Spirits are distilled liquors, such as "gin", "vodka", "rum", and "tequila", which are loved all over the world. Spirits are made by extracting only the alcohol and flavoring ingredients and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways or enjoyed straight up to fully appreciate its flavor.
Furthermore, one of the appeals of distilled liquors is that their uniqueness can be expressed straightforwardly, depending on the taste design and care for ingredients that the brewer wants to incorporate. Finally, liquors are made worldwide, so you can enjoy a taste that reflects the regional characteristics of each region.
One of Japan’s most popular spirits is "shochu".
The main characteristic of this craft spirit is that it is distilled using “koji,” which gives it a rich aroma. It comes from 500 years of mastering the expertise, contemplating, and refining the skills. It has a soft flavor that comes from low alcohol, which matches with various types of food and can be “enjoyed during meals,” which is rare for spirits.
WSET (https://www.wsetglobal.com/), one of the world’s largest educational institutions in the field of alcohol, offers a wide range of courses for learning about alcohol. In 2019, the Spirits Level 3 Course was launched to teach participants about the world’s four major spirits, ""gin"", ""vodka"", ""rum"", ""tequila"", and other crafts spirits from around the world. Now, the course introduces shochu as an Asian craft spirit, and aspiring spirits professionals worldwide are starting to learn about shochu as part of the course prerequisite.
It all began in 2020 when WSET spirits course educators visited Kagoshima prefecture, Japan. There was only one purpose for a visit, which was to see firsthand Kagoshima’s Honkaku shochu and its brewing process and determine “if shochu was a kind of liquor worth teaching the world about.”
Kagoshima prefecture, located in the southern part of Japan, is famous for its long hours of sunshine and well-drained soil (Shirasu) due to the presence of Sakurajima, an active volcano. It is an area where shochu is actively produced in Japan.
In Kagoshima prefecture, shochu is made from various ingredients, including sweet potatoes, rice, brown sugar, and wheat. WSET educators had only three days for their trip. They tried to uncover the essence of Honkaku shochu during that limited time, holding many study sessions, interacting with brewers, and having tasting sessions.
“They are using such luxurious ingredients.”
All the educators made the same remark. They were also amazed at the “low alcohol content” and the fact that “it was drunk like a food wine.”
The Japanese Craft Spirits Master Course by WSET educators has been decided to be launched teaching Kagoshima’s Honkaku shochu to teach aspiring liquor specialists about shochu and deliver the value of Japanese Crafts Spirits defined by the world, taught from the perspective of professionals who are experts when it comes to global spirits products and markets.
The Master Course is taught by WSET educators Hannah Lanfear and Rose Brookman. Ms. Lanfear wrote many articles in industry papers such as Imbibe, Bar Life, CLASS, and Dinks World Asia. She is also a member of the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Committee and has been selected for IWSC & WSET Future 50, 65th place in Bar World 100, and Imbibe’s Educator of the Year 2019. Ms. Brookman works as a WSET course educator and serves as the judge of the IWSC’s shochu category.
In addition to the learning experience, this innovative course brings students shochu for tasting by small-lot air shipment delivered from Japan every month. It is our sincere hope that anyone who has had shochu, as well as spirit lovers and those looking for new craft spirits, will learn about shochu, one of the most unique liquors in the world.
Kagoshima Shochu Makers Association