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10 Best Shochu in the UK 2023

Fancy a new addition to your drinks cabinet? If you love East Asian beverages like soju and sake, you simply have to try shochu! This earthy Japanese spirit is best served in ice, with cold water or hot - but that hasn't stopped it from becoming a feature in many cocktails, too. It's actually more popular in Japan than sake and is gaining popularity fast in the UK.


You might be wondering where to buy shochu to drink at home - that's where we come in! Amazon and Japan Centre have plenty of flavourful options, so we've compiled a list of our favourite products for you to try. You'll be sure to find your perfect bottle here - kanpai!

Last updated 14/07/2023
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Table of Contents

How to Choose Shochu in the UK - Buying Guide

You've got the shochu basics down, so now it's time to choose the perfect one to buy. In this section, we'll cover distillation types, the flavour of different base ingredients, the mystery of kōji and the average alcohol content in a bottle.

1

Consecutive Distillation or Single Distillation: Which Produces the Best Flavour?

Consecutive Distillation or Single Distillation: Which Produces the Best Flavour?

Shochu can be divided into two categories: korui and honkaku. The first is made using consecutive distillation, which uses a number of different components to create the end liquid. Korui shochu tends to have a clearer taste, so it can work well in cocktail blends as its flavour isn't too overpowering.


In comparison, honkaku (which can be translated as authentic or traditional) shochu is produced via single distillation, which uses a limited set of ingredients. As a result, it has a much more distinct, rich flavour that's considered superior by the experts. Most top-tier Japanese distilleries produce honkaku shochu, but it's not easy to find in the UK so that makes it extra special!

2

Opt for a Base Ingredient With an Appealing Flavour

Shochu can be made from a variety of base ingredients and each one produces a slightly different set of tasting notes. Here, we'll describe the flavour of each ingredient, so you know which one is the most likely to tickle your tastebuds!


As shochu is still up and coming in the UK, not all of these flavours are easily available, but it is best to know about them for when you have the opportunity to try them. 

Sweet Potato Shochu Tastes Smoky and Aromatic

Sweet Potato Shochu Tastes Smoky and Aromatic

If you're a whisky fan, you'll love the smoky, dark taste of a sweet potato-based shochu. The strong taste and aroma of this type of shochu is very distinctive, so it can be enjoyed on the rocks or straight as well as mixed into cocktails.


This type of shochu was first founded in the southernmost part of Kyushu in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefecture. Iconic brands of the era still exist to this day such as Hamada Syuzo, which began producing the liquor in the Meiji era. 

Brown Sugar Shochu Is Deep and Luxurious

Brown Sugar Shochu Is Deep and Luxurious

Native to the island of Amami Oshima in Kagoshima precture, brown sugar shochu is famous for its high alcohol content and highly detailed flavouring. Brown sugar shochu works well on the rocks or with hot water, really embalming the flavours creating delicious aromas even before your first sip.


Due to the limited quantity of this variant abroad, it has not made it to the ranking this time, but it is certainly good to learn about and one to plan to try in the future. Maybe taking a trip to Amami Oshima is in order... flight to Japan, anyone? 

Buckwheat Shochu Is Nutty and Earthy in Flavour

Buckwheat Shochu Is Nutty and Earthy in Flavour

Shochu distilled from buckwheat tends to have a combination of nutty and grassy notes. It also has a subtle hint of smokiness, although it's not as strong as sweet potato-based shochu. 


Because of the wonderful earthy flavour, we recommend drinking this type of shochu neat so you can really savour it without any distractions. This type of shochu could be a definite hit for whisky lovers out there.

Smooth Barley Shochu Works Well With Other Flavours

Smooth Barley Shochu Works Well With Other Flavours

Barley is another common base ingredient of shochu - in fact, more than half of all shochu is made from this humble grain! Many prefectures create barley shochu, but some of the better-known prefectures are Oita and Kumamoto.


Smooth and mellow tasting, this kind of shochu isn't as intense in flavour as other types but it does tend to be a little bit cheaper. So it's perfect for mixing with soda or fruit juice to make your very own cup of chuhai.

