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Awamori production a centuries-old tradition

Date Posted: 2006-07-22

Okinawan awamori, a local liquor, traces its roots back many centuries, with its 100-year-old taste being described as something beyond fantastic.

The trouble is, there is no 100-year-old awamori now, because Japanese soldiers on Okinawa during World War II drank it all. Now, those imbibing in awamori must be content with less aged products. The older awamori is, says one of the prefectureís 57 brewers, the better it gets. Itís aged in wooden barrels with closely monitored temperatures, in tunnels or caves, underwater or in shelters.

Awamori was popular with ancient Ryukyu kings, who decreed that it really wasnít fit to drink until it was at least 100 years aged. Awamori was described as going through three aging stages, with the first tasting like Japanese apricots. The second taste stage was like cheese, with a tofu taste, and at the third stage, awamori was like female goat. Nobody knows why, just that statement.

During the war, awamori factories and stocks were confiscated by Japanese military personnel, and consumed without regard for its historical past. Soldiers never knew what they were drinking, say local brewers.

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