Cath and Brian Carran of Mana Shochu and the copper still.
Fiery Shochu From Kaipara Kumara.
Shochu is a fiery Japanese style spirit which can be distilled from a variety of ingredients including barley, buckwheat and sweet potato - kumara. It's a clear spirit that can be enjoyed on the rocks, mixed with cold water, or as a cocktail base, and its aroma and flavour depends on the raw base ingredient. Kumara produces a stronger, earthier shochu.
A project to make a classy, kiwi kumara-based version of shochu started twelve years ago when Brian Carran and Norman Lodge were fishing on Lake Taupo. Scientist Norman had thought years before about making the spirit from dairy whey, but the idea didn't go anywhere. His meeting with Brian Carran, a businessman always keen for an adventure, was the start of a new journey.
Following seven years of research and development they came up with a product they were happy with and Mana Shochu general manager Cath Carran says it was well received in Japan. "It was like coals to Newcastle and people were doubtful, but once they tasted it, well, mmm".
Unfortunately she says at present the exchange rate means it's almost priced off the market but she's hoping bottles shipped there last month will see the New Zealand product moving again. Cath Carran also encourages people to ask for shochu when they go to a Japanese restaurant in New Zealand. She says it's often confused with sake, the Japanese fermented rice wine, when they're not the same product.