3

Kōji Alters the Flavours: Choose What Suits You Most

Kōji Alters the Flavours: Choose What Suits You Most

Shochu is often cited as a healthier alcohol to consume and that is partly thanks to the added ingredient known as kōji. This is a type of fermented probiotic and can contain up to 30 types of enzymes that help to aid in your body's natural rejuvenation process, making it a popular drink of choice. What's more, each kōji variant can alter the flavour of shochu and add further depth during the brewing process. 


The three main kōji variants help to break down starchy ingredients such as potato, but kōji can also be listed as the fermented item whether it be soba, barley or rice. To help understand how kōji can affect the flavour of shochu, here is a guide:


  • Yellow kōji: adds a fruity or floral taste and scent to the shochu, which is also quite uplifting.
  • Black kōji: adds a mellow and slightly sharp scent to the shochu which can relieve fatigue.
  • White kōji: adds a gentler and more mild taste to the shochu making it super easy to drink and a great introduction for those new to the world.
4

Select a Shochu With a Suitable Alcohol Volume

Select a Shochu With a Suitable Alcohol Volume

Lastly, you should always bear the alcohol content in mind when looking at a bottle of shochu. Typically, shochu will range from an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 20% to 25%, which is a small difference but each percent can really add up! To one up that, brown sugar shochu can be as high as 30%, so go easy on it if it's your first time.


Buying a bottle with a slightly lower alcohol volume and using a sensible mixer such as water or juice may help to lessen your hangover the next day. Be sure to drink your shochu responsibly, whatever its alcohol volume, as this delicious beverage packs a boozy punch!

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10 Best Shochu in the UK

Now for the exciting bit - our selection of the top shochu drinks in the UK! Whether you want the traditional experience or want to experiment with it and make cocktails you are bound to want to try at least one of our picks. Not all types of shochu made the list this time, but keep them in mind if you ever spot shochu in the wild!
Popularity
Products
Image
Click to purchase
Key features
1

Ogatama

Tekkan

Ogatama  Tekkan  1枚目

Easy to Drink With White Kōji: A Classic Kagoshima Shochu

2

Takara Towari

Honkaku Soba Buckwheat Shochu

Takara Towari Honkaku Soba Buckwheat Shochu 1枚目

Superior Shochu Made From 100% Pure Buckwheat

3

Unkai

Satsuma Kobiki

Unkai Satsuma Kobiki 1枚目

A Shochu Best Suited for Sushi & Teriyaki

4

Satsuma Kannoko

Barley Shochu

Satsuma Kannoko Barley Shochu 1枚目

Oak Barrel-Matured for a Highly Aromatic Taste

5

Takara Holdings

Kuro-Yokaichi

Takara Holdings Kuro-Yokaichi 1枚目

Black Kōji Experience for Rich Tasting

6

Sanwa Iichiko

Barley Shochu

Sanwa Iichiko Barley Shochu 1枚目

A Sublime Introduction to Japanese Spirits

7

Gekkeikan Bizan

Sweet Potato Shochu

Gekkeikan Bizan  Sweet Potato Shochu 1枚目

Dry, Fruity and Relaxing

8

Takara Holdings

Ikkomon

Takara Holdings Ikkomon 1枚目

A Classic Japanese Favourite

9

Ureshino

Genmaicha Shochu

Ureshino Genmaicha Shochu 1枚目

Brown Rice Tea & Shochu: An Exciting Mix

10

Kyoya Shuzo

Premium Yuzu Flavoured Gin

Kyoya Shuzo Premium Yuzu Flavoured Gin 1枚目

Artisanal Gin With a Shochu Base

If you don't see the product you're looking for, you can request that it be listed.
No.1

Ogatama Tekkan

Tekkan  Image 1
Source:amazon.co.uk
Reference price
£35.00
Reference price
£35.00

Easy to Drink With White Kōji: A Classic Kagoshima Shochu

Ogatama Brewery was founded in 1897 and produces some of the finest shochu's available from Kyushu's Kagoshima prefecture, in a city called Satsuma-Sendai. It goes without saying that a brand that has been able to move with the times for over 100 years is one to invest your money in.


