Hamada Distillery

Hamada Distillery

While next door neighbor, Miyazaki Prefecture, has been the top collective shochu producer in terms of volume for the past few years, Kagoshima Prefecture still holds the honor for most shochu consumed per capita. And it’s not a crown that will be easy to wrestle away. Like many other parts of Japan, and indeed the world, Kyushu’s southernmost prefecture has long enjoyed an unshakable culture of unwinding after a long day’s work with a drink or two. One thing that sets Kyushu apart, however, is that they have a word for this refreshing activity.

Well, several words actually. In Kagoshima Prefecture, home to a number of excellent distilleries, the term we’re looking for is daiyame. The first half of the word (dai) basically means tiredness or exhaustion. The second half (yame), means to halt or cease. There’s nothing better than some daiyame with friends or family to escape the stresses of the day, and it’s part and parcel with daily life in this part of Japan. There are, of course, slight variations on the pronunciation of this word depending on which region you visit, but the implications surrounding it remain the same.

But daiyame isn’t just a cultural keyword anymore. Hamada is one of the top ten honkaku shochu makers in the country by sales volume, and they are responsible for the ubiquitous “Kaido” brand of sweet potato shochu, often found in eye-catching red and blue bottles. “Daiyame,” the company’s newest product which hit the market this September, is intended to become one of the company’s big new brands.

A quick tour of the sweet potato preparation facility revealed metric tons of sweet potatoes being delivered by conveyor through the process. Many hands are involved in getting the kogane sengan sweet potatoes ready as the ends and any bruises must be trimmed away by hand. A veritable army of knife-wielding workers cleans the tubers one by one, the rare distillery job that a machine cannot do well. After cleaning, the potatoes are steamed slowly and evenly on a conveyor that stretches roughly the length of a volleyball court. The process brings out the inherent sweetness in the potatoes and readies them for shredding and addition to the fermentation tanks.

Mr. Demizu, the man overseeing Daiyame’s production, explained that Hamada wanted to do something big to celebrate Hamada Distillery’s 150th anniversary. The answer, they decided was to add an exciting new product to the lineup. The Kaido brand will turn 20 years old in 2020, and there was a general feeling that the distillery had to come up with something unique to keep consumers interested. Just like daiyame the activity, Daiyame the drink does not disappoint.

Hamada decided to create a sweet potato shochu that is both aromatic yet easy to keep drinking, the type of shochu that one never tires of. This type of shochu is a natural fit for a daiyame session after work. Packaged in jet black glass with black labeling and a golden sweet potato accent in the center, Daiyame carries a noticeable lychee fragrance that all but leaps out of the bottle. Enjoyed straight, the shochu has a light attack with a low alcohol burn and plenty of sweetness at the front. It’s an easy sipper on the rocks, but it also goes well mixed with cool (mizuwari) or hot (oyuwari) water. It’s light-bodied and the finish seems short at first, but there’s a soft, lingering sweetness that sticks around afterwards.  

Hamada Distillery actually recommends another way to accentuate the lychee notes in Daiyame sweet potato shochu, and it’s none other than the uberpopular sodawari (club soda mix) or highball style of cocktail. It’s recommended that you chill a bottle of Daiyame in the refrigerator and mix two parts shochu to three parts club soda in an ice-filled glass. After a solitary turn of the bar spoon, enjoy it as a pre-meal spritzer, or even try it alongside Italian dishes like pasta or pizza. Spicy dishes such as mapo tofu also work, as do fried chicken and tenpura.

photo

Shotaro Demizu, PI of Product Development Office.

photo

Steamed sweet potatoes make their way toward the shredder.

photo

Distillery staff keep an eye out for bruised potatoes.

photo

A 1.8 liter bottle of “Daiyame” dwarfs a glass of shochu with soda.

share this page with:


4-1, Minatomachi, Ichikikushikino-shi, Kagoshima