Miyazaki: Japanese craftsman creates wooden shochu keg that ‘transforms aroma, flavor’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shochu serving kegs made from yamazakura wood are seen in Saito, Miyazaki Prefecture.

SAITO, Miyazaki — A woodworking craftsman in Miyazaki Prefecture has created a shochu serving keg that transforms the flavor of the traditional Japanese liquor.

Yukio Shiba, 77, who creates his kegs using wood from yamazakura cherry trees, said it takes about a week for the wood’s flavor to permeate the distilled rice alcohol. As a result, the taste of the shochu mellows and it turns an amber color, he explained.

“Unlike shochu dispensed from ceramic servers, the drink is more robust and has a certain warmth,” opined Shiba, who produces and sells woodworking products in Saito in the prefecture.

After experimenting with various woods, Shiba settled on yamazakura because it improves the shochu’s aroma, he said. He refrains from using paint or glue on his kegs, which he fashions by hollowing out logs from the tree.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yukio Shiba shapes a yamazakura log.

Shiba says he receives orders from individuals and izakaya bar owners from across the nation.

The kegs come in several sizes, ranging between 900 milliliters and 10 liters. The 900-milliliter server is priced at ¥26,000.

Shiba also vends wooden shochu bottles, with prices starting at ¥3,500 for the 250-milliliter size.