月別アーカイブ: 2018年6月

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Umeshu+Whisky=UMESKY!

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The brewery

Wakatsuru Brewery is located in the Toyama Prefecture in the Hokuriku region (northwestern part of Honshu, the main island of Japan). It started out as a sake brewery in 1882. The Wakatsuru Saburomaru whisky distillery was born when the company obtained license to make whisky in 1952 on the watch of Kotaro Inagaki, son of the brewery’s founder, since rice was difficult to get ahold of in post-war Japan.

However, after 60 years, the distillery became run down and Wakatsuru Brewery launched the Saburomaru Distillery Repair Project in 2016 and turned to crowd funding to secure the funds.

Wakatsuru’s passion for whisky production that has been protected for more than 60 years and the aspiration to develop Toyama whisky in the global market, was met with a remarkable success, and a total of 38,255,000 yen, far exceeding the target of 25 million yen, was collected from 463 supporters.

With the support of many people, in July 2017, Saburomaru Distillery transformed itself into the only whisky distillery in Hokuriku that welcomes visitors for a distillery tour.

Umesky

Umesky is a unique blend of whisky and ume fruits. Every July unripe ume is steeped in the whisky made in the distillery, slowly drawing out the sweetness and sourness of ume. Ume is harvested in Toyama prefecture and it is steeped for around a year in the whisky. The result is hard to describe but the delicate aroma of ume and the smooth whiskey are the characteristics of Umesky. At the first sip, you will feel the acidity of ume (which is a little bit stronger that regular umeshu), and then the smooth taste of whisky will follow soon after.

There are many ways to drink Umesky. The best way is to enjoy it straight or on rocks, but you can also try diluting with water or soda water, or even hot water. We recommend enjoying Umesky on its own first, but if you want to try paring it with foods, choose something that is not too overpowering in flavor.

Do not miss an opportunity to try the one and only Umesky!

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Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu

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The brewery

Nakano BC (BC stands for biochemical creation) is located in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture, which stands first in the production of ume in Japan. The company initially started as a producer of soy sauce, later switching to alcoholic drinks such as shōchū and sake. In 1971, Nakano BC started producing ume juice aiming to expand the demand of ume, and eventually branched out into umeshu production.

Nakano BC uses a superior quality Nankō ume to make its umeshu. To preserve the delicious flavor of ume, the brewing tanks are managed by a team of skilled workers who carefully check the acidity and sweetness of umeshu, mixing the fruit and changing tanks as necessary. The umeshu is ready after around a year and a half.

The company also has a research center that analyzes ume and other ingredients used in the company’s products. Focusing on health benefits of ume, the company also produces a range of ume products, such as ume juice and ume extract supplements.

Nakano BC also has a well-developed, onsite tourism department. The company has a Japanese garden on the factory grounds and offers tastings and factory tours, where visitors can see the actual places where each step takes place from preparation to pressing and storage, and learn about the brewing processes.

Recommendaton

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus lemon that is valued for it’s highly aromatic rind. The fruit is believed to be a hybrid of a papeda and a mandarin. Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu is a unique blend of yuzu juice, which was extracted from fruits in Shikoku Island and umeshu liqueur. Kochi prefecture in Shikoku island is the number one producer of yuzu in Japan. This blend is sweet and refreshingly sour with a subtle bitterness.

Nakano BC Yuzu Umeshu is great as an aperitif with light meals such as salads, sandwiches or desserts. We also recommend pairing it with carpaccio and oily foods because of its refreshing taste. Drink well chilled or over ice!

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Introducing RIHAKU sake brewery

History

Rihaku Shuzo was founded in 1882 in Matsue City in Shimane. It was named after a famous poet in China, who is also known in English as Li Po, or Li Bai. Rihaku was a wandering poet who lived from 701 to 762 and was known for his glorification of alcoholic beverages (and, indeed, frank celebration of drunkenness), writing some of his best poetry while completely intoxicated. The brewery often uses Rihaku’s poems and phrases in their brochures and labels. Several of their sakes are named with phrases from the great poet’s words.

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The Sake

Rihaku brewery’s sake can in general be described as mellow and well-rounded. It leaves a wonderful lingering sensation, and overall has a good “umami” to it, that hard-to-describe something that satisfies you, and makes you want a bit more. It has sharp finish and is wonderful to enjoy with food.

Rihaku makes several types of sake, at least one for each occasion. The diligent effort and great skill of toji (head of the brewery) and kurabito (brewery workers) are evidenced by the many gold medals the brewery won in the New Sake Tasting Competition.

Rihaku especially focuses of the quality of water and rice. The water used for sake comes from a deep well near the brewery; it is soft water that melts in to the palate, drawing the various flavors with it. Even the simplest sake is produced with the high-grade sake rice, which is significantly different from table rice; and Rihaku believes is worth using in all sake.

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Philosophy

“Popularize drinking culture and pass it down to future generations” is the management philosophy of Rihaku Brewery. While keeping their brewing style old fashioned, the brewery is still innovative and progressive in its sake making.

Just as Japanese food is spread abroad, and diversification of food is progressing in Japan, even breweries with old traditions need diversifying. Rihaku says that tradition must not be stubborn; progress is necessary in tradition, too. They blend traditional and modern brewing techniques and technology. They strive to disseminate Japanese sake and have been exporting sake abroad actively since the 1980s.

