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Anybody interested in Shochu?


Whiskey Taichou

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Although I am a scotch and bourbon man, I have over the past year fell in love with Sake and especially Shochu. I have been making, beer, wine and sake for years now and have found sake to be the most frustrating, though rewarding when I finally get something good. I feel confident I can make rice shochu on a small scale, but barley shochu has been a real challenge. I recently went to the "Indy Spirits Expo" at Astor Center in NYC, and picked up several shochus while there. I am primarily interested in barley shochus, and not as much sweet potato or rice. I recently picked up a carrot shochu with skepticism, and was stunned by how good the flavor and quality of it was. I know this is a niche within a niche within a niche, but if anyone else is passionate about it let's trade ideas. I doubt this is a big market, more of a labor of love for me.

My problems are two fold:

1) Finding the right Koji that is made for barley, not rice, and then getting it to properly convert the barley starches. Is GEM Culture the only US supplier? Doing this with rice is easy, barley has been a real challenge. It is now easy to find highly polished, high quality sake specific rice, from Sakeone, but not so for barley. The timing is everything with making sake, I am sure this to be the case with shochu. There is a lot of information out there regarding sake, very, very little with shochu. How much is the barley polished? How long the soak? How long does it steam, etc? What ind of koji and then what kind of yeast. Do you then introduce follow up doubling batches of steamed barley at intervals as in sake production? Does all the citric acid you need come from the koji or do you need to add this or any other nutrients, lactic acid, etc. Like sake is cedar the preferred vessel lining for the koji steps to stay as authentic as possible? Is temperature as critical as in sake making to the final taste? Will the finished moromi be as high in alcohol as a high quality junmai?

2) On Iichiko's website http://www.iichiko.co.jp/en/learn/steps.html they show a picture of their beautiful stainless low pressure still. Distillation of the moromi is done with a low pressure still to keep as much flavor as possible. I can simulate this with a Buchi rotovap with a low pressure attachment, but moving up to a large scale low pressure still. I know from a several year old ADI newsletter there is one of these on the west coast. Who is the manufacturer of these stills? If it is a single pass distillation, how large are the cuts? Can a larger still get a low pressure add on like a rotovap, or does it need to be built from the ground up?

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Guest sensei

I'm an Awamori man myself, but shochu will never be turned down by me. I've thought about marketing to the large Japanese population in certain states, but as most Americans won't even drink sake, a Japanese drink they've at least heard of, I don't think it'll be a fruitful battle to get them to try shochu. I'm never one to rain on a person's dreams, but it would pay, literlly, to get a lot of market research on this as I would wager that there exists too much of a xenophobic feeling toward a Japanese rice based spirit. I would not be disapponted to be wrong on this.

On a side note, have you ever thought that instead of Koji using a higher grade of rice or will this not in any way affect your final product? BTW: How is your Japanese? Mine is functional and no where near fluent. I rely on my wife a great deal.

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Sensei,

First of all I would say my ultimate goal is still whiskey. The market for shochu is tiny here, but thats ok. Learning to make sake has made me a better beer and winemaker with more tools to solve more types of problems. I believe learning how to make shochu will make me better at making other spirits. There are some interesting techniques used in making shochu that could inform other types of spirit making. For example, the low pressure still is said to capture more flavor. Is there an opportunity to make better whiskey or rum here? These stills often tend to be more power efficient, hence more economical, and therefore greener. Power is an expense for any distillery. Is there something to learn here that can make a rum or bourbon better?

The koji's ability to churn out such a high alcohol wash is pretty amazing. Astor Wines carries shochu made from rice, barley, carrot, sweet potato, potato, buckwheat, cantalope, dates, and wheat. Could the versatile Aspergillus also break down starches in corn or rye? When I first began studying the process I thought, your using barley, why not just malt some and use that to convert your starches? I thought, "What's wrong with these guys?" Maybe the joke is on us, because the taste of these products is amazing. With white, black, and yellow kojis out there, all with different flavor profiles, there is a lot of room to make distinctive products.

