Hombo Shuzo, a brewery in Kagoshima Prefecture, the home of sweet potato shochu, is selling an extraordinary shochu. It is "Satsuma no Haou RAAA" (under the liquor tax law, it is a spirit) with habanero in it. We saw it at a tasting corner featuring food products from Kagoshima Prefecture and were curious about it, so we were allowed to sample it.

I came across an extraordinary shochu...!
I came across an extraordinary shochu...!

RAAA is made by soaking habanero, a chili pepper said to be about 10 times hotter than Tabasco, in potato shochu for about a month. It is said to be soaked with the spiciness and aroma of habanero.

The product's warning states, "It is spicier than you can imagine, so please be careful not to drink too much. At the same time, it also says, "The ingredients are our life! We emphasize safety in spite of danger!" is also written on the label.

Apparently, they want to tell you about the safety of the ingredients they use. Habaneros are said to originate from the Amazon region, but the habaneros used in this product come from southern Kyushu. The company sources them from contract farmers. The sweet potato shochu is also made from satsuma potatoes produced in Minami-Satsuma.

But what kind of stimulation is awaiting us? I took a sip of it, while the people around me, who had already tasted it, watched me lukewarmly.

The color of the liquid was only a little yellowish, and it did not look spicy at all. When I put my face close to the bottle to drink it, the peculiar aroma of chili peppers hit my nose, reminding me that I was about to drink a "very hot shochu".

I gathered up my courage and took a small lick... and immediately my tongue felt a tremendous stimulation! The aroma of sweetpotato shochu is present, but the spiciness remains forever. Moreover, with an alcohol content of 34 degrees, which is higher than most shochu, it felt as if it was burning my throat. No wonder we were tempted to give it a lukewarm stare.

It's 34 degrees.
It's 34 degrees.

This is not a drink. It might even be called a seasoning, which would make sense. But strangely enough, once you start drinking it, you can't stop. You feel as if you were drinking shochu with habanero as a snack. However, I gave up after about 20ml (0.68us fl oz). It is a tough one.

Incidentally, Hombo Shuzo is a historical sake brewing company founded in 1872. One of its main products, "Aragawa Sakurajima," won the gold medal and trophy at the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) 2013 (held in London, England).

When we asked him why he made RAAA, he replied, "It must have been a whim of the toji (master brewer). Did he really want to put habanero in it, or did he just want to make a different kind of shochu? We never found out the truth.

If you are a fan of spicy food, you can buy it at the brewery's online store, so please give it a try. But be careful not to drink too much.