Sake skills: Glossary & Picture Quiz

Greetings sake lovers! and welcome to another edition of the KURAND magazine where we bring you little nuggets of sake information in bite sized chunks.

Today’s article is part glossary part picture quiz of some of the lesser known skills that go into sake making.

The aim of this picture quiz is simple: work out which sake skill is being depicted in each of the drawings below.
Each picture will be introduced with a little hint to help you figure out the correct answer. A warning though: some of the hints are a little cryptic.

The answers will be presented in the form of a glossary below the quiz.

Good luck!

SAKE SKILLS PICTURE QUIZ

Question 1: For a woody finish

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Question 2: The monks made sake this way?

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Question 3: An extra stage?

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Question 4: Hands on!

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Question 5: Back breaking yeast starter!

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Question 6: Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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Question 7: Not sticking your oar in?

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Question 8: Letting gravity take its course

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Question 9: Less is more

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Question 10: 18 Litres of joy!?

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Question 11: Antique press?

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Question 12: Stopwatch at the ready!

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Question 13: Sake x Sake?

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Question 14: Could these bubbles be a clue?

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Question 15: A shuffle here and a shuffle there

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ANSWERS

1. Kiokejikomi
Before enamel tanks were introduced brewers used to brew in oak or cedar barrels. Repeated recycling of the barrels traps enzymes inside the nooks and crannies that impart their flavour into future batches of sake. Some breweries have started to bring their wooden barrels out of storage and revive the old process. Look out for sake labelled as Kiokejikomi.

2. Bodaimoto (mizumoto)

Hmm, okay, admittedly the hint was a bit too easy perhaps. This is of course monks made sake, in Japanese: Bodaimoto. This production skill which goes all the way back to Heian Period Japan is believed to be the roots of the Yamahai and Kimoto processes. This particular skill involves the yeast starter stage of the process. The monks would make the yeast starter by first producing lactic acid in a solution of water called Soyashimizu. Learn more via this article.

3. Yondanjikomi

Yondanjikomi or 4 stage fermentation is where a 4th stage is added to the conventional method of brewing in which more steamed rice is added to sweeten the mix. In the olden days they would add other things as well. Learn more via this article.

4. Tearai (washing rice by hand)

The rice for Ginjo type sake normally washed by hand. While some breweries advocate that human touch is gentler on the rice leading to a reduction in cracked grains, others argue the opposite that the inconsistency of the human element in the equation can throw everything off. The alternative of course is to do it by machine.

5.  Kimoto (Yamaoroshi LIT: breaking down the mountains)

Kimoto is one of the oldest, most traditional methods for making the yeast starter (seed fermentation). Instead of just adding lactic acid which forms a barrier against wild bacteria — the modern way of making sake — the brewer borrows the power from the naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria in the air that congregate once a certain balance of acidity and oxygen levels is achieved. The first brewers believed that you had to purée the rice and koji mix to drive glucose conversion. Pureeing the rice is back-breaking work that involves hitting the mixture with heavy wooden oars for hours on end. The process is called Yamaoroshi in Japanese which literally translates to ‘breaking down the mountains’ and refers to the way the brewer shapes the mixture of steamed rice into mountains before knocking it down.  The added labour adds both time and cost to the process. Learn more via this article.

6. Setchu Chozo (LIT: storage in snow)

In some colder sake-brewing regions it gets so cold during the winter that the surroundings provide the perfect environment for storing sake, namely in the snow. The trick is keeping the sake at exactly 0 degrees so as to allow for a little ageing.

7. Yamahai

A little later on, around 1909, scientists at the National Institute of Brewing Research discovered that the oar ramming bit of the Kimoto method was surplus to requirements. They realised that left to its own devices, the koji enzymes would eventually dissolve all the rice naturally — to the sigh of relief of many a brewer everywhere. Temperature control is still very important and because you have to keep the temperature low, glucose conversion proceeds at a much slower rate, so this method can take anywhere between 2-3 weeks longer than the modern method: Sokujomoto. The allure of Yamahai sake has got to be the gamey, wild flavour that it tends to possess in droves which is created by wild bacteria creeping into the mix, only, this is not an accident; it is completely intentional on the brewer’s part for this to happen. Yamahai is an abbreviation of Yamaoroshi Haishi — Yamaoroshi being the Japanese name for the oar-ramming process. Literally: Yamaoroshi omitted. To Learn more via this article.

8.  Shizukudori (LIT: catching the drips)

This is an old method of pressing the sake where the sake is put into bags and hung on poles over the tank opening. Although it takes longer to press sake this way, very little labour is required; you simply let gravity take its course. Because it is very difficult to produce volume via this method, the end product is often sold as limited edition.

Learn more via this article.

9. Kojikomi (Small scale brewing)

Sake is brewed in smaller batches, usually completely by hand. Brewing on a smaller scale allows more attention to detail. In general smal-scale-brewing refers to a yield of less than 1000 litres.

10. Tobin Kakkoi

Although sake is normally stored in the large 6000 litre tanks, sometimes it is transferred into large 18L glass bottles called Tobin. The sake is normally dripped into the bottles using the drip-drip Shizuku method of pressing described above Each Tobin may hold a completely different flavour and aroma as a result of its seperation.

