This single-distilled, one of a kind shochu is made from ginger local to Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture. Named after the distillery’s founder, Rihei Ochiai, this 4th generation, family run distillery honors the traditions of their 100-year-old past while taking on a modern twist for the 21st century. Rihei Ginger was born after local farmers came to the distillery requesting he craft a new shochu made from their amazing quality ginger after Rihei had made a reputation for themselves using less common ingredients for their shochu.
Crafting Shochu for More Than a Century
Ochiai Distillery is a family-run shochu distillery with more than 100 years of history. Shochu is most commonly distilled from sweet potatoes, barley or rice. At Ochiai Distillery, we specialize in ‘Imo’ sweet potato shochu. Our sweet potatoes are sourced from one designated farm that only uses plant-based fertilizers. The sweet potatoes grown via this method, or called green manure crop farming, have low moisture content. Shochu made from these firm, dense sweet potatoes are smooth to the palate and have a deep taste.
The Birth of Rihei Ginger
In 2004, the third generation of Ochiai Distillery, Ippei Ochiai, ventured on a new initiative and crafted unconventional shochu during a Honkaku Shochu boom that was occurring in Japan. Although it was a small portion against the total volume of products manufactured at the distillery, Ippei started making a unique shochu from ‘yomogi’ leaves or Japanese mugwort. This was something other distilleries did not make. Later, Ippei also made shochu from green bell peppers and other novel base ingredients. This created a buzz, and various people from Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, as well as local governments, started knocking on our door, requesting we create a new shochu with their locally-grown produce. Hence, a brand new page was added to Ochiai Distillery’s 100 year history of shochu making. The ginger shochu that preceded RIHEI GINGER also started out this way, when a ginger farmer came to us with their ginger.
Appealing To A Global Audience
Currently, Ryohei Ochiai is the fourth President of Ochiai Distillery and is eager to connect the world with our special shochus. Ochiai Distillery will start offering Japan’s traditional distilled spirits to connoisseurs outside of Japan and will first set out to the US market where a wide selection of spirits exists.
Japan’s Shochu is gaining popularity in the US - during shochu tasting events in the US, ginger shochu proved to be most popular amongst guests.
The new ginger shochu to set to embark on a new challenge for Ochiai Distillery, that was named after the distillery’s founder, Rihei Ochiai.
LEARNING ABOUT SHOCHU
Honkaku Shochu or single distillation shochu is Japan’s traditional distilled alcoholic beverage.
Typically, production of Honkaku Shochu involves
(a) the use of koji mold; which is important for saccharification that converts the base ingredient’s starches into sugars
(b) the use of citric acid generated from the koji mold, which protects the mash from unwanted contamination
(c) the one-time-only use of the distillation pot. After distillation, nothing is added except for water. In other words, no food fragrances nor sweeteners, etc. are added.
Shochu is a distilled liquor in which the mash quality as well as the characteristics of the base ingredient are directly reflected to the quality of the spirit. Usually, shochu does not undergo cask maturation.
Therefore, undesirable flavors do not get mixed in and the authentic flavor of the base ingredient is retained in the finished product.
The Ochiai family used to be merchants, making and selling traditional Japanese candles which were supplied to the castle of the Obi Domain. After the demand for candles plummeted with time, the Ochiai family started making Honkaku Shochu, or single distillation shochu. This was the beginning of Ochiai Distillery’s history.
1909 Ochiai Distillery was founded by Rihei Ochiai in Tayoshi, Miyazaki Prefecture, the heart of shochu country which lies in the Kyushu region in southern Japan. Since then, Ochiai Distillery has been producing Honkaku Shochu.
1948 Rihei Ochiai succeeds as second-generation of Ochiai’s family distillery.
1980 Ippei Ochiai becomes third-generation of Ochiai Distillery.
2005 Ochiai Distillery commences production of ginger shochu.
2007 Ochiai Distillery production site relocates to Kagamizu, Miyazaki City.
2011 Distillery business becomes incorporated and Ochiai Distillery Co., Ltd is established. Ryohei Ochiai succeeds as fourth-generation of Ochiai Distillery.
2018 Ochiai Distillery starts production of US-market-only-shochu, RIHEI GINGER.