iichiko Saiten

Shōchū is a traditional Japanese spirit most commonly produced from rice. The iichiko Saiten uses 100% two-row barley that is fermented with koji and distilled only once — a prerequisite for the highest-grade Honkaku variant of the spirit.
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Situated in the Oita Prefecture on Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu, iichiko produces shōchū, a traditional Japanese spirit. The operation employs cutting-edge technology in making its award-winning spirits. But it's also the environment that contributes to the quality of the product. The region is famous for its clean air, forests, and mountains, as well as spings. The water iichiko uses is naturally filtered through volcanic rock and is soft and iron-free.

"iichiko" means "it's great" in the local Oita dialect. The distillery was formed in 1958 and produced sake, wine, and shōchū. The very first iichiko shōchū to be made from barley was released in 1979. Since then the company has become one of the leading Japanese producers of barley shōchū.

While shōchū is most commonly distilled from rice, iichiko Saiten is crafted from polished 100% two-row barley, making it a distant cousin of whisky. It's a Honkaku shōchū, meaning it's the highest grade of the spirit and one that utilizes a single ingredient. No additives or sweeteners are added and the pristine water is filtered through 1,000 feet of volcanic rock.

The barley is steeped in this water before being steamed and left to ferment using koji, a type of mold that kickstarts the process of converting starch to sugar. It is then distilled once using low pressure and atmospheric distillation before the two raw distillates are blended together. The iichiko Saiten expression is bottled at a higher 86 proof and is a full-flavored and complex shōchū that was crafted to work particularly well in cocktails.

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More Information
Proof 86 (43% ABV)
Distiller/Bottler Name Sanwa Shurui Co.
Size 750mL
The nose opens with honeydew melon, grape, pickled watermelon rind, and citrus notes, along with a hint of peppery spice, barley, and soy. The palate has a richness and umami notes with tea, and white peaches. There's a minerality and earthiness underneath with some citrus and brine notes. The finish is long.
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