What We’re Drinking: Nakanaka Mugi (barley) Shochu
This bottle, Nakanaka, is a good place to start one’s exploration of honkaku mugi shochu. When drinking it straight, Nakanaka starts with a slight, honey sweetness on the tip of the tongue before giving way to an assertive barley-alcohol twinge at the back.
With an ice cube or two thrown in this shochu loses a bit of the sweetness up front and experiences a slight drop in alcoholic bite as well. Taking a good drag of air to mix with a mouthful of Nakanaka will help revive the sweetness that is easier to find when enjoying this drink neat.
Most industry folks recommend that this drink be enjoyed either on the rocks or with a bit of warm water (oyuwari in Japanese). The latter is advised especially if you want to get more out of the nose. Cold water (mizuwari) is also an option.
Drinking Nakanaka straight is not to be discouraged, even though I seem to be the only only openly recommending that it be consumed that way.
At around 1,050 yen for a 720 ml bottle the regular stuff (it’s usually found in a brown glass bottle), you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Nakanaka.