Difference Between Sake (Nihonshu) and Shochu12 Apr 2021
Brewing and Distillation
In a nutshell, the main difference between sake and shochu is the production method. Sake is brewed and shochu is distilled. So what exactly is the difference between "brewing" and "distillation"?
Alcohol is roughly classified into three types according to the differences in manufacturing methods: brewed alcohol, distilled alcohol mixed liquor. In other words, sake belongs to the same group as beer and wine, while shochu is in the same group with whiskey, brandy, and gin.
Brewed alcohol is made by alcoholic fermentation of the sugars (for example wine is made by fermentation of the natural sugar in grapes). However sake brewing is special in that the rice does not contain any sugar, so the conversion from starch to sugar and then from sugar to alcohol occurs in two distinct steps.
Distilled alcohol is liquor that has been "distilled" from brewed alcohol. Distillation is the process of evaporating a liquid, cooling the resulting gas, and then turning it back into a liquid. The difference in evaporation temperature allows for the extraction of a highly pure liquid.
The difference between sake and shochu is not only in the way it is made. There is also a big difference in the ingredients. While sake is made from rice, shochu is often made from potatoes and grains. There are many kinds of shochu ingredients, such as potato, barley, black sugar, buckwheat, etc. And if you distill sake, a brew made from rice, it becomes rice shochu.
Rice Buckwheat, potato, barley, shiso
Sake has a sweetness and softness unique to rice, and the taste varies depending on the type of sake rice used and rice polishing ratio. Shochu, on the other hand, is characterized by its dry flavour and strong alcoholic bite. The taste also varies greatly depending on the ingredients.
Usually sake is around 15% since most of the fungus stops activity and the alcohol level does not go any further, while shochu is normally 20%-25%, even as high as 42% (if multi-distilled). What’s more, sake is made to be drunk within a year of its release, while shochu can improve with aging.
Depending on the type, sake can be enjoyed at an impressively wide range of temperatures from almost freezing to piping hot. But, it can also easily be enjoyed straight from the bottle at room temperature. Shochu, however, like most strong spirits, is usually served on the rocks or diluted with hot or cold water, and even tea.
To see the difference for yourself, we invite you to choose from the many varieties of sake and shochu we have at out store!