We have the pleasure to present you some bottles coming straight from a house we are just starting to import, Omoya Shuzo. This family distillery is located on the small island of Iki, a 140 km² piece of land on the Genkai Sea, between Japan and Korea, which has long been one of the country's gateways to continental Asia. A hub of trade between these two regions of the world, it is believed to be the place of origin of barley-based shochu. It was in fact in the 16th century, from China, that the techniques for distilling this cereal were introduced, making "Mugui Shochu" a speciality of the island of Iki, and of course of Omoya Shuzo. These are four references that we suggest you discover here.
The Omoya Shuzo distillery was founded in 1924 by Kakuzo Yokoyama and today his descendants, Yuzo and Taizo, are in charge of the distillery (...and the brewery as they also produce sake). Their production philosophy is twofold: on the one hand, to perpetuate the precious know-how acquired in almost one hundred years of existence and, on the other hand, to integrate modern production methods, thanks in particular to the installation, in 2018, of a new unit equipped with highly sophisticated equipment. In other words, to unite tradition and modernity in an alchemy that can be found even in surprising combinations: blends between vintages produced using traditional techniques and vintages produced using state-of-the-art equipment. In conclusion, their range of shochus is remarkable, elegant while retaining a lot of character. And we like that!
Yuzo Yokoyama in charge of sochu production at Omoya Shuzo
Shochu is a distilled drink produced from various ingredients, the most classic of which are wheat, barley, rice, sweet potato and brown sugar. The origins of shochu date back to the Eiroku period (16th century), during which distillation techniques from the Middle East reached the main Japanese islands via Asia through various places including Okinawa, or the island of Iki in this case. But other regions are immensely famous, such as Kagoshima, on Kyushu Island, which pioneered sweet potato shochu, and the Kumamoto region for its rice shochu. During the Edo period, techniques travelled throughout the archipelago and were considerably improved during the Meiji period. The production and consumption of shochu then spread throughout the country, but the tradition remained in the south.
For a little more detail on the production process, you will find a summary in this article. It consists of a fermentation process, generally starting on a rice base and continuing after the addition of the main ingredient (barley, sweet potato, brown sugar...). It is followed by distillation. The result is a drink with an alcohol content of around 25% that can be drunk in various ways, as is, with ice, a slice of lemon, with fresh water (mizuari), hot water (oyuwari), or even tea. Shochu is very popular in Japan today and is certainly the most consumed drink in the country.
OMOYA SHUZO SHOCHUS
90cl - alc 25% vol
Made from one third of "Nikomaru" rice produced in Iki and two thirds of "Mishima-Hadaka" six-row barley from Nagasaki, it is white Koji that is used, before a normal pressure distillation. Filtration is reduced to preserve the flavours, then maturation takes place in enamelled stainless steel tanks.
A classic in mugui shochu to be enjoyed as is or with hot water, oyuwari.
Back to Omoya Shuzo's brewery with their famous series called "Chingu", which means "great friend" in the dialect of the island of Iki. Two shochus with the main technical variation being the use of white Koji for the Shiro, and black Koji for the Kuro, but also the use of two types of barley.
Barley with 6 strands on the left and 2 strands on the right; the type used by Omoya
72cl - alc 25% vol
It is made from ingredients that come exclusively from the island of Iki: one third of "Nikomaru" rice and two thirds of "Nijo Omugui" barley, a 2-strand barley. The whole is worked by white Koji, and then it is a blend of two distillations that constitutes the final product: one distillation at normal pressure and the other at vacuum. Chingu Shiro is then matured for several months in enamelled stainless steel tanks.
Careful and refreshingly rich, it retains the powerful flavours of barley while beautifully evoking the sweetness and creaminess of rice. To be enjoyed as a "mizuari", with water, ice or soda.
72cl - alc 25% vol
This version is made from one third "Nikomaru" rice from Iki and two thirds of a mixture of two barley varieties: a two-stranded barley, "Nijo Omugui" from Iki and a six-stranded barley from Nagasaki, "Rokujo Omugui". Black Koji is used this time, before normal pressure distillation. Chingu Kuro is then matured for several months in enamelled stainless steel tanks.
A shochu with a rich, savoury flavour, which wonderfully expresses the depth of the barley and the power of the black Koji, while remaining supple and delicate. To be enjoyed as is or even better, as oyuwari, with hot water.
72cl - alc 25% vol
This is the emblematic shochu of the Omoya Shuzo distillery. It is named after its founder, Yokoyama Karuzo. Produced on a base of "Koshihikari" rice and "Nijo Omugui" barley, a speciality of the island of Iki, everything is of course grown on the spot. Fermentation takes place in earthenware jars and then distillation is carried out slowly at atmospheric pressure, before maturing for ten years in stainless steel tanks.
A shochu to be enjoyed as is to appreciate all its nuances, but it is also very interesting in "oyuwari", with hot water.