Mizunomai 美鶴乃舞 means dance of the beautiful crane; a metaphor for the gentle, yet lively character of the spirit. When abbreviated, Mizu is also a play on the Japanese word for water 水, and even stands as the archaic term 瑞 for purity, freshness, luster and good omens.
Winner of Double Gold at the 2013 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition
Japanese shochu (焼酎) is a distilled spirit that is remarkably smooth and light with delicate, earthy notes seldom found in Western spirits. These distinctive flavors are a tribute to the local harvests - typically barley, sweet potato, sugar cane or rice - and are rooted in a deep appreciation for the purity and perfection found in nature. To capture the true essence of these ingredients, ‘honkaku’ (authentic style) shochu is distilled only one time. The traditional method of single distillation preserves and highlights the naturally occurring oils and aromas that deliver the spirit’s unfamiliar, yet exquisite flavors.
Today, there are roughly 500 working distilleries producing over 5,000 unique brands of shochu in Japan. Most of these are scattered throughout the pristine countryside on the island of Kyushu. Once perceived to be old-fashioned, an old man’s liquor, shochu is now the favorite of a younger generation of Japanese drinkers. It has even become more popular than sake; an ongoing trend that has been fueled by both men and women in their 20’s and 30’s who are rediscovering the complexities of the 500 year old spirit. Some of the appeal has been brought on by a number of reported health-related benefits, most notably that shochu has a lower calorie count when compared to other spirits.
The “sho” character (焼) means fired or burned, and the “chu” character (酎) means to concentrate, giving the meaning that shochu is a type of alcohol concentrated by fire.
Mizu (the moniker for 美鶴乃舞, Mizu-no-mai) is proudly distilled by the Munemasa Shuzo Co. of Arita, Japan. While honoring the traditional shuzo methods, Munemasa is driven by a passion to craft the unexpected and to create shochu of uncommon character. Founded in 1985, Munemasa infuses creativity, innovation and a unique perspective into the traditional Japanese spirit. This is the way of our master distillers, Wada-san and Okoba-san, who make the Mizunomai in the artisanal, old-style method, while adding unusual and unconventional twists for the more bold shochu lover.
Mizunomai is a ‘honkaku’ shochu (本格焼酎), meaning genuine or authentic, as it is handcrafted and single distilled in the traditional Japanese way. Distilling the ‘moromi’ mash just one time captures the true essence of our Saga grown barley and black koji rice by preserving their naturally occurring flavors and aromas. The result is a smooth, pure, natural taste that is uncommon and exquisite.
The honkaku method of single distillation dates back to the 16th century and originated in the mountain villages and lush valleys Kyushu in southwestern Japan. It is here in small town of Arita, located in Saga prefecture, where the Mizu Shochu is produced.
Production begins with the intricate preparation and then fermentation of our ‘black koji rice’. Locally harvested rice is meticulously polished to a fine pearl, steamed and coated with a microbe called black koji, which imparts unique flavors, distinctive aromas, and helps to break down starches into sugars. The black koji is given time to propagate over the steamed rice, and must be tended to by the koji master night and day. After several days, it is ready to be mixed with soft spring water from nearby Black Hair Mountain, along with a touch of yeast, which helps to convert the sugars into alcohol. This fermenting mash of ingredients is known as the ‘first moromi’.
Black koji enhances the natural flavors of the rice (and later the barley) and adds to the body, depth and complexity to our Mizu Shochu. Its is also one of the main reasons why the taste of Mizunomai and other shochus are so distinct from all other types of distilled spirits.
Raised in the spring and harvested in early summer, the ‘mugi’ (two-rowed barley) of Saga prefecture serves as the principle ingredient of the Mizunomai (the ratio is 67% barley to 33% black koji rice). The mugi is first polished to remove the husk - an exacting task that is seldom practiced by other distilleries - which eliminates undesirable impurities found in the grain and makes for a far smoother, purer and tastier spirit. The polished barley is then steamed and added to the original mash containing the fermenting black koji rice, forming the ‘second moromi’.
To secure the finest Saga barley, the Munemasa Shuzo Co. has a remarkably close bond with the local farmers. It is tradition at Munemasa to invite these farmers to participate in the actual making of the shochu.
After several weeks, the second moromi is transferred to a stainless steel pot still for single distillation. It is here that the pure essence of barley and black koji rice is captured in an unusually smooth and naturally tasty distillate that is 88 proof (44% alc/vol). This undiluted heart of the spirit is called the ‘genshu’, which is then it is left to rest and mature for at least 6 months.
The Mizunomai is crafted in the boutique ‘genshu’ style, meaning it is not heavily diluted like ordinary shochus, which are typically 25%alc/vol. Once our genshu has fully mellowed, it is filtered through bamboo charcoal and slightly cut with soft mountain water to 70 proof (35% alc/vol) where the spirit finds true balance. Produced only in small batches, the more concentrated genshu style enhances the character of our shochu and provides a more stimulating taste experience.
Aroma : exquisite perfumey nose, cantaloupe, cut grass, hints of banana and raisins, ends with a rich brown sugar.
Flavor : smooth buttery texture, fresh grains and a sweet mellow middle with subtle notes caramel custard, grassy undertones and lingering vanilla on the finish.