Kokuto shochu is a distilled spirit made exclusively in Amami Islands, Kagoshima, Japan. “Kokuto” refers to specially refined brown sugar and “shochu” is a distilled spirit made mainly in Southern Japan. In short, kokuto shochu is a distilled spirit made from brown sugar. While the other shochu distillers outside Amami are using sweet potato, barley, or rice as their main ingredients, kokuto shochu is made uniquely from brown sugar.
The history of sugar cane cultivation in Amami dates back to about 400 years ago. In 1609, the islands of Amami came under the direct control of Satsuma Domain, who ordered a tribute payment of shochu 14 years later, suggesting that distillation technology was already available at that time. However, kokuto was monopolized by the Satsuma Domain so common people couldn’t utilize the sugar towards shochu production. Amamians, therefore, alternatively used various grains such as rice, millet, chinquapin, and/or sotetsu (cycad) for shochu production. In the Meiji era (1868-1912), the process of making Awamori was introduced from Okinawa to Amami, and homemade production became popular.
After World War II, while the U.S. governed the area from 1945 to 1953, Amamian distillers started using kokuto to make shochu. This was the beginning of kokuto shochu. In 1953, the year of Amami’s return to Japan, the Japanese Liquor Tax Act recognized kokuto shochu as an official variety of shochu.
Sato no Akebono Kurokoji
There are only 26 distilleries of Amami Kokuto Shochu in the world, making this a selected group. One of them is Machida Shuzo, known for their Amami Kokuto Shochu “Sato no Akebono", made with the brewery's signature vacuum distillation and long term aging. Highly thought of since its release, Sato no Akebono combines mellow taste and aroma to provide a refreshing feeling that fascinates drinkers.
On your first sip of kokuto shochu, you will notice that there is a hint of brown sugar in its aroma, then flavor from rice koji will dominate your palate. There are various ways to enjoy kokuto shochu – on the rocks, straight or with water. Kokuto shochu is also well known for its hangover-free characteristic.
Our recommendation is Sato no Akebono Kurokoji, made black-colored koji mold that has been introduced from Okinawa to Southern Kyushu. It produces a strong and pleasant flavor. Made with the vacuum-distillation technique, this Akebono promises you a well-balanced flavor derived from kurokoji with a refreshing finish.
Kokuto shochu is a unique product born in Amami’s nature and nurtured by its culture, so it's a must-try for any alcohol fan!