When Koichiro Watanabe took over as the 4th generation of his family to operate Watanabe Shuzo, the young distiller turned to his grandfather for advice. “Don’t worry too much about the dirt” was the answer, regarding the daily cleaning of freshly harvested sweet potatoes where they painstakingly scrubbed and peeled each tuber until it was pristine . “In my day we always left a little in there.” By preserving that little bit of tradition, the literal flavor of the soil is preserved in the distilled shochu, giving it remarkable depth and richness.
When growing sweet potatoes for Watanabe works closely with his younger brother Junya, carefully following organic practices and local traditions, using tools made from locally harvested bamboo. Upon harvesting they aim to preserve the unique and rich flavor of their crop in fermentation and distilling, throwing open the doors of the distillery to allow the fermenting vats to breathe the outside air and distilling carefully at atmospheric pressure to preserve the delicate balance of flavor, then storing and aging their shochu with as many of the natural oils as possible left in to retain richness and depth. The result is apparent in their full bodied, complex shochu and its compelling and haunting flavors.
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