Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association | JSS


The Basic Guide Aging Shochu

Aging Shochu

Right after distillation, spirits generally have a harsh flavor. As a result, most distilleries age their product for a few years before shipping. On the other hand, the koji in shochu gives it a relatively smooth taste fresh out of the still. Therefore, most shochu ship out with less than one year of aging. However, some shochu distilleries age their product for three years or longer for extra smoothness and complex flavor.

Aging Shochu: Yes or No?

After distillation, shochu undergoes filtration. After this process, all shochu sits in storage for a short period to develop deeper flavor and a smoother taste. While most shochu ships out for sale within a year of distillation, some distilleries age their products for three or more years. There is no legal obligation to indicate whether or not the product was aged on the label. However, products with long-term aging usually highlight the duration and/or method of aging on the bottle.

Why Age Shochu?

Fresh shochu generally tastes harsh due to vaporous elements. These elements evaporate after a few months, which gives the shochu a smoother taste. Additionally, components in shochu start to react with each other physically and chemically while aging. This creates richer flavors unique to aged shochu. For more information about flavors of aged shochu, read here.

Aging Period and Flavor Change in Shochu

Aging period Change in Flavor
3~6 months Reduction in pungent flavor
6 months ~3 years Flavor stabilizes and becomes more round
Over 3 years Flavor is more round and unique flavor appears

Shochu Aging Methods

After distillation, shochu undergoes filtration and aging in tanks, earthenware pots, or bottles. Shochu is usually matured undiluted, with an alcohol content of 37% to 43%. The porous and mineral-rich material of the traditional unglazed earthenware pots creates a unique flavor in shochu. On the other hand, the stainless steel tanks enable aging large quantities of shochu without influencing the flavor. In addition, aging shochu in wooden barrels, like whiskey and brandy, has become more popular in recent years. This process also imbues shochu with the faint flavor of the barrel and gives it a light amber hue.

Aged Awamori - Kusu -

The most renowned aged shochu is “kusu,” or “old liquor” in Okinawa. “Kusu” is awamori that has been aged for three or more years. For centuries, kusu has boasted high cultural and monetary value in Okinawa. The royal court of Ryukyu always kept a sufficient supply of kusu, often over 100 years old, in order to host special guests. This practice also extended outside of the royal court to regular Okinawan families. Kusu is traditionally aged in unglazed earthenware pots. After aging, it has a smooth and rich flavor with a hint of vanilla.

For more information about the flavor of “kusu” read here.

Traditional Method for Aging Awamori
- Shitsugi -

The traditional way to age awamori at home in Okinawa is called “shitsugi.” Shitsugi requires three or more unglazed earthenware pots containing awamori at various stages of aging. The process begins once some liquor is taken from the oldest batch, called the “parent liquor.” Next, liquor from the second oldest batch replaces the portion removed from the oldest batch. This process repeats as liquor from the third oldest batch replaces liquor from the second oldest batch and so on. Shitsugi allows people to enjoy the aged liquor for a long period of time by replenishing the “parent liquor” with an aged awamori.


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