Japanese Shochu


Cù Bòcan Creation #2 is an experiment where the Far East and Europe meet, this innovative creation is rich and lively with hints of smoke and key lime pie! An unusual spirit matured in Japanese Shochu and European Virgin Oak casks.

It is believed that distillation techniques and methods first arrived in Japan from Korea in the late 15th to early 16th century through the China Sea trade, with the first reference to Shochu being made in 1559. Once regarded as the drink of the working class, Shochu has grown in recent decades to become the most popular drink in Japan. To understand the scale, there is twice as much Shochu produced in Japan as there is Tequila in Mexico with over 200 distilleries in Kagoshima, the largest Shochu producing region. In fact, the expanding popularity of Shochu at the time is one of the main reasons that many of the now famous Japanese whisky distilleries shut down in the 1990s.

 As well as being the most popular spirit in Japan, it is also one of the most diverse spirits categories in the world. Translating to “burned alcohol”, Shochu can be made with over 50 base ingredients of which sweet potato, rice, barley and buckwheat are amongst the most popular; some distilleries will produce several different styles based on the harvest time of the main ingredient. One of three types of koji (black, white or yellow) is then added to help convert the starches to sugar. This fungus has an incredible impact on flavour, further adding to Shochu’s diversity. Much like whisky, Shochu can be produced in both pot stills (to produce Honkaku Shochu) and column stills (to produce Korui Shochu). 

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Whisky and Shochu production is what is done with the spirit after distillation. Traditionally Shochu is stored in earthenware jars and bottled within a year. However, the boom in popularity of Shochu in Japan, as well as an emergent attempt to grow export sales, has led to increased experimentation and innovation within the category which includes maturation in oak. Japanese regulations state that Shochu must be lighter in colour than Whisky and Brandy, so the vast majority of this oak aged Shochu is blended with non-aged spirit to create a more complex product.

Due to the unconventional nature of oak use in Shochu production these casks are rare and incredibly difficult to source, but in 2012 we were able secure some from our parent company. Half of these were filled with Cù Bòcan from our first year of production, 2005, and the other half were filled with Cù Bòcan from 2006. Cù Bòcan Creation #2 has spent more than half of its maturation in Shochu casks which have brought estery notes of pear drops and fresh lime. The spirit’s earthier tones have been able to shine through with a hint of Cù Bòcan’s signature smoke.


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