With each passing year, rum is becoming more popular, with different countries leaving their own mark on the category and infusing unique characteristics. Japan is also getting in on the rum boom and several brands have popped up to champion the Land of The Rising Sun.
But what exactly is Japanese rum and how does it stand out from rum produced in other parts of the world? This question is answered in Japan Distilled, a podcast dedicated to the exploration of spirits in Japan.
Putting the spotlight on a unique category
Japan Distilled is hosted by shochu experts Christopher Pellegrini and Steven Lyman and in the episode on Japanese rum, they discuss the history of sugarcane production in Japan and how it’s related to producing spirits.
Interestingly, a large amount of sugarcane is harvested from Okinawa, the tropical Prefecture of the Ryukyu Islands. The climate is similar to the conditions of many islands in the Caribbean, with Pellegrini and Lyman comparing Okinawan rum to Jamaican pot still rum.
Another interesting comparison is that of kokuto shochu and rum. Both spirits have similar characteristics, with the difference being that kokuto shochu is made with koji and can only be produced in the Amami Islands.
Japanese rums to try
The episode also revealed some great Japanese rum brands to try. This includes the extremely rare Rurikakesu from Kagoshima, Helios and Mukugan from Okinawa, Ogasawara from the Bonin Islands and Santa Maria from Ise Island. The most mainstream of the bunch is rum from the Nine Leaves distillery in Shiga Prefecture.
Japan Distilled does a great job of explaining the history of rum in Japan and I’m looking forward to checking out future episodes. You can listen to it here.