With wondrously light and refreshing white kōji to help balance the sweet potato base, this honkaku shochu is exactly what you are after. The design is simple yet evokes the senses while also conveying the aromatic and woody tones of this imojyōchū.

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No.2

Takara TowariHonkaku Soba Buckwheat Shochu

Reference price
£28.00
Reference price
£28.00

Superior Shochu Made From 100% Pure Buckwheat

We couldn't resist putting a honkaku bottle at the top end of our list - after all, it's the most superior kind of shochu available! Distilled from 100% buckwheat, without the addition of rice, this product by Takara Towari has a truly unrivalled aroma and taste.


The initial floral flavour of this shochu is accompanied by notes of fresh mint and an undertone of smoke - if you like whisky, you'll absolutely love this tipple. We recommend chilling it in the fridge then serving it with a succulent meat or fish dish for the ultimate shochu experience!

No.3

UnkaiSatsuma Kobiki

Satsuma Kobiki Image 1
Source:amazon.co.uk
Reference price
£45.00
Reference price
£45.00

A Shochu Best Suited for Sushi & Teriyaki

What else do you need with a lovely glass of shochu? Oh yeah, sumptuous food to go with it. Satsuma Kobiki, brewed in Kagoshima prefecture is the perfect drink to go with other Japanese dishes, though we are sure it would go well with British food, too!


With an alcohol content of 25% and a generous 700ml bottle, you can't go wrong with this as a drink of choice. Perfect for entertaining guests or as a staple for those nights alone, this shochu won't let you down.

No.4

Satsuma KannokoBarley Shochu

Reference price
£31.78
Reference price
£31.78

Oak Barrel-Matured for a Highly Aromatic Taste

Just missing out on the top spot is this magnificent barley shochu from renowned distillery Satsuma Shuzo. One of the most appealing features of this particular product is the fact that it's been aged in an oak barrel for three years, providing gorgeous golden colour and a fragrant aroma.


We also love the beautiful, vintage-style packaging on this product - it'd make a fantastic gift for a loved one. Or buy it for yourself as a treat and enjoy over ice on a warm summer's evening!

No.5

Takara HoldingsKuro-Yokaichi

Kuro-Yokaichi Image 1
Source:amazon.co.uk
Reference price
£35.00
Reference price
£35.00

Black Kōji Experience for Rich Tasting

Kuro-Yokaichi is a great option for those looking for a shochu with an above-average level of sharpness, or those who want to relieve themselves of a hard day's work. The design is of a more traditional nature, which really helps to convey the earthy tones of the drink.


With 25% this bottle of shochu is enjoyed oyūwari (with hot water) to keep yourself warm during those slightly too breezy days, or times you want to wind down, but having it with cold water or the rocks works too. A great option for most. 

No.6

Sanwa IichikoBarley Shochu

Reference price
£26.50
Reference price
£26.50

A Sublime Introduction to Japanese Spirits

Sanwa Iichiko is one of the world's most celebrated shochu manufacturers, so it's definitely a good name to look out for if you're new to this mouthwatering spirit. We love the stylish, minimalist packaging of this product - it'll look great in your drinks cabinet!


It's all about flavour though when it comes to shochu, and this product has a light, uplifting taste which is all thanks to the barley base. Serve it neat alongside a platter of fresh sushi for dinner party perfection!

No.7

Gekkeikan Bizan Sweet Potato Shochu

Reference price
£33.00
Reference price
£33.00

Dry, Fruity and Relaxing

Fancy a dry, spicy drink with fruity overtones? This umami-rich tipple is just the ticket! With a name meaning 'beautiful mountain', a glass of this shochu will transport you right to the heart of the Japanese countryside.


Whether you're a seasoned shochu drinker or a total newbie, you won't be able to get enough of this lovely bottle. Pair with miso-marinated tofu or crunchy stir fry for the ultimate night in! 

