Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Haku Mizunara Whisky Barrel Aged Shoyu: Umami With A Whiskey Accent

On a previous trip to Portland, Maine, I made a stop at the Browne Trading Company, a gourmet food, seafood and wine shop. They sell a variety of bottles of artisan Shoyu, Japanese soy sauce, including the Haku Mizunara Whisky Barrel Aged Shoyu

This Shoyu is made in the Kyoto prefecture of Japan, and is produced using the traditional and labour-intensive mushiro koji method, which few Shoyu producers now use. In the mushiro koji ("woven mat mold") method, soy beans, with koji mold atop them, are spread out on woven straw mats, in bamboo trays. They are then fermented, becoming a black, pasty mash, which is then aged in Mizunara Whisky Barrels

Mizunara ("water oak") is a native, Japanese oak which is difficult to use, but which can produce a unique flavor. This oak is very porous, has a high moisture content, and it doesn't grow straight. In addition, the oak often needs to be about 200 years old before it can be cut, and then whiskey in Mizunara barrels generally must age for 15-20 years to provide then right flavor profile. In general, proper Mizunara barrels can provide notes of coconut and sandalwood. 

I used this Shoyu on some sushi, and was enamored with its taste. The Haku Shoyu is complex and mellow, with a mild sweetness, a subtle whiskey accent and plenty of umami. In comparison, the regular soy sauce you find in most Asian restaurants seems brash and simpler. This would be a great Shoyu for sushi, or as a dipping sauce for other foods. It would also be an excellent marinade for steak and chicken, seafood and pork.    

This is a pricier Shoyu, but I believe it's well worth the added cost. It's made in a more traditional, labor-intensive method, with high-quality ingredients, including expensive Mizunara whisky barrels. In addition, its taste is superior to ordinary shoyu, with a greater depth of flavor, more umami, and a more elegant, mellow taste, with a hints of whiskey notes. Through Amazon, you can order a 750ml bottle for about $30, or a 375ml bottle for about $18.

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