Recommendation

We recommend trying Rihaku Junmai Ginjo Ryounintaishaku. The subtitle of Ryonintaishaku is one of Rihaku’s famous phrases explaining the situation of two good friends drinking sake together. This Junmai Daiginjo is characterized by a well-rounded flavour with a solidness to the flavour and fragrance, and clean finish. We recommend serving it cold and sharing it with your friend!

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Enhance your sake experience

Sake has a complex flavor and aroma that differ by sake type, region and climate, ingredients, age, brewing technique, and brewer. And even seemingly trivial things such as the choice of glass or cup can also affect the way sake tastes. We would like to introduce the traditional way to drink sake from porcelain sake vessels which will make your sake drinking experience even better.

Traditionaly, sake in Japan is drunk from small cups called ochoko, or larger cups called guinomi, and is poured from tokkuri, a small tapered flask. Ochoko usually holds about 45ml of liquid and is the perfect size for slowly sipping and enjoying the flavor and aroma of sake.

The small size of ochoko is the best for sake since sake tends to alter once its temperature changes. Therefore, sake should be consumed before its temperature changes.

The ochoko come in various materials and shapes, and the taste of the sake changes depending on the size of the cup. For example, if you drink from ochoko with a narrow mouth, it makes it easier to detect aroma of the sake. If one wants to properly taste the full flavor of the sake, a thin ochoko is the best choice.

When serving sake in ochoko, it is often filled to 80% so when drinking from ochoko, the chin remains straight or is even lowered (as opposed to a wine glass which makes the chin raised). Because of this posture, sake hits the middle of the tongue instead of the tip. This reduces the sharp taste and gives sake more body, umami and complexity.

Our recommended sake is Asabiraki Suijin Junmai Okarakuchi. Asabiraki Sake Brewery is in Iwate, the north eastern part of the main island in Japan, and the acclaimed Nanbu Style brewing technique is what makes Asabiraki stand out from the crowd, winning gold medals 12 times in row at the National Sake Competiton.

It is a versatile sake that accompanies any cuisine. Asabiraki Suijin Junmai is absolutely made to be enjoyed with a meal, and it truly brings out the best in any food. While it’s not the best premium sake, no any other sake can do quite the same. It is the high concentration of umami that makes it so special.

You might be taken aback at the initial dryness, but gradually a very subtle sweetness of rice will take over. It has a dry body with a sharp finish but it’s never too overpowering, rather clean and refreshing. The porcelain ochoko is especially suitable for this sake since it allows you to taste the sake softer. It can be served at any temperature (5-50°C), but best enjoyed at room temperature or slightly chilled.

In Japan, the only way you can enjoy this sake is in restaurants since Asabiraki doesn’t sell it to bottle shops. We invite you take an opportunity and try this simple yet extraordinary sake!

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How to enjoy umeshu

Umeshu is a traditional Japanese liqueur made by steeping ume plums in alcohol and sugar. It is a popular drink due to its sweet and sour taste, and relatively low alcohol content which makes it easy to drink and can be enjoyed even by people who generally dislike alcohol.

Today we would like to introduce umeshu from manufacturer Nakano BC. It is made from high-quality ume plums from the southern Wakayama prefecture, which accounts 60% of Japan’s ume production. This umeshu starts with a sweet note which is later followed by a refreshing sourness. Its rich taste can be enjoyed on the rocks or mixed with soda or water.

There are many ways to drink umeshu and the food pairing depends on how you drink it. We will discuss each of the ways and give you some snacks and food suggestions.

Straight

When drinking umeshu straight, the sweet and sour taste is highly concentrated, so it is best paired with food that has a strong flavor. Salty and spicy food is an especially great combination with umeshu when enjoyed straight. If you want to have a quick snack with a glass of umeshu, nuts, cheese and beef jerky are an excellent choice. If you feel like cooking a meal, then it is good to know that generally, umeshu goes better with Japanese or Chinese food, rather than Western food. Ebi chiri (shrimps in chili sauce), mapo tofu, or kakuni (braised pork belly) are great choices.

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On the Rocks

If you like drinking umeshu on rocks, be careful with salty and spicy foods – since the amount of the liqueur is lower you might end up drinking too much. That is why when drinking umeshu on rocks, it is better to eat in small portions. Cheese, nuts, potato chips are great as a snack. Smoked cheese and umeshu especially complement each other. Choose a light meal, such as seasoned cabbage or mini sized korokke.

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Mizuwari

In case of diluting umeshu with water, the flavor becomes milder and alcohol percentage decreases therefore it is not recommended to pair diluted umeshu with sharp flavored foods since these will overpower the taste of the drink. Light flavored food such as hiyayakko tofu, Caesar salad, or bon bon chicken makes a great match.

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Sodawari

Umeshu diluted with soda will have a very refreshing and clear taste so it is recommended to pair it with deep fried or stir-fried foods since it will tone down the feeling of oiliness in your mouth. Try it with more oily foods such as chips, fried cheese, or karaage.

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We hope you find your favorite way to enjoy umeshu and treat your taste buds with new flavors.

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