No.8

Takara HoldingsIkkomon

Ikkomon Image 1
Source:amazon.co.uk
Reference price
£84.57
Reference price
£84.57

A Classic Japanese Favourite

Ikkomon is really good, and it is really popular in Japan. That's why it is a great option to consider when you are browsing online. Using sweet potato kōji and with an alcohol percentage of 25%, this is sure to taste incredible.


While this is certainly something to splash out on, the actual price of the drink in Japan is much more affordable. If you are looking to try shochu, opting for an equally delicious, yet cheaper version may be best.

No.9

UreshinoGenmaicha Shochu

Genmaicha Shochu Image 1
Source:amazon.co.uk
Reference price
£49.96
Reference price
£49.96

Brown Rice Tea & Shochu: An Exciting Mix

Shochu does not often come infused with other flavours as blatant as brown rice tea, so when we saw this it had to make the list. Additionally, the design of the bottle is simple yet extravagant, making it a great conversation piece.


This shochu is great for anyone who wants to try all types of shochu varieties, or those who are looking for a slightly more mellow version, compared to straight shochu. 

No.10

Kyoya ShuzoPremium Yuzu Flavoured Gin

Reference price
£69.00
Reference price
£69.00

Artisanal Gin With a Shochu Base

If you're after something a bit different, why not try this Japanese craft gin which uses traditional sweet potato shochu as a base? It's also flavoured with juniper berries, plus sansho pepper and zingy East Asian citrus fruits like yuzu and hyuganatsu.


As this is a gin rather than a standard shochu, the alcohol content is a lot higher than our other suggestions and it's unfortunately pretty expensive. Still, it's perfect for gin lovers as it puts a cool Asian twist on one of the UK's favourite tipples!

What Is Shochu?

What Is Shochu?

Few of us in the UK are well-initiated into the world of shochu, so it's understandable that you might need some basic background info on this unique drink. In particular, you might be wondering how it differs from other Japanese beverages like sake, so we'll cover that in this section.


The key difference between shochu and sake is that while sake is fermented like wine, shochu is distilled like a spirit and therefore has a much higher volume of alcohol. Sake is only ever made from rice, but shochu is typically made from ingredients like sweet potato, barley, and buckwheat, with each varying considerably in flavour as well as an ingredient called kōji.  


Shochu is generally enjoyed in three main styles: oyūwari (with hot water) mizuwari (with cold water) or on the rocks. It can also be diluted with other drinks too and works well in cocktails.

Fancy a Quick Drink? Try This Easy Cocktail Recipe With Just 3 Ingredients

Fancy a Quick Drink? Try This Easy Cocktail Recipe With Just 3 Ingredients

Ready to crack open your new bottle of shochu? We recommend mixing it with some green tea to make Ryokucha Wari, a refreshing Japanese-style cocktail!


You'll need just three ingredients:


  • 1 part shochu
  • 5 parts green tea
  • ice

Here's the recipe:

Keen to Try More Treats from Japan? We Have Some Suggestions!

Keen to Try More Treats from Japan? We Have Some Suggestions!

If you're feeling excited by shochu and want to sample more alcoholic delights, we have some splendid suggestions for you. Check out the links below for some of our favourite boozy products from Japan!

Summary

That brings us to the end of our article on Japanese shochu - we hope you've found something on our list to tickle your tastebuds, whether you're a total shochu virgin or a devoted drinker of this distinctive spirit. Why not sample a few different bottles and make shochu a staple in your drinks cabinet?


Author: Annie Hopkins

Top 5 Shochu

No. 1: Ogatama Tekkan

No. 2: Takara TowariHonkaku Soba Buckwheat Shochu

No. 3: UnkaiSatsuma Kobiki

No. 4: Satsuma KannokoBarley Shochu

No. 5: Takara HoldingsKuro-Yokaichi

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The descriptions of each product are referenced from content available on manufacturer, brand, and e-commerce sites.
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