Living Up to Its Name

Digest On the Menu

November 16, 2014

Story By: Lindsey Appleton |

Have you ever had an alcoholic beverage that is low in calories, has zero sugar, gives you less of a hangover and tastes good? While this may sound too good to be true, Iichiko has taken it upon itself to introduce its revolutionary shochu to Hawaii. Sanwa Shurui co., ltd, has crafted Iichiko since 1979, and has changed the worldly image of shochu. In Japan, Shochu’s popularity even surpasses that of sake. Iichiko intends to expand to the Western market and become an internationally known distilled spirit that will rival the stylishness of wine and the popularity of tequila.

“Iichiko has been the No. 1 shochu in Japan for more than 20 years, and now we export to more than 30 countries,” says Tetsuro Miyazaki, who has been manager of Iichiko USA for a decade. “Using Hawaii as an example, we want to show the world how many cultures can enjoy Iichiko. I’d like to have bars carry it all over the nation.”

Photo courtesy of Iichiko USA

Photo courtesy of Iichiko USA

Distilled only once from 100 percent polished barley, Iichiko boasts a refreshing flavor and a smooth taste. Its new line, Iichiko Bar Fruits, offers the distinct and traditional flavors of yuzu and ume made specifically for the local palate. Yuzu, light and citrusy, and ume, tasting of honey and plum, are naturally sweet and, at only 8 percent alcohol, easily drinkable. Unlike most spirits, which are made for mixing, Iichiko Bar Fruits can be enjoyed chilled straight, on the rocks, with soda or even hot water. Miyazaki recommends drinking it straight to experience the elegant flavors.

“The taste is sophisticated,” says Miyazaki. “You can taste the delicate barley flavor, and it doesn’t have any artificial ingredients or sugar. We plan to introduce other flavors in the future, but, for now, those are a secret.”

However, Miyazaki doesn’t expect you to simply take his word for it. Iichiko literally means “it is good” in the Oita dialect. This year, Iichiko Bar Fruits Yuzu won the double gold medal at the internationally known San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Out of 63 countries and 1,474 brands, only 199 brands have won the double gold medal. In the liqueur category, just 10 brands won the double gold medal. Featured in Forbes and Maxim, Iichiko even is making national headlines.

“The target is not only the shochu and spirit consumer, but also the wine, champagne and dessert wine drinker,” says Miyazaki. “We believe Iichiko can create a new industry.”

If you’re still not convinced, try it for yourself at one of Iichiko’s upcoming events at MW Restaurant and The Pig & The Lady, for a limited time until Nov. 30. The restaurant bartenders will be mixing up specialty cocktails infusing Iichiko Bar Fruits for your drinking pleasure. For more information, call The Pig & The Lady at 585-8255 or MW Restaurant at 955-6505.

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best