The thing I love about wine is that it acknowledges its part in tourism and almost all wineries in Australia have cellar doors catering for tourists and fans coming for a taste. In Japan, the culture is a bit different and especially for sake, cellar door tastings and tours are not so popular. Maybe this is due to the generation old secrecy of the techniques and the Japanese culture of not inquiring too deeply and just respecting the product. However for Shochu, there are a number of distilleries that do tastings and factory tours.
There are so many shochu brands and manufacturers and to be honest, all undergo the basic production of koji fermentation of sweet potato (or other main ingredient) and through to distilling so I don’t have any that I particularly dislike. Difference lies in the subtle aromas or the after note being sharp or lingering, the palate being mild or dry etc. It’s all up to personal preference.
When asked for a favourite, I would say Kojika, just because I have fond memories of travelling all around Kyushu when I was 21, stopped by the Kanoya area befriended a local young man at the pachinko shop and ended up being invited over to stay at his house for the night. Such is the climate of rural Kagoshima. Welcoming and relaxed. His pick of drinks for the night was Kojika. The taste of Kojika reminds me of that night when he called his friends over for an instant drink till you fall party to entertain me and we emptied the 1.8ltr bottle easily. Although I would recommend it and they do say they are open for tours, it is probably quite a small local company and I don’t know how you will go trying to book a factory tour without any Japanese capacity. I trust though, as with my experience, the Kagoshima people are the most hospitable people in the world and if you manage to just get a booking across, you should be able to manage.
|要予約。Need to book.
おすすめ時期：いも仕込み最盛期(9月～11月) Recommended Season when sweet potato is harvested and fermentation starts (Sept-Nov)
所要時間：60分程度 Tour takes 60min
These guys seem to have a English (very limited but…) selection on their home page and seem to have a more commercialized factory tour facility.
The largest distiller by far is Satsuma Shuzo.
They seem to have a walk in capability to cater for tours. The city is also very famous for katsuo or bonito. Eaten fresh or dried and becomes the main ingredient for the essence of Japanese cuisine, the dashi.
4. Here is the complete list.