Nagasaki Prefecture’s Iki Island is the birthplace of barley shochu. This small island with a population of 30,000 is home to seven shochu distilleries which still make it in its traditional way.
It’s truly shochu heaven!
If you come to Iki Island, a distillery tour is a must!
When I visited, I went to see the Genkai Distillery (Genkai Shuzou) which is famous for its “Iki Gold” brand of shochu.
Using the water that springs from the tallest mountain on Iki Island, Takenotsuji, they have been making shochu since 1900.
The first thing on the tour was a video that explains the history and process of making Iki shochu.
After that, it was off to the factory!
The first thing that you see is a couple of surprisingly large shochu storage tanks.
There’s more shochu in one of those than a person could drink in a lifetime!
The distinguishing characteristic of Iki Shochu is its use of kouji (a mold used for fermentation).
Iki Shochu, which is famous for its fragrance and elegant sweetness, is made by mixing two parts barley for every one part rice.
This is their kouji room.
They mix the kouji with steamed rice and leave it overnight.
The smell wafting from it is amazing! ヾ(ﾟ∀ﾟゞ)
The next step is introducing the barley into the kouji-rice mixture and letting it ferment.
Listening carefully you can even hear the kouji fermenting… “shwaa shwaa” goes the mixture.
“Whoa~, the kouji is alive!” I exclaimed, feeling quite moved ヾ(*･∀･｀)o
Here is the storage house.
They store the mixture here for long periods, which allows the flavors to mature.
By the way, the barrels are blackened by the kouji inside them!
Even the walls of the storage house have turned black.
And finally it’s taste-test time!
In the museum attached to the factory, old instruments used to make alcohol are on display. They were interesting to look at while I did shochu-tasting and shopped.
They have lined up all their spirits, from the Iki Shochu we so often see in stores to the specialty shochu only sold on Iki Island.
I got to try their “Route 382,” which is only sold on Iki Island itself!
The actual Route 382, from which the shochu gets its name, is a national highway that includes a sea-route section that goes from Karatsu in Saga Prefecture, across Iki Island, and all the way to Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture.
The drink “Route 382” uses brown rice grown on Iki Island and has an alcohol content of 38%.
It goes best with fresh seafood!
It would also go well with fall hotpot ヾ(o´∀｀o)ﾉ
Iki Shochu is born from the rich history and nature of Iki Island.
If you have the opportunity to go to Iki Island, I hope that you take the time to see the distillery for yourself and, of course, please try the shochu☆
Information on all the shochu distilleries on Iki Island can be found here↓
Iki Shochu – Genkai Distillery (Genkai Shuzou)
Address： 550-1 Shiharanishifure, Gounoura-cho, Iki City, Nagasaki Prefecture 811-5125
Distillery Visiting hours：（Mon-Sat）9：00～17：00 （Sun）10：00～16：00
Parking：enough for 10 cars