Shōchū (焼酎) is a distilled beverage native to Japan. It is typically distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice, though it is sometimes produced from brown sugar, buckwheat or sweet chestnut.
Typically, Sochu contains 25% alcohol by volume (weaker than whisky or standard-strength vodka but stronger than wine and sake). It is not uncommon for multiple-distilled shōchū, which is more likely to be used in mixed drinks, to contain up to 35% alcohol by volume.
Its taste is usually far less fruity then that of sake and depends strongly on the nature of the starch used in the distilling process. Its flavor is often described as "nutty" or "earthy" and can be consumed neat or mixed with water, fruit juice or tea.
Shōchū originated in Kyūshū and is produced everywhere in Japan, including Tokyo.
Shōchū is widely available in supermarkets, liquor stores and convenience stores in Japan, being characterized by a great popularity in recent years. However it is not yet sufficiently well known to be widely available outside of Asia, apart from select regions with large enough Japanese populations. Some shōchū makers label their products for US export as soju.
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Nonjatta - shōchū, nonjatta2.blogspot.com
A sneak peek inside a Japanese Shōchū Brewery, cravenmaven.wordpress.com