Scottish craft beer and spirits producer Brewdog has unveiled Inugami Shochu, its very own take on the national spirit of Japan.
Its creation was spearheaded by Brewdog Distilling Co’s head of distillation, Steven Kersley, and distiller Dzeti Zait.
‘We didn’t want to just recreate a shochu,’ Kersley told Imbibe. ‘We wanted to bring our own twist. A lot of people said that this would never work, but we put in the time and effort to break new ground.’
According to the brand’s marketing materials, the new shochu is Brewdog’s response to how, 100 years ago, ‘the Japanese travelled to Scotland and stole the secrets of the scotch whisky distilleries’. Thus, Inugami has been ‘crafted with the sweet spirit of revenge’, and is named after vengeful dog spirits from Japanese folklore.
To put their own spin on the category, Kersley and Zait developed a shochu in the konwa – blended – style, separately distilling base spirits made from malted wheat, barley, rice and molasses, then blending them together and infusing them with rhubarb, ginger and galangal. The finished liquid comes in at 23% abv.
‘We chose the rhubarb and ginger botanicals because they're approachable for people who’ve never had shochu before,’ said Zait. ‘We wanted to make a gateway for them to experience all the other flavour qualities that shochu has to offer, so they can be more adventurous.’
Though shochu is still a relatively unknown category for the average UK drinker, Kersley reckons that it could gain traction thanks to the burgeoning trend for hard seltzers
Though shochu is still a relatively unknown category for the average UK drinker, Kersley reckons that it could gain traction thanks to the burgeoning trend for hard seltzers. ‘Drinks like White Claw [an American hard seltzer brand] are low alcohol and low sugar, and the way a lot of people consume shochu is in a Highball with soda. There's real comparison and similarity there, so if hard seltzer takes off in the UK, I think that shochu can too.’
Imbibe found the shochu to be both interesting and accessible. On the nose, it is boldly aromatic, and has round, toasty, ricey notes accompanied by burnt sugar and tropical fruit. It’s soft on the palate, with caramel and a gingery spice, and its low abv keeps it light and sippable.
As a liquid, Inugami is a good ambassador for the category. As a marketing campaign for shochu, however, its angle of vengeance doesn’t quite hit the mark. The exchange of distilling techniques has been crucial to the development of the wide array of drinks we enjoy today. Playful or not, do we really need to cast spirits in an us-versus-them light?
When we posed that question to the distilling team, Zait explained the idea behind the brand in less confrontational language: ‘It was a maverick move for that person from Japan to take whisky and bring it to an uninitiated crowd, and since then Japanese whisky has gained such popularity and won awards. We’d quite like to do the same with our shochu. So it's not so much about revenge – it's that we want to see how far we can get, and be in the same ranking as the top shochus.’
RRP £27/700ml, available on brewdog.com and in Brewdog bars from 27 March 2020