Until recently, I blundered when serving fish. I would carefully select fresh, gorgeous, beautifully cut fish (thank you Kanaloa), and serve it with the boring, mass produced, one dimensional soy sauce typically found in my local markets. Then I discovered the joy of soy.

In the past I choose from regular soy sauce or low sodium soy sauce- kind of like choosing red, white or pink wine! Now my eyes are open, and I am beginning to glimpse the vast and fascinating world of artisan crafted soy sauce.

My journey began tasting and comparing the following three varieties of soy sauce: Bluegrass, Nama Shoyo and Tsuru Bishio.

Bluegrass soy sauce is a hand crafted by the Bourbon Barrel Food Company out of Louisville, Kentucky. Bluegrass is brewed in small batches from non-GMO soy beans grown in Kentucky, then aged in bourbon barrels.

Nama Shoyo is a non-pasteurized soy sauce made by the Yamaki Company located in Aichi, Japan. Nama Shoya is a certified organic, certified kosher product made from spring water and aged for two years in cedarwood kegs.

Tsuru Bishio (pronounced sue-roo be-she-oh) is crafted by the Yamaroku Shoyu Company located in Shidoshima, Japan. Tauru Bishio is aged for four years in traditional Kioke barrels which are large (containing up to 1,587 gallons)barrels historically used in Japan for fermentation. The Yamaroku Shoyu Company’s commitment to the traditional Japanese fermentation process, led them to crafting authentic Kioke barrels in Shidoshima.

So I sampled three different soy sauces from three different regions, and found three completely different flavor profiles-not surprising considering this is a product which is fermented and aged.

The Bluegrass soy sauce is attractively packaged with handwritten bottle and batch numbers on the label. It has a slight smokiness both in the aroma and the flavor courtesy of the bourbon barrels. The salt is well balanced and the flavor remains constant from first taste to after taste.

Since Nama Shoyu soy sauce is not pasteurized, it retains healthy, live enzymes. The Yamaki Company’s philosophy is “ Harmony between people and nature.” Nama Shoyu is crafted using a double brewing process which requires less salt. The aroma has floral and slightly fruity tones. The flavor is layered and complex yet delicate; it starts rich, the salt balanced with a touch of sweetness, and then fades to a rich, round aftertaste.

The Tsuro Bishio soy sauce has a lush, dark color and a complex flavor profile. It has the highest salt content and twice the calories of the other two soy sauces. The bouquet of Tsuru Bishio is softly floral. It starts with a burst of rich, salty flavor then fades to a delicate layer with a touch of sweetness. Truro Bishio is a beautiful example of umami.

I enjoyed all three varieties of soy sauce; with the Nama Shoya and Tsuru Bishio vying for my favorite. Because of its lovely bouquet, the Tsuru Bishio wins by a nose.


I spent my formative food years growing up in Bakersfield, California. My primary food sources were from a box, a mix, a can or the freezer. Remember those little flat, frozen TV dinners with the foil on top? Yep, mainstays in my home along with frozen pot pies and Rice-a-Roni the San Francisco treat. Fancy Sunday breakfast? That would be Wonderbread fried in margarine and served with apple butter. I think I’ll just stop right there on the corner of Memory Lane and Yuck! LBB stands for leaving Bakersfield behind; I’m following a new, exciting path to deliciousness.