People from around the world have always held a long and deep fascination with Japanese beverages. From warm matcha green tea to the ever-popular thirst-quenching isotonic drink bottles from konbinis, the variety is utterly captivating.
Japanese alcoholic beverages in particularly are some of the most sought after. In recent years, the demand for these drinks have grown in spades and more and more varieties are popping up in local shops around the world.
Because of the rise in the number of exports of these liquors, a new “Made In Japan” designation has been created by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association. This is to guarantee that the beverage has been produced to the high quality possible in Japan.
A Brief Introduction To Sake, Shochu And Awamori
Sake is likely the most well-known drink on this list. Its earliest roots are believed to be around 700AD, and since then, the method and make up of sake has changed and improved gradually.
Sake is essentially made of rice, water, and the Koji method. Koji is the love-child of steamed rice that is treated with koji-fungus, which breaks down the starch into sugar. In the fermented process, Koji breaks down the starch into sugar and yeast is used to convert the sugar into alcohol.
This method is referred to as multiple parallel fermentation, and allows for production of high alcoholic content and high-quality sake. In fact, koji mold is also used in the production of authentic shochu and awamori.
Sometimes, you may hear people sometimes refer to sake as Kokusyu, and wonder what it is. Kokusyu means Japan’s national drink, and is a general yet well-suited term for sake, a drink that has been consumed in Japan since ancient times, and refers to sake, authentic shochu and awamori.
Shochu is another Japanese traditional liquor drink. Similar to sake, it is fermented with koji and yeast, but dissimilar to sake, shochu is distilled rather than brewed.
A major difference between shochu and sake is that shochu does not only originate from rice, but also from sweet potato, barley, buckwheat, and brown sugar cane. Because of this variety of base ingredients, shochu is known to be available in lots of flavors that appeal to a wide audience.
Awamori is yet another Japanese traditional liquor that is considered a Kokusyu. It’s brewed on the Okinawa islands. but it’s not one that is commonly known amongst people outside of Japan. It’s a unique distilled alcoholic drink in Japan and it is considered by many to be the predecessor of shochu.
Koji is employed during the initial process of making awamori before it undergoes a single distillation to become the final product. A distinct feature that sets awamori apart from shochu is that it solely uses Thai rice and black koji mold.
Authentic shochu and awamori are beverages that can be stored long-term. This allows the flavors to age and become rich and full-bodied. In particular, if the awamori has been stored for longer than 3 years, it is called kusu.
Read More: How Much Sake Cups To Get Drunk
What’s the JSS Mark?
One thing that people may start seeing more is the JSS Mark, a group of labels that were created by the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association to designate a drink that has been produced to high standard of quality in Japan.
It is recommended that sake, Honkaku shochu and awamori that has been exported from Japan be affixed with this label. Anyone looking to purchase these drinks at their local store will be able to look for this label and rest easy knowing it has been produced directly from Japan and is of high quality.
This is a more recent introduction and is a step into working to raise awareness that sake, Honkaku shochu and awamori are high quality alcohol beverages manufactured in Japan.
We hope you have enjoyed this article and learned a bit more about sake, Honkaku shochu, and awamori! Next time you are shopping for these beverages at your local liquor store, remember to keep an eye out for the labels!
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