Shochu is a distilled Japanese beverage that, like many white, Asian spirits, can be made from nearly anything. Rice, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, and barley are common sources. Shochu comprises a vast number of styles, can be single or double distilled, and often incorporates koji, a mold which helps to break down the starch during fermentation. Soju is the Korean version of shochu, and while it too is produced in a wide variety of styles, the primary difference is that it is typically sweetened, whereas shochu is not. Both shochu and soju are bottled around 50 to 70 proof, though exceptions exist. Neither is related, except tangentially, to sake.

Top Shochu/Soju Reviews:

West 32 Soju
Ty Ku Soju
Iichiko Kurobin Shochu and Yuzu Liqueur
Liqueurs of Vietnam’s Son Tinh

Sakagura NYC

At NYC’s Sakagura, Shochu Is Poised to Explode in the U.S.

By David Tao | August 10, 2023 |

While sake has long been more familiar to American palates, shochu is finally ready for its moment in the sun. Unlike sake, which is a brewed rice wine, shochu is Japan’s native distilled spirit, with remarkable utility for consumption neat, on the rocks, in cocktails, and beyond. And at a proof point normally hovering between…

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A Guided Tour of Shochu from Honkaku Spirits

By Christopher Null | December 7, 2022 |

Christopher Pellegrini is my go-to expert on shochu. He’s lived in Japan for 20 years, has written a book about the spirit, and recently started a company, Honkaku Spirits, to export the stuff to the U.S. As Pellegrini noted during a recent, lively Zoom tasting from Japan, where we tasted 8 of his company’s products,…

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Review: 6 Shochus of Honkaku Spirits

By Christopher Null | June 15, 2022 |

Christopher Pellegrini is trying to do for Japanese shochu what Ron Cooper did with mezcal. The American ex-pat and author of The Shochu Handbook is seeking to “connect the world with artisanal, koji-fermented spirits of Japan.” Honkaku’s portfolio includes koji whiskey, shochu, and aged awamori from 22 family-run distilleries established between 1745 and 1947. We received…

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Review: Yobo Soju

By Christopher Null | October 1, 2021 |

Yobo Soju is a rarity in an emerging category: Not only is it made in New York’s Finger Lakes area, it is done so by a Korean American mom and lawyer, Carolyn Kim, who wanted to pay homage to her roots with her take on Korea’s national spirit. The spirit is distilled from local Catawba grapes.…

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Review: Iichiko Saiten Shochu

By Christopher Null | September 24, 2019 |

Shochu continues to make slow inroads into the U.S. market, and to further those aims, Iichiko, the leading barley shochu brand in Japan and the one which American drinkers are most likely to be familiar, has released a new expression: Saiten. The unusual concept is that Saiten was designed specifically with the U.S. palate in…

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Review: Rihei Ginger Shochu

By Christopher Null | June 3, 2019 |

Billed as a “totally new class of Japanese craft spirits,” Rihei Ginger is undoubtedly a different animal than most shochus, and the explanation is right there in the name: 20% of the mash that goes into this spirit isn’t composed of grain, but rather local heirloom ginger. Some explanation is in order: Rihei Ochiai, the…

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Sake Tasting and Mac Pairing with Sake Social, 2018

By Renee Humphrey | September 19, 2018 |

Mac and cheese is such an U.S. staple that it has its own one syllable moniker. Like Cher or Elvis, we also have Mac. I recently went down a sake/shochu/mac rabbit hole and damn, it was delicious. I first spoke with Marc Smookler, the owner/founder of Sake Social, by far the largest online retailer in the…

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Review: West 32 Soju

By Christopher Null | July 2, 2017 |

Soju is a classic rendition of a lower-alcohol neutral spirit that originated in Korea. It is reportedly the #1 selling spirit in the world. Therefore, it goes to reason that some New Yorkers got it in their head that they should make it too. West 32 Soju is indeed made in New York, distilled from corn…

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Review: Iichiko Kurobin Shochu and Yuzu Liqueur

By Christopher Null | June 16, 2016 |

We last visited with two of Iichiko’s shochus in 2013. Today we look at a third variety from Iichiko, plus a liqueur made from yuzu fruit. Thoughts follow. Iichiko Kurobin Shochu – No production information available; “Kurobin” means “black bottle.” Heavy melon notes on the nose, with a touch of sugar distinctly sake-like. Nose and palate…

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Review: Kai Lemongrass Ginger Shochu, Lychee Vodka, and Coconut Pandan Vodka

By Christopher Null | January 31, 2015 |

Vietnam’s only vodka comes from Kai, which distills rice into both vodka and shochu (aka soju — it puts both names on the bottles), in a variety of flavors. Kai (slogan: “Taste the pleasure”) sent us three expressions of its Asian-inspired spirits for our investigation. Thoughts follow. Kai Lemongrass Ginger Shochu/Soju – Very light and…

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