Making Traditional Japanese Distilled Liquor, Shochu and Awamori, and the Contribution of White and Black Koji Fungi

J Fungi (Basel). 2021 Jun 28;7(7):517. doi: 10.3390/jof7070517.


The traditional Japanese single distilled liquor, which uses koji and yeast with designated ingredients, is called "honkaku shochu." It is made using local agricultural products and has several types, including barley shochu, sweet potato shochu, rice shochu, and buckwheat shochu. In the case of honkaku shochu, black koji fungus (Aspergillus luchuensis) or white koji fungus (Aspergillus luchuensis mut. kawachii) is used to (1) saccharify the starch contained in the ingredients, (2) produce citric acid to prevent microbial spoilage, and (3) give the liquor its unique flavor. In order to make delicious shochu, when cultivating koji fungus during the shochu production process, we use a unique temperature control method to ensure that these three important elements, which greatly affect the taste of the produced liquor, are balanced without any excess or deficiency. This review describes in detail the production method of honkaku shochu, a distilled spirit unique to Japan and whose market is expected to expand worldwide, with special attention paid to the koji fungi cultivation step. Furthermore, we describe the history of the koji fungi used today in the production of shochu, and we provide a thorough explanation of the characteristics of each koji fungi. We also report the latest research progress on this topic.

Keywords: Aspergillus awamori; Aspergillus luchuensis; Aspergillus luchuensis mut. Kawachii; amylolytic enzymes system; awamori; citric acid synthesis; genome editing technology; honkaku shochu; koji; multiple parallel fermentation; shochu; wide variety of flavors.

Publication types

  • Review