On 15 May, the Embassy of Japan hosted the Kuma Shochu Tasting Experience, which was co-sponsored by the JETRO London Office, the Kuma Shochu Distillers Association and Hitoyoshi City, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, with the aim of promoting premium quality Kuma Shochu, a spirit made from rice.
Shochu is a clear, distilled spirit that can be made from rice, barley, buckwheat or sweet potato. It has a refined, easy-drinking character and, due to the use of steamed grain (koji) in the fermentation process, is believed to be good for the health and to aid longevity. Kuma Shochu, the spirit produced in Hitoyoshi City in the Kuma area of Kyushu in Southern Japan, is made using only the clear, crisp water of the fast-flowing Kuma River and locally-sourced premium rice. These top-quality natural ingredients, coupled with a heritage that stretches back over 500 years, combine to create a drink with a unique character and full-bodied aroma. For its outstanding quality, "Kuma Shochu" has obtained a registered Geographical Indication under WTO rules.
Shochu should appeal to the food and drinks industry as much as to individuals in the UK. It goes well with various types of food, can be drunk in whatever styles one chooses and is easy to preserve and handle. It is, of course, suited to Japanese cuisine but also complements British, Italian, French and Chinese dishes. Since it comes in various flavours, aromas, colours and strengths, one can find a type of Shochu to match any kind of cuisine. As Shochu is fermented with koji (molded rice), some types have a��relatively strong taste augmented by the aroma and taste of koji, while
others are somewhat sweet, with a floral fragrance hinting at apples or
citrus fruits. As the strength of Shochu can be quite high, in Japan it is common to drink Shochu with hot water added to accompany a meal, in which case the strength is reduced to that of wine. Naturally, some people consume Shochu neat or on the rocks to fully savour the bouquet and flavour of the drink itself, while it is also pleasant when taken with water. Thus, as one can drink Shochu in so many styles, there are a number of different ways of enjoying it. Furthermore, as Shochi is a distilled spirit, it easy to produce it to a predetermined quality in terms of the flavour, aroma and othher features. Moreover, in contrast to brewed alcohol, it is easy to transport, will not become degraded at certain temperatures and can be enjoyed after prolonged storage at room temperature.