November 1st is Honkaku Shochu & Awamori Day here in Japan, as the date is annually when distillers typically have the season’s first products available by this day every year. For 2021, the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition is celebrating by releasing an English list of winners from this year’s competition in the Shochu Division.With hundreds of distillers and so many brands, it can sometimes be difficult to find a place to start with shochu. Will you play it safe with a more mellow, aged barley shochu? Or will you dive head-first into the world of funk with a strong potato shochu? Or do you prefer something more southern, like the black koji awamoris of Okinawa?
Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s good to have some guidance at times. One way to get involved is by starting with some of Japan’s award-winning shochus and awamoris. If only there were a list of them somewhere!
Well, now there is. In celebration of this year’s Honkaku Shochu & Awamori Day, the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition is releasing a list of the winners from 2021’s competition. (PDF link)
To get an idea of what to expect, read my recent review of 2021’s Best of the Best, Benisango, right here. 2020’s Best of the Best was also a kokuto shochu, named Sato no Akebono Gold, which I reviewed that year as well.
Wherever you choose to start with the category, you’ll have plenty of fun. Honkaku shochu is an extremely broad category where you’ll find more variety than probably any other category of spirit in the world. Shochu culture is deep, varied, and there’s really something for everyone. Importantly, it’s also quite affordable when compared to something like Japanese whisky. What’s more, shochu can even be healthier.
Having just been on a press tour of Miyazaki’s shochu culture, I have plenty of shochu-related content coming up for this site. Stay tuned!
Hi there! I created and run nomunication.jp. I’ve lived in Tokyo since 2008, and I am a certified Shochu Kikisake-shi/Shochu Sommelier (焼酎唎酒師), Cocktail Professor (カクテル検定１級), and I hold Whisky Kentei Levels 3 and JW (ウイスキー検定３級・JW級). I also sit on the Executive Committees for the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition and Japanese Whisky Day. Click here for more details about me and this site. Kampai!