Lento KokutoWritten by Zachariah Smookler
Hailing from the remote Amami Islands of Kyushu, also known as the birthplace of shochu (distilled liquor) is the rare and unique variation of the brew, kokuto shochu. The Amami Islands are the only place in Japan where kokuto (brown sugar) shochu is produced. The sugar cane plantations where the breweries grow their brown sugar reportedly date back to the seventeenth century, when the Satsuma-han domain exclusively sold brown sugar and forbade any other islanders from using it.
Lento Kokuto is produced by the most popular brewery in all the Amami Islands, the Amami Oshima Kaiun Shuzo. Based on the island of Amami Oshima, Lento is one of the more sought-after brands of kokuto shochu and actually boasts the largest shipping volume among all brands made on these islands. Effortlessly recognized by its cool aqua bottle, Lento’s fame originates from its light, refreshing flavor combined with a quite mild texture. The Amami Oshima Kaiun Shuzo was founded in 1996, and brewers surround the tanks of Lento Kokuto with classical music playing all around it. According to the brewery, “The vibrations of the music facilitate the aging and help soften the taste.” As production manager Yoshimi Kozuma stated, “Lento is distilled under reduced pressure. It is especially well-liked among women because it has a lighter taste than kokuto shochu made with the traditional atmospheric distillation process.”
This Lento Kokuto had to be one of the more special tasting experiences I’ve had in recent memory. With this being my first time trying the rare shochu, I was taken aback by the incredibly deep flavor and aroma that washed through me as I took my first sip of this brown sugar liquor. While there are many ways to drink Lento Kokuto including mixed with soda and heated, I opted for the more traditional method of on the rocks and chilled. As a result of the previously mentioned acoustic aging process, the beverage is both fruity and its sugarcane aroma almost reminds me of a light rum. Compared to other shochu, the Lento Kokuto is incredibly smooth and is a perfect beginners choice for those looking to try the unparalleled kokuto shochu. Hence its name, you can taste the brown sugar, and I believe it mixes splendidly with the fruity elements that help build this brew. I decided to pair the Lento Kokuto with a Beef & Broccoli over Sticky Rice dish, and they complemented each other quite nicely. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Lento Kokuto treated a newcomer to the world of shochu such as myself, and if you are thinking about trying a Kokuto Shochu, look no further than this smooth and fragrant beverage from the Amami Oshima Kaiun Shuzo!