Ryukyu Awamori history image 1

Ryukyu Awamori history

Awamori is so old that its origins are not fully known, but it dates back to the Ryukyu Kingdom, an ancient island trading nation.

Due to similarities in taste, awamori has been connected to the Thai spirit Lao Khao but Southeast Asian origins are more likely, particularly due to alcohol content being measured by the number of bubbles that appear when poured, a method traditionally used for both awamori and ancient Southeast Asian spirits. This may also explain the name 'awamori' which can be translated as 'adding bubbles'.

The first written mention of awamori dates from 1671 when the Ryukyu King Sho Tei (1645-1709) sent the shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641-1680) a promise of gifts, including awamori. However, records left by the samurai of the Satsuma domain suggest awamori production started late in the fourteenth century or early in the fifteenth century, making awamori Japan's oldest distilled spirit.

In 1719, Arai Hakuseki (1657-1725), a noted scholar of the Confucian philosophy and belief, wrote about awamori production, stating awamori was only drunk after being "sealed for seven years." This is the earliest known reference to aged awamori, now known as 'kusu' (aged for a minimum of three years).