Hokkaido is a land of abundant nature, which means great conditions for making delicious alcoholic beverages. Here are 5 recommended beverages made using the blessings of Hokkaido.
1. Kokushi Muso (Sake)
Kokushi Muso is one of Japan’s most famous types of sake, and was responsible for starting a dry taste sake boom. This sake was established in 1975 by Takasago Shuzo, a brewery in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. Takasago Shuzo makes around 10 types of sake, from daiginjoshu (high quality sake) to a seasonally limited edition sake. All of their creations have great reviews for their crisp and rich taste, and for having the clear aroma of rice. Most of the manufacturing process is executed by hand by nine brewers. The delicate flavor of their products are evidence of their hard work. There are a few editions of Kokushi Muso, but the one we recommend is Kokushi Muso Retsu. The smooth, rich, and dry taste of Kokushi Muso Retsu creates an amazing sensation in the throat that is addictive. It is suggested that this sake be enjoyed chilled, perfect for summer time.
2. Yoichi (whisky)
This is a single-molt whisky manufactured in the Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery. Yoichi was chosen as the most suitable land for whisky creation, due to the similarity of its environmental conditions to Scotland, the home of whisky. Yoichi whisky has a smoky and sweet taste from direct coal-fired distillation, a process that is rare around the world, and is also easy to drink for a whisky beginner. Although non-aged whisky can be bought anywhere in Japan, at Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery you can buy some kinds of whisky available nowhere else (not available in some seasons). We highly recommend taking a little detour to Yoichi to obtain the special whisky if you have a chance to visit Hokkaido.
3. Kitasato (Shochu)
Kitasato is shochu (a type of distilled liquor) made with ingredients only from Hokkaido. Generally, ingredients for shochu are either rice, barley. or sweet potato. However, Kitasato also has shochu made of May Queen, a famous type of Hokkaido potato. Compared to normal potato-based shochu, Kitasato has a distinct sweetness that you can immediately taste and mildness that are easy to drink even for non-shochu drinkers. There is also kombu shochu, which uses kelp as the main ingredient. This is a highly recommended shochu brand for those who are interested in Japanese alcohol made with traditional ingredients.
4. Otaru Niagara (White Wine)
Otaru, named after a city in Hokkaido, is a series of very fruity wines made with fresh market grapes harvested in Hokkaido. The high-quality wine they produce, with their unique manufacturing process that uses the cold climate in the city of Otaru, leads to high reviews. Above all others in the series, a type of white wine made using 100% Niagara grapes called Otaru Niagara, is the most popular. It has received numerous awards at the domestic wine competition, where they were acknowledged for the powerful flavor of the muscat grapes. Although this particular wine is sweet, they also offer Otaru Niagara Dry for those who prefer a more bitter wine.
5. Tarujuku Zweigeltrebe (Red Wine)
Yoichi is the place with the biggest quantity of wine grape production in Hokkaido. Tarujuku Zweigeltrebe is a wine made with sour grapes harvested in Yoichi. It is aged in a French oak barrel and is popular for having a rich and floral flavor. Although there are many other wines that use Yoichi grapes, only products like Tarujuku Zweigeltrebe, bearing the Yoichi name, are from the Nippon Seishu Co. The grapes used for this wine were grown using the results of ongoing research with Yoichi contract farmers and continually enhanced aging techniques to deliver the best of Yoichi grapes to everyone. This is a truly local wine with the determination to persuade people of the appeal of Yoichi. The sophisticated full body taste, which can only be obtained by a long-term aging process, is addictive.
There are so many liquors made by optimized usage of the environmental conditions of Hokkaido. All of these accentuate the quality of their ingredients. We definitely recommend that you take the time to taste these special beverages.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.