Higa Distillery & Co.

Common name: 
Higa Distillery
5-8-7 Nishizaki-cho, Itoman City
Higa Distillery & Co.
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Exhibition of its awamori collection in its own gallery, and helping to spread the culture of awamori as a tourists' distiller.

Founded in 1883, the Higa distillery is the successor to distillery techniques said to have been introduced from Thailand some 500 years ago in the Ryukyu period. According to its fourth president, Masakuni Higa, 'awamori is not merely a liquor but a culture'. Mr. Higa says that awamori must not be carried away as a passing trend, but should be refined and handed down to the next generation because it is a culture in itself.
Higa distillery emphasizes the education and training of its employees, who are considered as the successors to that culture. Its strategy is not just to sell the products but to expand the number of consumers at the bottom of the social scale. This is well reflected in its production and sales of Shima Uta ('Island Song'), which the company started marketing at convenience stores on the mainland of Japan. Reasonably priced and with an alcohol level set at a comfortable 25%, the product has helped to support the company's belief that 'awamori should be introduced to more people in order to spread the fine quality of vintage kusu'. At present, 20% of the product is shipped outside Okinawa.
The Awamori Masahiro Gallery, opened in 1993, is also a place that provides an opportunity for people to become better acquainted with awamori and its history. It is a unique exhibition hall for awamori lovers, displaying a collection of vintage liquors from all of the awamori distillers as well as providing an opportunity for liquor sampling.
President Higa, who refers to liquor making as 'dream making', continues to make awamori using the traditional method of atmospheric distillation to keep the long-loved flavor. His main brand, Masahiro, is one of the must-have brands for awamori lovers. The idea is to become acquainted with the liquor via Shima Uta, enhance the experience with Masahiro, and then move on to appreciate the vintage Koshu. The consumers, too, are a part of the awamori culture to be refined and handed down.