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You might not like distiller Koichiro Watanabe’s shōchū, but he’s OK with that. Instead of pleasing a broad spectrum, he has chosen to make complex, bold shōchū imbued with the flavors of his hometown for a passionate fanbase.

Watanabe is the fourth-generation head of Watanabe Distillery in Tano, Miyazaki Prefecture. The small, family-run business was founded in 1914 and now produces about 50,000 liters of shōchū per year, predominantly of the sweet potato and barley varieties. Unlike most producers, the family grows the raw materials themselves, believing that imparting a sense of terroir begins in cultivating the soil.

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