Things that mightn’t have been on your 2023 bingo card: excellent shochu made in Victoria’s High Country. Reed & Co Distillery owners Hamish Nugent and Rachel Reed began making gin in 2016 while working as chefs at the now-closed Tani Eat and Drink. Intrigued by the way that distillation could manipulate flavour, they started experimenting with the plants they used in cooking to produce different gins. Delicious results led them to experiment with Japanese techniques and ingredients, culminating in a product they called yuzushu – Australian shochu with a yuzu twist.
Their Australian rice shochu is the latest in a line of game-changing alternative craft spirits to come out of northeast Victoria; here’s owner Rachel Reed with everything you need to know about what it is, how to drink it and where to get it.
If we’re new to Shochu, what would you like us to know about it? What is it?
Shochu is an incredibly delicious and versatile spirit, there are so many ways to drink it. The most distinctive feature of shochu is its unique aroma and flavour. Shochu is a clear distilled spirit, indigenous to Japan. It is produced from Koji, an enzyme that is used in the base of many familiar Japanese foods, condiments and beverages, like miso, soy and sake. In the case of our debut, it is cultivated on rice which produces an amazing fruity aroma and palate.
Why did you decide to get into the Shochu game?
We are chefs-cum-distillers with a deep love for Japan. If you’ve encountered us before you’ll know that all of our ventures have had an element of Japanese influence and or technique. After years of producing and cooking with koji and enjoying drinking shochu we naturally started exploring koji in our own spirits.
What’s special about your shochu in particular?
It is a truly Australian shochu produced end to end in our High Country distillery. We have spent many years perfecting our koji-making techniques to produce koji specifically for shochu and sourced amazing local grains for the base. The flavour starts with the koji and the grain, so it was important to us that it is of high quality.
And for the serious shochu fanciers out there, what are the deep-dive details?
This release is an expression of Honkaku-style rice shochu using tachiminori rice from New South Wales’ northern rivers. The koji is aspergillus luchuensis. We took it through a long fermentation before distillation in a low-pressure vacuum. The 30 per cent ABV liquid has been well-rested before bottling.
We also have a barley shochu in the works; more details will follow with a summer release planned.
Tell us a few ways we can drink it.
As indicated, there are so many ways to drink it. You can drink it with water, on the rocks, with soda and in cocktails. We particularly enjoy a highball with soda and fruit, known as a Chuhai.
What about food – how does shochu go at the table?
Shochu will really change your opinion on spirits with food. It is truly an any-occasion type of drink; unlike most spirits, it pairs exceptionally with food. One of the reasons is that shochu carries phenols similar to those in red wine.
You guys are trained chefs; any tips for pairings?
It is like any food and drink pairing. You want both the food and beverage to complement each other. For example, if you have a nice fish dish with fresh acidic flavours, a neat or on-the-rocks or with-water shochu would pair well. The shochu would give you a nice umami note to add to the freshness of the dish.
And can you cook with it?
Yes. When it comes to drinking, shochu and sake are different, but when it comes to cooking, they can be used similarly. Shochu works really well in a bone broth.
Sounds excellent. Where can we get it?
You can get your bottle of first edition rice shochu, as well as other koji spirits like our yuzushu and chilli koji, directly from us at Reed & Co Distillery or at your independent retailer.