Takara Shochu Jun is a perfect place for the uninitiated to dip their toes into, especially if you don’t yet appreciate the earthiness of sweet potato, or were unfortunate enough to have your first time come across too strong thanks to a soba or peanut shochu. Give this a try.
This spirit comes from the brand that produced the Shochu Crystal Jun Rock, which was blessed by a few TV advertisements with the goblin king David Bowie.
This is a versatile spirit, as it delivers a flavor profile reminiscent of a high-quality Gin or an ultra-filtered Vodka. It is imported from Kyoto, Japan, where the distiller has been crafting Shochu since the 1860s, and this particular Shochu dates back to the 1970s– partially in response to the rise in popularity of Vodka. However, at only 35% alcohol by volume, it is extremely drinkable neat, on the rocks, or as a substitute ingredient in a Vodka Martini. According to the manufacturer, it is made mainly of grains (corn, barley) as well as molasses which is very surprising given the clean flavor profile. However, the multiple distillation process removes many of the flavors one would expect in another spirit with similar ingredients.
It’s hard to believe this kind of liquor was considered a cheap hooch for middle-aged men before Takara employed Bowie to give it a makeover. We loved it instantly.
The appeal of Takara Shochu Jun starts with the sensuous artistry of the bottle. A square edged, tall, clear, classic shape which has remained virtually unchanged through the decades, with a simple black and red label is in sharp contrast to the ornate bottles of other more elaborate Shochus with fruit flavors and complex aromatics. Instead, as the iconic red and black 純 (Jun or “pure”) label on the bottle promises, the taste of this Ko-Rui (multiple distilled) Shochu is smooth, clean and crisp, yet with weight with a subtle peppery finish.
Given its flavor profile we decided to try a few recipes where we would normally use Vodka. We started with a delicate Vesper with a ridiculously long orange peel garnish. We also tried a sloppy Martini with more than a few splashes of olives brine and a couple garlic filled olives. The spirit never complained, no matter how dirty we got. Finally we made the obligatory umbrella drink- a watermelon daiquiri. In all 3, the clean, easy profile allowed for a seamless blend without the booziness of the Vodka. On a hot summer day (or any day for that matter), making your favorites with Takara Shochu Jun is a great way to enjoy your cocktail with a lighter touch.
We recommend having a bottle of this next to your Vodka stash when something lighter is called for without compromising on flavor.