There are not many junmai kuma-shochus available in the U.S. market. These are shochus made with polished Japanese rice, the same polishing process used in sake (nihon-shu) production. “Junmai” refers to rice that’s been polished at least 70% (30% of the outer grain removed). Hakutake Shiro is made with rice polished to 60%. Only kome shochus produced in the Kuma River Valley can be designated as “kuma-shochu” (sounds closer to kumajochu). The pure, clean river water and fertile valley provides ideal conditions for production of rice shochus. The Japanese government goes so far as to designate “kumajochu” as a geographic designation similar to “champagne” in France or “bourbon” in the U.S. This is the only area with a geographic designation for kome shochu.
Hakutake Shiro is a lovely, balanced kumajochu in the best tradition of the style. While smooth enough to drink straight, on the rocks really smooths out the alcohol and makes this something to drink with any light meat or fish dish. Making mizuwari (blended with ice water) will lighten it further while Takahashi-san assures me that it is deliciously aromatic when made oyuwari (with hot water). I’ll be trying that come winter.