At the same time, we are starting to see more and more barrel aged shochus, maybe they are being influenced by the boom in whiskey drinking in asia? There are several shochus now aged in cedar barrels, either exclusively or double woods aged in oak as well. What does this do to the flavor? Cedar is important in traditional sake making, I am curious what effect cedar barrels have on the final maturation.

What interests me in microdistilleries is what interests me in microbrews: creativity and trying new things. The creativity of the microbrews has been exciting and has elevated the entire market. I don't think Budweiser would have ever come up with Rogue's "Old Crustacean Barleywine" or "Chocolate Stout" which I think is amazing. The big whiskey makers also tend to be fairly conservative and traditional, and not prone to a lot of experimentation. Buffalo Trace now has a microdistillery, but that's it among the really big boys. Last time I toured the Jack Daniels Distillery, I was amazed to learn that when the family sold the distillery, one clause in the contract was that the new owners could not change the recipe. No wonder they are so traditional. I am looking for new ways to expand my craft, that's where my interest in shochu comes from. As more people try it maybe there will be a market for it here in the states way off in the distance. Even small grocery stores here in the middle of nowhere Tennessee, far outside Memphis or Nashville, now carry sushi stations. I would have never guessed would happen 10 years ago. But if not, no big deal. As I said my interest in shochu is in making me a better distiller. Maybe one day I will also learn a thing or two from pisco, arrak, baijiu, etc. that will broaden my own spirits' horizons.

Best regards,

WT

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Interesting article from San Francisco Chronicle:

Move over sake, here's shochu

Just when sake is becoming trendy in the Bay Area, the Japanese are already onto the next big drink -- shochu.

Shochu is now outselling sake in Japan -- phenomenal for a spirit that less than 20 years ago was considered the tipple of alcoholics and the impoverished. Stylish restaurants now flaunt the breadth of their shochu selections, and people are paying more than $200 a bottle on auction Web sites for a popular limited-production brand that retails for less than $25.

read more at:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...WIG3885SLM1.DTL

fd_spirits29_027_at_t.gif

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  • 3 months later...

In the past ten years premium sake has become very popular in major cities in the US, and the past five years shochu has come to sake drinkers attention, especially the high end consumers. As a spirits writer I was into the sake and shochu scene in NYC since before it became popular and I see nothing that will stop this from slowly making its way into parts of main stream US culture for the same folks who have sake and Japanese beer with their meal when they go out to a Japanese restaurant. Ive been to many shochu tasting events in NY at places like Sakagura and the reception to the spirit has been excellent.

Since I moved to Maine I had been trying to set up shochu distribution for the Japanese restaurants who wanted to be able to sell it. I ran into problems and had to stop, when I started moving towards opening my distillery, since I couldn't be an importer/distributer, as well as a producer. I helped set up several shochu tasting events and they were very successful. So if Maine of all places can jump on the shochu train, so can the rest of the US.

I'm an Awamori man myself, but shochu will never be turned down by me. I've thought about marketing to the large Japanese population in certain states, but as most Americans won't even drink sake, a Japanese drink they've at least heard of, I don't think it'll be a fruitful battle to get them to try shochu. I'm never one to rain on a person's dreams, but it would pay, literlly, to get a lot of market research on this as I would wager that there exists too much of a xenophobic feeling toward a Japanese rice based spirit. I would not be disapponted to be wrong on this.

On a side note, have you ever thought that instead of Koji using a higher grade of rice or will this not in any way affect your final product? BTW: How is your Japanese? Mine is functional and no where near fluent. I rely on my wife a great deal.

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You may want to contact Bill Owens. He may know the name of the distillery, I think it is on the west coast, where they are starting shochu production.

Although I am a scotch and bourbon man, I have over the past year fell in love with Sake and especially Shochu. I have been making, beer, wine and sake for years now and have found sake to be the most frustrating, though rewarding when I finally get something good. I feel confident I can make rice shochu on a small scale, but barley shochu has been a real challenge. I recently went to the "Indy Spirits Expo" at Astor Center in NYC, and picked up several shochus while there. I am primarily interested in barley shochus, and not as much sweet potato or rice. I recently picked up a carrot shochu with skepticism, and was stunned by how good the flavor and quality of it was. I know this is a niche within a niche within a niche, but if anyone else is passionate about it let's trade ideas. I doubt this is a big market, more of a labor of love for me.

