I’m a big fan of shōchū. If you like whiskey or vodka but you’ve never had shōchū, I’d recommend giving it a shot instead of nihonshu (regular sake) the next time you’re out at a Japanese restaurant. I prefer it on the rocks or with water: it can be fiery to take down neat. Because most shōchū is clear liquor, you really get a sense of the underlying fermentable – barley, sweet potato, rice, or buckwheat. I’ve been to a few distillery tours since moving to Chicago, and these craft distilleries have recently been trying to promote “white whiskey” (also branded as “moonshine” or “white dog”) as a vodka substitute. I have to say, though, that none of them have even close to the level of flavor that shōchū has: it’s not a liquor that needs to be a mixer to be successful.
One of my favorite memories in Japan is buying a premixed bottle of potato shōchū and water at a train station when I was traveling in Miyazaki, Kyushu (famous for potato shōchū). I kind of stunk up the train car (potato shōchū has an infamous odor), but it was a nice, relaxing way to spend the vacation.
If you’re looking to learn more, really there are only two ways to do it: 1) buy this book or 2) drink a lot of shōchū. 2 might be more difficult here in the States, so it might be worth your while to do 1 before investing in a bottle. (Shōchū is very reasonably priced in Japan, but I imagine it’s pricey abroad.)
I funded the project at the $10 e-book level, but I kind of wish the paperback option wasn’t quite so expensive. I think I’d be willing to spend up to about $25 for the paperback. I imagine that launching the project from Japan has made pricing things somewhat more difficult for Chris – you can see on the rewards that he’s still manually asking for shipping outside of Japan. Hopefully Kickstarter will launch in Japan sooner rather than later and make the entire process so much easier.
And, damn, I kind of can’t wait to see what kind of small projects come out of Japan when it does launch there.