by Deryk Langlais
For many, the word conjures an image of Chu-Hi, that refreshing mix of Shochu, soda-water and lemon, has come a long way. The variety of flavors available these days is staggering. Sure, there are plenty on offer at essentially every convenience store throughout the land, and supermarkets have heaps of choices too, but in my experience, pharmacies often have the best selection, and at prices considerably better than you’ll find at a Konbini.
With so many colorful cans vying for the chance to be taken home, grabbing a buyers’ attention is tough. Images of luscious fruit on the label is one way to appeal. Others, like Takara, take a traditional approach and stay consistent with their designs to be easily identifiable by their (typically older) long-time fans. The Suntory Ashita no Lemon Sour cans depict people having the time of their lives.
One of my favorites is the Suntory Strong Zero Lemon with Salt that not only mentions that this is specially formulated to go well with Kara-age, but even includes a photo of the crispy serving suggestion on the can. (Potentially leading those who read no Japanese to believe that there’s a fried chicken flavored cocktail on the market. Eww.)
These are all great, but there’s a time-honored technique of rekindling consumer interest in a product that I’ve seen popping up quite frequently these days on a number of different canned Chu-Hi. It seems most of the major makers have been jumping on the bandwagon of taking the bold step of slapping a “New” (in English) or it’s Japanese equivalent “新” (and sometimes both) on cans to help them catch the eye of shoppers.
This got me wondering if this might be some new taste adventure, or a dreadfully ill-considered misstep like the “New Coke” catastrophe from the mid 1980’s. My journalistic integrity (along with a desire to have a few drinks) compelled me to investigate. Luckily, I was able to find a couple of options that had both the original version and the “New” version on the shelf. I headed home with examples of the Suntory Strong Zero Bitter Lemon and the Kirin Hyouketsu (Freezing) Chardonnay Sparkling.
Aside from the “New” designation, and a few minor design layout changes, the cans were identical. The ingredients, nutritional information, and alcohol content were exactly the same for both versions. But of course, the true test was inside the can. I cracked them open and poured the contents into identical clear glasses. Both versions (of both flavors) had the same color. Same fragrance too. I raised each glass and learned… nothing. They tasted the same. I repeated the process. Again and again. Small, wine-tasting type sips. Big swigs. Let them sit, rinse my mouth, try again. Despite my best efforts, I could not discern any difference at all between the original versions and the “New” versions. Nada.
Maybe “New” refers the can design, which now includes the word “New”. Maybe it’s some imperceptible quality that requires a palate more finely tuned than mine to appreciate. Of maybe its just good old-fashioned marketing.
In conclusion, I’d say that you should certainly go out and try a Chu-Hi that piques your interest. Just be warned that expecting the “New” version of any of them to be a great new choice would be setting yourself up for the kind of disappointment Judas Priest’s Angel of Retribution comeback album generated. Let the buyer beware.
If you’d like to see the actual tasting that this review is based on, cruise on over to YouTube and search for my channel Mr. Deryk.
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