Learn about this ancient alcohol and how it is made
Savor a range of shochu in an informative tasting session
Enjoy stunning countryside while taking the distillery tour
If you want to try Kagoshima’s famous shochu, what better place than Isa, the distilled alcohol’s historical home? Japan’s oldest written record of shochu dates from 1559 and was found at Koriyama Hachiman Shrine in Isa. The city is therefore a key destination for shochu enthusiasts or anyone keen to learn more this iconic drink.
Shochu can be made from a variety of staples including barley or rice. When sweet potatoes (imo) were brought into Kagoshima in the 17th century they became the key ingredient because, unlike rice, they could be grown easily in the prefecture’s volcanic soils. Today, Kagoshima is renowned for its imo-shochu, which is sold across Japan and overseas.
Okuchi Shuzo in Isa Isa’s cold winters, hot summers and high-quality water is perfect for shochu distilling, making the area one of Kagoshima Prefecture’s largest producers of the drink.
Okuchi Shuzo was established in 1970 as a merger of 11 Isa-based distillers that wanted to raise the quality of shochu and sell it outside Kagoshima Prefecture. Its premium product is Kuro Isanishiki, which is made with black koji mold.
Locally sourced water from 100m underground as well as rice and sweet potatoes are used to make the shochu. Artisan makers draw on traditional processes and the latest technology to produce the brands, which can be enjoyed on the rocks or diluted with hot or cold water.
Factory tour Opened in November 2018, Okuchi Shuzo’s latest distillery offers tours (currently available in Japanese but English information is on the website). Understand first-hand how each step is carried out and see the skilled staff at work, from delivering ingredients to labelling.
Set in the beautiful Isa countryside, surrounded by forested hills and lush fields, the Okuchu Shuzo distillery offers great views from its newly renovated tasting hall. Enjoy trying some of the shochu varieties or the renowned pork lunch. In an effort to reduce waste, Okuchi Shuzo’s shochu lees are used as pig feed, producing delicious, succulent pork that is served onsite.
In the adjacent rooms, visitors can check out the display of shochu information and artefacts or browse the gift shop.