Shochu, new to us but very old to the world. The best known record of Shochu dates back to the 16th Century in Japan but I’m trying it today, in 2009, for the first time; nobody’s perfect. Haamonii makes a Shochu known as Haamonii Smooth and it’s based on 400 years of Japanese history. It is a neutral based spirit with natural flavors which, in effect, gives us something much more than neutral to work with and, thus, it’s an interesting tasting experience.
Haamonii Smooth can be used as a substitute to vodka so we’re going to do our best to compare it to vodka in order to give you a baseline of comparison. First, it’s as clear as a five times distilled vodka, such as Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Since I like Tito’s and respect it for the taste, clarity and finish, it seems the best contender for baseline.
Haamonii Smooth has an unusually light and sweet aroma hinting at a slight amount of green stemmed “vine” floral experience best compared to a Grappa. This sweet vegetal bouquet gives us something more interesting to work with compared to a true neutral based alcohol. But, how does it compare in taste experience?
The initial attack is light and refreshing first without the sweet attack I thought to expect based on the sweeter-style scents given off on the nose. My first impression was smooth roundness with a semi-thick viscosity resembling that of a well-crafted tequila product, such as my Tito’s Vodka.
Unlike vodka, however, swishing Haamonii Smooth Shochu around in your mouth does not bring the alcohol numbness to the tongue. The alcohol is masked away in the smoothness of the experience and the overall flavor is fairly neutral from the initial attack to the mid-palate transition ending with a very lightly chocolate and vanilla coffee finish. At 22% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) or 44-Proof, this bottle of Shochu should at least hint at alcohol, but it remains silent.
The finish is the best experience of the spirit, leaving your palate clean and polished with just hints of what can be best described as Kahlúa and Sake dancing together. Five minutes later I’m still getting the clean mingling of the finish, extremely impressive.
This is my first experience with Shochu and, if this is any indication of a smooth Shochu, it will not be my last. Thankfully Haamonii has given me the chance to open my eyes to this rich Japanese history.