Unlike shochu, which uses short-grain Japonica rice, awamori reflects its origins. Thai-style crushed Indica long grain rice is mixed with water and a black koji mold indigenous to Okinawa. This mold is resistant to high temperatures and humidity and is said to impart a stronger flavor than the yellow and white molds. The mixture is left to ferment, which can last up to three weeks. Once complete, the awamori is distilled into clay pots called a Kame and left to age in cool underground places. During this time, it releases some of the acids within, which in turn mellows the flavor.
Kusu is awamori that has been aged for at least three years. In order to earn this designation, fifty percent of the awamori needs to be aged for at least three years. The longer the awamori ages, the higher the price it can command on the world market.
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