My problems are two fold:

1) Finding the right Koji that is made for barley, not rice, and then getting it to properly convert the barley starches. Is GEM Culture the only US supplier? Doing this with rice is easy, barley has been a real challenge. It is now easy to find highly polished, high quality sake specific rice, from Sakeone, but not so for barley. The timing is everything with making sake, I am sure this to be the case with shochu. There is a lot of information out there regarding sake, very, very little with shochu. How much is the barley polished? How long the soak? How long does it steam, etc? What ind of koji and then what kind of yeast. Do you then introduce follow up doubling batches of steamed barley at intervals as in sake production? Does all the citric acid you need come from the koji or do you need to add this or any other nutrients, lactic acid, etc. Like sake is cedar the preferred vessel lining for the koji steps to stay as authentic as possible? Is temperature as critical as in sake making to the final taste? Will the finished moromi be as high in alcohol as a high quality junmai?

2) On Iichiko's website http://www.iichiko.co.jp/en/learn/steps.html they show a picture of their beautiful stainless low pressure still. Distillation of the moromi is done with a low pressure still to keep as much flavor as possible. I can simulate this with a Buchi rotovap with a low pressure attachment, but moving up to a large scale low pressure still. I know from a several year old ADI newsletter there is one of these on the west coast. Who is the manufacturer of these stills? If it is a single pass distillation, how large are the cuts? Can a larger still get a low pressure add on like a rotovap, or does it need to be built from the ground up?

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You may want to contact Bill Owens. He may know the name of the distillery, I think it is on the west coast, where they are starting shochu production.

Stillwater in Petaluma has a vacuum still and when I was there a few years ago for an ADI conference I tried some Shochu they made. I believe it was made from Barley. I thought it was excellent, but I do not have a lot of experience with Schochu. I took a photo when I was there...

post-2-1226976750_thumb.jpg

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Thanks for the photo, I am fascinated by the vacuum still concept. If you have any more photos please post them as well. Thanks again.

Stillwater in Petaluma has a vacuum still and when I was there a few years ago for an ADI conference I tried some Shochu they made. I believe it was made from Barley. I thought it was excellent, but I do not have a lot of experience with Schochu. I took a photo when I was there...

post-2-1226976750_thumb.jpg

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Tthat's the typical junk you see on those boards. Tons of people who think they know what they are doing, using great theories they made up to explain what they have no clue about. You have to take almost everything with a kilo of sodium chloride.

While looking at Vacuum process I came across this.

http://homedistiller.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5219

I think I'll stay where I am at.

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Tthat's the typical junk you see on those boards. Tons of people who think they know what they are doing, using great theories they made up to explain what they have no clue about. You have to take almost everything with a kilo of sodium chloride.

I found that post on vacuum quite interesting. don't think i would call it junk at all. a grain of salt yes, but a kilo? i've learned a ton on that board. quite a lot of interesting members with lots of talent wanting to stay on the "amature" side of distilling. takes a lot of ba@#s to want to start a dsp. i'm one of you. i'll take info where ever i find it. all the best. gman...in dsp paperwork heaven.

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  • 6 months later...

Seems like an old post, but I'll reply anyway.

WT,

We are a start-up in CA and we will be making baijiu and soju. Not exactly shochu, but similar since some shochu makers are diluting their product and re-labeling as soju. Big advantage in CA I guest because soju is sold as beer, forgoing the expensive retail liquor license and still selling a spirit.

As with all things, a little time and education about a product should bring it around to the mainstream audience. Our processes (Southeast Asains) are a little different than the Japanese.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hey there HBD,

This is an old post so the original posters are probably not still following it. My name is Jordan I am the apprentice distiller at Stillwater Spirits in petaluma. We are still making a little barley shochu with the same vaccum still. Where are you starting up? Your projects sounds interesting, I am not familiar with baijiu production. Maybe we can trade ideas on what has worked in our respective productions.

