shochu that Satsuma Shuzo produces, Satsuma Shiranami and Kannoko (barley shochu) are available in New York. Though any type of drinking style can be applied, the former is well suited to drink oyuwari, respectively mixing the shochu and warm water at a 6 to 4 ratio. The latter goes well with any kind of cuisine, and is recommended to enjoy on the rocks.
The times demand for a new sense of traditional Satsuma shochu production combined with innovation and they continue to produce shochu in response to customers’ needs.
Satsuma Shuzo Co., Ltd.
Three things you should know about Satsuma Shuzo
1. At Satsuma Shuzo, they continue to firmly follow the inherited old-fashioned recipe to produce authentic sweet potato shochu. Refurbished old breweries for modern day production, their Meiji-gura facility works as the laboratory and manufacturing plant of traditional yet innovative shochu.
2. Over 100-year old ceramic storage pots are used for producing shochu at Satsuma Shuzo. There are almost 100 ceramic pots, and each of them has individual features that play a tremendous role in the flavor of their shochu.
3. For distilling Meiji-gura, they use vintage wooden pot stills. There are only a handful of distillers that still use wooden pot stills. The final products made with the wooden pot stills have a unique, woody aroma that capturesz the essence of the vintage facilities.