This is the fifth installment in our JFEX2022 series. This week we feature a product from Izumi Syuzou Co., Ltd. (出水酒造株式会社］ — Fortuna shochu.
THE WILD SWANS AT COOLE
Unwearied still, lover by lover, They paddle in the cold, Companionable streams or climb the air; Their hearts have not grown old; Passion or conquest, wander where they will, Attend upon them still. But now they drift on the still water Mysterious, beautiful; Among what rushes will they build, By what lake's edge or pool Delight men's eyes, when I awake some day To find they have flown away?1
W.B. Yeats, June 1917
Izumi Syuzou (出水酒造) derives its name from Izumi City, which is located in Kagoshima Prefecture. Izumi is famous for the annual appearance in late autumn of the cranes that high-tail it out of Siberia for the more hospitable climate of Kyushu. These migratory birds have drawn a considerable amount of attention from the general public, to be sure, but also from artists and writers impressed with their majestic beauty and the ephemeral nature thereof. The Irish writer William Butler Yeats was similarly impressed with a different species of avian migrants when he wrote “The Wild Swans of Coole,” a poem about aging, change, and the fleeting nature of the beautiful, hence, the inclusion of the excerpt above. Our favorite lines from this poem are highlighted in red.
Izumi Syuzou caught our attention for a number of reasons: wood factors prominently among them. We like to hear two words very much “wood barrel,” as opposed to “stainless steel.” And we hear what we like to hear coming from this distiller. The following appears in their literature accompanied by pictures of their “wooden barrel distillers”: “This is a handmade distiller by Mr. Tatsuya Tsudome, the only craftsman in Japan who makes wooden barrel distillers. This distiller has no blueprints and no nail is used. Using only cedar trees …that are over 80 years old and bamboo ‘taga’ as raw materials….” Taga is defined as braided bamboo, which functions as a rope or hoop, used to keep the barrels tight.
Their shochu under review here is called Fortuna and, we must say, that Fortune smiled on us the day we got to taste this beverage made from sweet potatoes and, in this case, aged in Japanese oak, mizunara. We have written about oak before, so readers might want to check previous entries in which we comment on Japanese oak in particular. Fortuna is a well-rounded shochu with slightly sweet notes and hints of vanilla. It is described as being “mellow and deep,” and we would have to concur with that assessment. It is also gutsy, weighing in at 41% ABV. The beauty may be ephemeral when the last drop is drained from the bottle, but the wild swans will search for more of it with a passion that will not fade.
1The Wild Swans at Coole by W.B. Yeats (The Macmillan Company, 1919).