-Jordan

Stillwater Spirits

Seems like an old post, but I'll reply anyway.

WT,

We are a start-up in CA and we will be making baijiu and soju. Not exactly shochu, but similar since some shochu makers are diluting their product and re-labeling as soju. Big advantage in CA I guest because soju is sold as beer, forgoing the expensive retail liquor license and still selling a spirit.

As with all things, a little time and education about a product should bring it around to the mainstream audience. Our processes (Southeast Asains) are a little different than the Japanese.

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Hey there HBD,

This is an old post so the original posters are probably not still following it. My name is Jordan I am the apprentice distiller at Stillwater Spirits in petaluma. We are still making a little barley shochu with the same vaccum still. Where are you starting up? Your projects sounds interesting, I am not familiar with baijiu production. Maybe we can trade ideas on what has worked in our respective productions.

-Jordan

Stillwater Spirits

We are starting up in Yuba City and currently in developement. Our current fermentation time is taking too long for baijiu. I'm trying new things to it while still trying to be authentic and satisfy the purist. email me.

Rinna

rinna.hbd@comcast.net

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  • 10 months later...

Have you had any luck finding the correct spores?

Brian

Although I am a scotch and bourbon man, I have over the past year fell in love with Sake and especially Shochu. I have been making, beer, wine and sake for years now and have found sake to be the most frustrating, though rewarding when I finally get something good. I feel confident I can make rice shochu on a small scale, but barley shochu has been a real challenge. I recently went to the "Indy Spirits Expo" at Astor Center in NYC, and picked up several shochus while there. I am primarily interested in barley shochus, and not as much sweet potato or rice. I recently picked up a carrot shochu with skepticism, and was stunned by how good the flavor and quality of it was. I know this is a niche within a niche within a niche, but if anyone else is passionate about it let's trade ideas. I doubt this is a big market, more of a labor of love for me.

My problems are two fold:

1) Finding the right Koji that is made for barley, not rice, and then getting it to properly convert the barley starches. Is GEM Culture the only US supplier? Doing this with rice is easy, barley has been a real challenge. It is now easy to find highly polished, high quality sake specific rice, from Sakeone, but not so for barley. The timing is everything with making sake, I am sure this to be the case with shochu. There is a lot of information out there regarding sake, very, very little with shochu. How much is the barley polished? How long the soak? How long does it steam, etc? What ind of koji and then what kind of yeast. Do you then introduce follow up doubling batches of steamed barley at intervals as in sake production? Does all the citric acid you need come from the koji or do you need to add this or any other nutrients, lactic acid, etc. Like sake is cedar the preferred vessel lining for the koji steps to stay as authentic as possible? Is temperature as critical as in sake making to the final taste? Will the finished moromi be as high in alcohol as a high quality junmai?

2) On Iichiko's website http://www.iichiko.co.jp/en/learn/steps.html they show a picture of their beautiful stainless low pressure still. Distillation of the moromi is done with a low pressure still to keep as much flavor as possible. I can simulate this with a Buchi rotovap with a low pressure attachment, but moving up to a large scale low pressure still. I know from a several year old ADI newsletter there is one of these on the west coast. Who is the manufacturer of these stills? If it is a single pass distillation, how large are the cuts? Can a larger still get a low pressure add on like a rotovap, or does it need to be built from the ground up?

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  • 1 year later...
  • 9 years later...

I've been looking into making some Shochu, and I just thought I'd note for anyone else that stumbles into this thread, that there are some regionally protected terms that come along with Shochu, like with Bourbon Whiskey or Cognac Brandy.

They are "Iki Shochu", "Kuma Shochu", "Satsuma Shochu", and "Okinawa Awamori". If you aren't making them in those regions of Japan, you can't use those terms on your bottle. That said, afaik, "Shochu" and "Awamori" themselves are okay to use. This applies to any country that falls under WTO protected geographic indication (PGI), which is most countries.

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