Top 10 Best Shochu Brands You Should Sip In Your Life

Sake is by far the most famous Japanese liquor overseas. But shochu, which is just as delicious as sake, is gradually gaining recognition around the world. Here are 10 of the best shochu, divided into Affordable and Premium.

Affordable Shochu

First, I will introduce inexpensive shochu, which can be easily found anywhere in Japan or even outside Japan. The prices mentioned on each table are for purchases on Amazon Japan (including tax).

Iichiko

Probably, the most famous shochu in Japan is “Iichiko” because of its low price and decent quality. You can get this barley shochu anywhere, including liquor stores and supermarkets. There are many kinds of Iichiko, but the cheapest and most popular is the one with this design.

Also, when you order an all-you-can-drink (Nomihodai) plan at Japanese restaurants, this Iichiko may be served as shochu in most places.

NameIichiko
TypeMugi (Barley)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsMild but clean taste
Price (for 900ml bottle)JP ¥997 (approx. US $9)

Kurokirishima

If the standard barley shochu is “Iichiko,” the classic sweet potato shochu is “Kurokirishima”. It is also widely known and available in many places. It has won many awards in both domestic and international spirit contests.

Kurokirishima is a sweet potato shochu developed based on the concept of a liquor that goes well with food. Many fans especially love it as a drink during the meal. Hence, this is a highly recommended brand to enjoy with Japanese Izakaya food whenever you visit a Japanese pub.

NameKurokirishima
TypeImo (Sweet potato)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsTart and sweet with a crisp finish
Price (for 900ml bottle)JP ¥1,016 (approx. US $9)

Tomino Hozan

Tomino Hozan is a fruity and smooth shochu made to be drunk, especially on the rocks. Sweet potato shochu basically has a strong smell and flavor. So, some people are not used to drinking it without adding water or other drinks. However, this Tomino Hozan is really easy to drink, so it is especially recommended for beginners.

NameTomino Hozan
TypeImo (Sweet potato)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsFruity and smooth
Price (for 720ml bottle)JP ¥2,028 (approx. US $18)

Ginka Torikai

The most popular types of shochu are either barley or sweet potato. Still, among the rice shochu, Ginka Torikai is the best-known brand. Many breweries in Japan typically use advanced manufacturing techniques to produce various kinds of liquors. But the brewery of Ginka Torikai (Torikai Shuzo) produces and sells only Ginka Torikai. This strong commitment actually makes Ginka Torikai quite unique.

It is made from rice, and it has a sweet, fruit-like aroma similar to sake. And that makes it an easy-to-drink rice shochu for those who don’t like the smell of shochu.

NameGinka Torikai
TypeKome (Rice)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsGorgeous aroma and soft taste
Price (for 900ml bottle)JP ¥2,255 (approx. US $21)

Akakirishima

Akagirishima is a shochu made by Kirishima Shuzo, the same brewery as Kurokirishima. In contrast to the royal Kurokirishima, which fully utilizes the characteristics of sweet potato shochu, Akakirishima is mellow with a sweet taste.

However, since the sweet potatoes used for the ingredients of Akakirishima are pretty special, the annual production is limited. So until a while ago, it was only available in the spring and fall when it hit the market. But the good news is that it recently has become more accessible and easier to find many places.

NameAkakirishima
TypeImo (Sweet potato)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsLingering sweetness and noble aroma
Price (for 900ml bottle)JP ¥1,188 (approx. US $11)

Premium Shochu

Here are some of the more expensive so-called “Premium Shochu”. Some are a little pricey but still easy to find, while others are sold on the internet for many times their original price.

Maou

Maou is one of the most popular premium shochu. But it is not so expensive and still easy to get. It does not have the distinctive smell of sweet potato shochu. Instead, it has a fruity aroma when poured into a glass. Its gorgeous scent makes it very easy to drink. And because of that reason, it has many fans among women in particular.

It is often given as a special gift to someone. In fact, I once gave Maou as a present for my father’s day.

NameMaou
TypeImo (Sweet potato)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsFruity aroma with no odor
Price (for 720ml bottle)JP ¥3,600 (approx. US $33)

Mori Izo

The most famous premium shochu is definitely Mori Izo. Generally, shochu is a cheap liquor, but this one is basically sold for over $100. The original list price is about $20. Even though it has become more famous, the brewery has not increased production. Furthermore, to buy Mori Izo at the original price, we have to call them and enter a raffle.

As a result, they are now selling for many times their original price on online auctions. Apart from that, it seems that Mori Izo is offered onboard only to first and business class passengers on JAL’s international flights on some routes.

Incidentally, former French president Jacques Chirac is said to be a big fan of Mori Izo. And he was delighted when the president of Toyota gave him 12 bottles of Mori Izo.

NameMori Izo
TypeImo (Sweet potato)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsVery mellow taste without any bitterness
Price (for 720ml bottle)JP ¥15,900 (approx. US $145)

Kanehachi

Generally speaking, barley shochu is a light and crisp taste. But Kanehachi is different from the conventional ones. The flavor is quite savory, and the taste is smooth and soft with a full body. Furthermore, the strong barley flavor lingers as an aftertaste is more unique than other barley shochu. Therefore, it is also known as “the legendary barley shochu” in Japan.

Although barley shochu is usually enjoyed in many different ways, such as with water, tea, or boiled water, Kanehachi is best to go with on the rocks to savor its aroma.

NameKanehachi
TypeMugi (Barley)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsStrong barley aroma and deep taste
Price (for 720ml bottle)JP ¥2,900 (approx. US $26)

Hyakunen no Kodoku

Hyakunen no Kodoku is a strongly popular premium barley shochu. Most shochu is distilled and then bottled and shipped as it is. However, Hyakunen no Kodoku is matured in white oak barrels, just like whiskey, before being packed and shipped. Therefore, the color is light amber with a whiskey-like barrel aroma.

The standard Alcohol By Volume (ABV) for shochu is around 25%. But Hyakunen no Kodoku is 40%, making it a very high ABV shochu.

The Emperor of Japan is also known to be a fan of this shochu, and this is what sparked the current boom. By the way, the name “Hyakunen no Kodoku (百年の孤独) “ means “100 Years of Solitude” in Japanese.

NameHyakunen no Kodoku
TypeMugi (Barley)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)40%
CharacteristicsDeep flavor and whiskey-like aroma
Price (for 720ml bottle)JP ¥5700 (approx. US $52)

Sato Black

Sato Black is popular as an intensely flavored sweet potato shochu that draws out the natural sweet potato’s features to the utmost limit and has both flavor and sharpness. There is also a White version of Sato, but I recommend the Black. Since it has a strong flavor, people generally enjoy drinking it with boiled water.

NameSato Black
TypeImo (Sweet potato)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)25%
CharacteristicsStrong taste and savory flavor
Price (for 720ml bottle)JP ¥3,150 (approx. US $29)

Conclusion

Shochu is sold in many places outside of Japan due to its recent popularity. So, if you can find any of the above ones in your country, please give it a try. Also, suppose you are invited to a dinner or drink party (Nomikai) when you visit Japan as a business trip or vacation. In that case, you can also try a glass of shochu as quite a few Japanese restaurants have them on hand.

If you don’t know how to drink shochu and enjoy it to the fullest, please check the below article about the complete guide to drinking shochu.

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