Japan Eats

What we’re drinking: Shirashinken mugi (shochu)

This is my favorite tipple right now. Shirashinken. Even if you can’t spell it, remember it.

And this one is very easy to find. I bought it at my local supermarket for about 1,200 yen. Just like all things Balvenie (thank you, Garrett), I will make sure to have a bottle of this in my bar at all times.

Tasting notes: the barley tingle on this mugi (barley) shochu is subdued because of the very pleasant honey notes at the front and in the finish. This shochu is quite long. It lingers for a bit after you’ve swallowed, and it is one that you absolutely must try ‘neat’. That’s right. No rocks, no splash of water, no nothing.

And you’ll thank me for it. I’m sure that Shirashinken is very pleasant on the rocks, the way that many people like to drink shochu, but the interplay between the prickly earthiness and the sweet notes is something that would be bludgeoned off the palate by a few innocuous ice cubes. Try it neat so that you taste what I’m getting at.

This bottle doesn’t get nearly as much love as some of the more famous mugi shochu such as Hyakunen no Kodoku, but I believe that it’s almost as good. Unless, of course, you happen to have a bottle of Hyakunen that is more than ten years old as Tsuruda-san does at my local bar. But that’s beside the point.


Fact: this is the best bottle of mugi shochu I’ve purchased for less than 1,500 yen thus far.