The Japanese spirit is showing progress in the U.S. market. Shochu is wildly popular in Japan, trumping sake sales since 2003. However, it is only just starting to be recognized in the States, even among spirit professionals and enthusiasts.
Shochu is a spirit that defies easy categorization; in a way, it is its own category. Most shochu hovers at 20% or 25% ABV, but can also be much stronger. This range can cause it to resemble a whiskey, vodka and even rice wine dependent on the proof. Shochu is versatile, mixable, and genuinely food friendly, which is rare to find in a spirit. Initially, the demand for shochu was entirely driven by Japanese consumers, but the craft spirits movement has sparked interest among others, particularly bartenders who are keen to work with a new product.
According to the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS), shochu imports in the U.S. have grown from 428,000 liters in 2011 to 477,000 liters in 2016, an 11 percent gain over five years. High-proof shochu has experienced significant success, increasing sales volumes from 279 liters to 10,040 liters, during the period from 2011 to 2017. Japanese shochu distillers are eager to enter the American market.
Source: Daily 750, January 2018