Asobijin Junmai Shochu: From the First Sake Brewery in Kumamoto23 Dec 2021
Zuiyo Sake Brewery in Kumamoto
Zuiyo was founded in 1867 in Kawashiri, a town that prospered under Hosokawa rule as a place where rice harvests were collected and stored. Zuiyo was the first brewery to make the switch from akazake, the only alcohol being made in Kumamoto at the time, to sake brewing.
Akazake is a kind of akumochizake, a style of alcohol to which ash has been added in order to make it slightly alkaline and prevent spoilage. For hundreds of years, akazake was the only alcohol allowed in Kumamoto and sake could neither be produced here nor brought in from outside. Great changes in Japanese society in the second half of the 19th century, like the Meiji Restoration and the Satsuma Rebellion, led to legalization of alcohols other than akazake, and brewers in Kumamoto began experimenting with sake.
“Let’s make the first sake in Kumamoto that represents Kumamoto”. Following this idea, Tahachi Yoshimura was one of the first to start making sake in the 3rd year of Keio (1867). About 20 years later, on the morning of New Year's Day in 1889, Tahachi opened the door of his sake brewery to let the new year's light into the brewery, something suddenly jumped out at him. A closer look revealed that it was a hawk that had flown in after a sparrow. The hawk flapped its wings bravely and flew around the warehouse. "A hawk on New Year's Day... what a happy omen!", Tahachi felt a great sense of hope. This is how the name "Zuiyo" (literally meaning "good omen hawk") came to be, and became a sake brand that is celebrated both in name and reality.
The Kumamoto Prefectural Sake Brewery Research Institute, which created Kumamoto yeast (a.k.a. Kyokai No. 9), was born as a part of Zuiyo’s sake brewery, with the determination to expand the brewery and take over the sake that was made regardless of the finish. Zuiyo continues to use this Kumamoto yeast as the main yeast, and after recovering from Kumamoto 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes, the brewery continues to study the art of sake making with sincerity, keep the traditions that need to be preserved, and innovate where changes are needed, while brewing a local sake that fits the Kumamoto climate, and a "gorgeous, full, and well-balanced sake".
However, sake is not the only alcoholic beverage they are known for. Zuiyo also produces wonderful shochu. And Asobijin shochu lets you taste the best of both worlds - it is scochu distilled from junmai. The water used for brewing is abundant subsoil water from the mountains of Kyushu and the caldera plateau of Aso. It has a neat and soft taste reminiscent of Aso Bijin, this shochu is soft and light flavoured rice shochu, just as the name Asobijin suggests (meaning Kumamoto Aso's beauty). Enjoy it mixed with hot water, on the rocks, or with plums.