Distilling the Rice Shochu Loved by All (Sunday, April 1st, 2012)
In the middle of the deep mountains of the Kyushu Highlands, there is a gaping, wide open basin called Hitoyoshi Kuma. This is the home of shochu distiller, Takahashi Shuzo, established in 1900. In this region, subsoil spring water gushes from throughout the foothills and each stream gathers in the Kuma River running through the basin. For centuries, people in Hitoyoshi Kuma have distilled shochu by using this pristine water along with the abundance of rice grown in the region.
The rice shochu made in this region is called “Kuma Shochu.” Like Scotch Whiskey, Cognac Brandy and Bordeaux and Chablis Wine, named after its area and designated by the World Trade Organization, Kuma Shochu is a brand that is recognized worldwide. Presently, there are 28 breweries striving to distill delicious Kuma Shochu. Takahashi Shuzo is one of those distillers, with their “Hakutake Shiro” becoming popular nationwide as a top brand.
Kuma Shochu is characterized with a strong flavor, originally enjoyed by just the local people. In 1974, Takahashi Shuzo employed a new technology using a reduced pressure distillation system and successfully created a soft aroma and taste so more people can appreciate it. This revolutionalized Kuma Shochu and lead to the birth of Hakutake Shiro. “Hakutake Shiro” is made using this method. While maintaining the rich aroma of rice it successfully gives a mild, smooth, easy-to-drink finish, making it the King of Kuma Shochu, which appeals to people across the country.
Under the company philosophy— to bring people closer together locally, nationally and internationally through rice shochu, Takahashi Shuzo continues to make shochu that accompanies moments of happiness. Wishing for shochu to be spread to people overseas in the future, they plan to hold events like shochu seminars and tastings. Although Hakutake Shiro is Takahashi Shuzo’s signature brand, they produce a variety of rice shochu as well as plum wine and liqueurs. Currently, “Hakutake Shiro” is the only brand from the distiller available to drink in the U.S.
Takahashi Shuzo Co., Ltd.
498 Gonohara, Kuma-gun,
Three things you should know about Takahashi Shuzo
2. With a clean aroma and soft taste, even for women who normally don’t drink shochu, it is easy to drink. Like wine, Hakutake Shiro can be enjoyed with a meal, and it is recommended on the rocks or mizuwari (cut with water). If drinking on the rocks, it goes well with fried foods, yakitori and meat dishes. Drinking it mizuwari is best for fish dishes like sashimi and sushi.
3. With an aim to introduce to everyone in the country the historical and cultural value, the “Kuma Shochu Museum Hakutake Shiro Storehouse” was established in Hitoyoshi City in Kumamoto Prefecture in May 2010. Through touring and free tastings, people are exposed to the history, culture and manufacturing of Kuma Shochu.