What is awamori?
Awamori has a 600-year-old tradition and is the official spirit of Okinawa. It is also known as "Island Sake" (島酒 shima-zake). Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture of Japan and consists of a total of 160 islands, 49 of which are inhabited. The climate on the islands is tropical and there are miles of white sandy beaches. Over seven million people visit these idyllic places every year. The prefecture of Okinawa is famous for the long life expectancy of its inhabitants. It is also called the "Island of the Centennial", because there is no place in Japan where people grow older. It is unfortunately not known whether there is a connection with the consumption of Awamori. Okinawa was independent from the main country until the 19th century and was known as the Kingdom of Ryukyu. Many traditions of Okinawa therefore originate from other parts of Asia.
The production of Awamori
Also Okinawa's national drink awamori first found its way to Japan via Thailand and is still distilled almost exclusively from imported Thai rice, the long grain rice Indica. Similar to the production of ahochu, Koji is also used for awamori. However, only black Koji, the so-called Aspergillus Awamori, is used, which is added to the rice-water mixture. After fermentation, the liquid is simply distilled. Some awamoris have 25 - 30% alcohol volume, but most have more and up to 43% vol. There are even fires that have 60% vol. and are therefore quickly flammable.
After distillation, Awamori is stored, which can last from three months to several decades. There are Awamoris up to 30 years old. They are stored in steel, stone or wooden barrels, sometimes even in caves. By the way, awamori and ahochu are completely independent spirits. Decades ago, when Awamori was still legally called Shochu, this led to great confusion among consumers. In 1983, the law was changed and awamori has since been called an independent type of alcohol, namely "Authentic Awamori". Today, there are 46 distilleries in Okinawa Prefecture that produce different kinds of awamoris. An important quality characteristic of this spirit is when it is "kusu", i.e. (cask)matured. Awamori may be called "kusu" as soon as over 51% of it has been matured for at least three years. The remaining 49% may be freshly distilled. It is worth looking out for 100% matured Awamori in terms of taste. This is stated on the bottle (e.g. "100% aged 10 years"), but you can usually tell by the price.
What does Awamori taste like and what is the best way to drink it?
Awamori is an extremely versatile spirit with its own unique spicy flavor, usually accompanied by an earthy character. The flavor depends on the aging methods and alcohol strength. While unaged Awamoris can be very intense and often produce a strong aroma, Awamoris from good aging is rich and complex and one of the spiciest spirits produced in Japan. The drinking recommendation for Awamori is "Mizuwari", which means with water and ice. Awamoris with high alcohol content are also very suitable for mixing, for example in cocktails or long drinks. Very popular in Okinawa is also the production of liqueurs with Awamori. In our store you can find Awamori as well as some great Awamori-based liqueurs, e.g. the Awamori 35 Sango Coffee Liqueur, or the OkinawaFruits Club Pineapple Liqueur.
Awamori, like shochu, is made exclusively from natural ingredients, has no residual sugar, and has very few calories compared to other types of alcohol such as wine, beer, sake, rum or gin.