10 Best Japanese Shochu

Find about some of the best Japanese Shochu

10 Best Japanese Shochu

Have you ever tried drinking Japanese Shochu? Shochu is a traditional distilled Japanese alcoholic beverage.

When thinking about Japanese traditional alcoholic beverages, most foreign visitors will immediately think about Japanese Sake; However, when it comes to the locals, Shochu is as popular and consumed as Sake is.

In this article, I will explain some basic facts about shochu as well as introduce to you 10 of the most popular shochu brands that you can purchase online.

If you’re an alcoholic drink enthusiast, I hope this article sparks an interest in you.

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

What is Shochu?

shochu on rocks

First, let me explain what Japanese Shochu is. As I briefly mentioned in the intro, Shochu (焼酎) is a traditional Japanese liquor. It is usually made from either barley, rice, sweet potato, or sugar cane.

The main difference between Shochu and Sake is the preparation process. Shochu is a distilled liquor. This means that there is further processing after the fermentation process, and because of this, it tends to have a higher alcohol-by-volume compared to undistilled beverages. It also has fewer calories compared to undistilled liquors. For reference, other distilled liquors include whisky, gin, rum, tequila, and vodka. On the other hand, Sake is an undistilled liquor such as beer and wine.

Its history is not completely clear; however, it is believed that the origins of shochu came from the middle east through Thailand. It entered Okinawa and it was first named shochu sometime around the 16th century in Kagoshima prefecture. From there, it expanded throughout the whole country.

How to drink Shochu?

One of the attractive things about shochu is that you can drink it in many different ways. In other words, there are many ways you can enjoy it.

If you like strong drinks, then you can drink shochu straight. If you think it is too strong for you, you can drink it on the rocks, dilute it with cold or warm water, or you can mix it with other drinks. If you mix Shochu with Japanese tea, you get “Ryokucha wari”, if you mix it with soda, you’ll get “Chuhai”. Some people like putting an umeboshi (dried plum) into the drink to add sourness. There are also people who like mixing it with coffee.

Ok, now that you know the basics of shochu, let me introduce to you 10 of the most popular shochu brands. If you’re interested, you can get these brands online!

1. Kurokirishima


Kurokirishima (黒霧島) is a shochu made from sweet potatoes and rice malt. This shochu is made by the brewer Kirishimashuzo which is located in Miyazaki prefecture.

The sweet potatoes used as ingredients are grown locally in the Kyushu area. It has a sweetness that doesn’t linger in your mouth. This brand also has a shochu called “Akakirishima” which is a little more expensive.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

2. Iichiko


Iichiko (いいちこ), also known as “the Napoleon of downtown”, is one of the most known brands of shochu in Japan. It is produced in Oita prefecture and its main ingredients are barley and barley malt.

Iichiko has a relatively mild texture and it is easy to drink. Therefore many say this is a good entry-level shochu for those who are trying it for the first time.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

3. Maou


Maou (魔王) is a shochu created in Kagoshima prefecture by the brewery Shiratama Juzo.

The name Maou means “Devil”, so you might imagine a strong taste; however, it is actually the contrary. This Shochu was created in the hopes to gather new people to start enjoying the taste of shochu, therefore it was created to have a mild taste with a soft texture.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

4. Umi


Umi (海) is a Shochu created by the brewer Taikai Shuzo in Kagoshima prefecture. Its main ingredients are sweet potatoes and rice malt.

It is characterized by the beautiful presentation as well as the pronounced sweet taste that comes from the main ingredient which is a sweet potato named “Beniotome”. It is a popular brand, especially among young women.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

5. Premium Takara Shochu

takarashuzo shochu
Premium Takara Shochu

Premium Takara Shochu (プレミアム宝焼酎) is another well-known shochu because its affordable price and pleasant texture. It is created by the brewery Takarashuzo in Chiba prefecture, which has a history of over 100 years.

The main ingredients are sugarcane molasses, barley, and corn. It is well known to be a good shochu brand to mix with other drinks to make shochu cocktails.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

6. Nakanaka


Nakanaka (中々) is a Shochu created by Kurokihonten in Miyazaki prefecture. It is a shochu created with barley, and it is characterized by its rich and elegant flavor.

It is one of the most popular barley shochu in the market, so if you haven’t tasted barley shochu yet, this is a good place to start. In order to feel the richness even better, it is recommended to mix it with hot water.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

7. Kanehachi


Kanehachi (兼八) is another popular barley shochu brand. It is made by the company Yotsuya Shuzo in Oita prefecture and has been in the market for over 100 years.

Being a barley shochu, it is characterized by its rich taste and fragrance. Kanehachi, in particular, has also a certain sweetness to its flavor as well as a subtle roast fragrance. Creators of this brand say that its best enjoyed drinking it on the rocks.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

8. Ginka Torikai

ginka torikai
Ginka Torikai

Ginka Torikai (吟香鳥飼) is a shochu created in Kumamoto prefecture by the brewery Torikai Shuzo. It is popular for its elegant presentation and its sweet taste and dry texture.

Its main ingredients are rice and rice malt. It is especially popular among non-regular shochu enthusiasts because it is relatively easy to drink. People who don’t drink shochu regularly can enjoy it as well.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

9. Tomino Houzan


TominoHouzan (富乃宝山) is a shochu made by Nishi Shuzo in Kagoshima prefecture. The main ingredients are sweet potatoes and rice malt.

The thing that characterizes this shochu is its citrusy fragrance. Although it has a mild taste that makes it easy to drink for anyone, its fragrance is what gives it its uniqueness. It is a brand that is popular among younger consumers.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

10. Moriizo


Lastly, on our list, we have Moriizo (森伊蔵) which is a shochu made by Moriizo Shuzo in Kagoshima prefecture. Its main ingredient is sweet potatoes, and as you can notice by its price tag, it is a type of shochu preferred for special occasions.

It is relatively expensive due to its elaborate manufacturing methods and because it is not produced in large quantities. It has a pleasant delicate taste and a sweet fragrance that lingers.

▶︎Click here for more details about this Shochu right now!

I hope you liked this article about the best Japanese shochu. If you liked this article and want to know more about Japanese drinks, be sure to check out the following articles as well!

▽Related Articles▽

▼Editor’s Picks▼

Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.