Kuroki Honten runs the Osuzuyama Distillery amid the deep green mountains and crystal clear water of Takanabe Town, Miyazaki Prefecture. We visited the fifth-generation president Shinsaku Kuroki. Though Kuroki Honten is a long-established shochu producer founded in 1885, its operations are unique, aggressive, and modern. It runs its own farm to grow shochu ingredients like potatoes and rice. It keeps the shochu mash from going to industrial waste by fermenting it into fertilizer. And it seeks to induct all generations into the joy of liquor by offering not only shochu but also whiskey and spirits.
“My own interest in liquor was originally inspired by wine. Funny, considering I was born into a family of shochu distillers. That interest led me to study in France, where I realized I was attracted more to the story behind wine—the climate, the culture, and the creator’s philosophy—than to the wine itself. In the end I decided I could, and should, take home the value and allure of what I learned and express it in shochu.”
ounger generations welcome Kuroki Honten’s liquor for its authentic ingredients and uncompromising craftsmanship embodied in the rich flavor, but also for the exceptional, original array of products. One of the bottles Shinsaku showed us as an example was Osugu Gin. The design is so polished that it makes you want to display it on your desk. The contrast between the classic distillery and the unexpected modernism is Shinsaku bringing this small batch brewery into a new generation.
“This is a single-distilled honkaku shochu handcrafted with traditional methods and then infused with botanicals like juniper berry, sansho pepper, citrus fruit, and Cleyera japonica (sasaki). In a broad sense, it’s a fragrance made from the soil of Miyazaki.”
The goal is to create liquor unique to the land and the people who work there. A product may be delicious, but it is never complete. The shochu distiller’s mission, says Shinsaku, is always to take on the next challenge. A story like this calls for a toast with something other than the usual label. Let’s take a journey until the clock strikes midnight and explore a new liquor. Which shall it be, Osuzu Gin or Shochu?