11. Fune Shibori (pressing using the fune)

The fune is an old press which is shaped like the bottom of a boat, hence its name fune (LIT: boat).  Special 50x50cm cloth filter bags are filled with sake. These so-called ‘sake bukuro or sake bags’ are specially made for the purpose. The bags are then placed into the fune. A vice is then applied from above. The pressure levels can be adjusted by inserting planks of wood under the vice. In general, it is a much more gentle method of pressing and although it is much more labour intensive it produces less off flavours.

Learn more via this article.

12. Gentei Kyusui (LIT: Limited Water Absorption)

Instead of just soaking the rice willy nilly, a Toji times the entire soaking process with a stopwatch, sometimes to the exact millisecond.

13. Kijoshu

Well, first off, kijoshu is a type of sake, where the water that is normally added in the third and final stage of the three-stage fermentation* process: Tome, is replaced with sake; accordingly it can be quite an expensive luxury item.
* In general, sake is fermented in 3 stages.

As those who have tasted it before will know, it is recognisable by its sweet, rich, velvety flavour. The raw ingredients are, for the most part, rice, koji and sake which puts it into the futsushu tax category. Incidentally, Kijoshu is apparently the brand name that the Kijoshu Society, an organisation of over 40 breweries, thought up and is exclusive to its members. Kijoshu made by non-member breweries is therefore referred to using other names such as Saijojikomi, Jojo and Sanruijoshu.

Learn more via this article.

14. Ginjo Tsukuri (LIT: Ginjo process)

In the case of the more fruity ginjo aromas, they are what you get when you slowly ferment highly polished brewing rice (Shuzokotekimai) like Yamada Nishiki at low temperature.

That is because when the yeast, the little microorganism that converts the sugar into alcohol, is pushed to its limits like this: with limited nutrition, in the cold, it creates something wonderful in the form of Ethanol Alcohol and other types of high quality alcohol.

Sometimes the yeast used to make Ginjo type sake produces foam or bubbles which brewers use to reply on to guage the fermentation’s progress.

15.  Koji Buta (small box Koji method)

This version of the Koji-making process moves the koji into smaller boxes called Buta. The object of the small box is to bring the rice together in the centre to increase the surface area and even out both moisture levels and temperature. If done properly, you end up with a neatly formed mound of rice in the middle of the box; if done improperly, you end up with a mess. In Japanese it is called Buta Koji. Buta Koji is a bit like that “tilt it!” game where you have to tilt balls into holes and just like that game, a steady hand and balance is essential. Suffice to say this method requires the highest skills.

How many questions did you get correct?

The below key shows how your score would rank you in the brewery worker heirarchy.

14 = Kamaya (rice steamer)     5-8 = Koujiya (Koji maker)   9-14 = Kashira (assistant foreman) Full score: Toji (foreman)

However you did, well done! This was not an easy quiz.

More quizzes to come in the future. Until then, we look forward to meeting you at KURAND.

Head down to KURAND for a bargain midsummer’s sake lunchbreak

Greetings sake lovers,

First of all, allow us to take this moment to thank all our customer dearly for the continued support and patronage.

We bring you great news! From 20th August until 25th September inclusive, during lunchtimes, we will be running a campaign at all our branches offering our all-you-can-taste sake plan at the super low price of 2000 yen per person.

Bookings can be made online via the usual booking forms, or if you can read Japanese, please feel free to use our online booking system which confirms your booking in real time.

Booking forms (confirmation of booking within 48 hours)

KURAND SAKE MARKET Ikebukuro
KURAND SAKE MARKET Asakusa
KURAND SAKE MARKET Shibuya
KURAND SAKE MARKET Shinjuku

Real time booking

KURAND SAKE MARKET Ikebukuro
KURAND SAKE MARKET Asakusa
KURAND SAKE MARKET Shibuya
KURAND SAKE MARKET Shinjuku

Campaign operation hours

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You might think that sake drinking is reserved for the after hours, but you would be wrong. Actually, those of us who are from some of the more boozy western countries will no doubt be familiar with the beer before noon habit. The fact is that sake tastes just as good earlier in the day and chilled sake with a block or two of ice is great way of cooling down from the merciless Tokyo summer heat.

Campaign Details

Name Midsummer Lunchtime Special
Campaign validity 20/08/2016 – 25/09/2016, Saturday, Sunday, Public Holidays
Operation Hours 12:00 – 16:00(15:30 Last Order)
Venue KURAND SAKE MARKET All Branches
(Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Asakusa)
Applicable to All customers on all-you-can-taste plan
Contents All-you-can-taste sake for 2000 yen (Incl Tax)

So that’s it. Basically your sake life is 1000 yen better off!

We are looking forward to welcoming you to KURAND!

Freshly pressed sake in the summer by a Tanba Toji

Greetings sake lovers!

Last week we introduced a new freshly pressed summer sake from Nishiyama Shuzo here.

It turns out that Nishiyama Shuzo is giving us a double offering of summer sake this year. Today we bring you the second new product in their special double bill, a sake made by a Toji from one of the three master Toji guilds in Japan. You might want to swot up on our articles about Toji before proceeding any further here.

What’s it all about?

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This new product is from the limited edition product series “Tsuzumi” which is a spin-off of the brewery’s popular “Kotsuzumi” brand. The brewery introduces the product on the back-label with the following blurb.

This is a freshly pressed Nama (draft) sake. As such, it needs to be refrigerated and is best served lightly chilled. Furthermore, it’s a Muroka Nama Genshu (read more about the jargon here). Drunk in large quantities it will go straight to your head, so please enjoy it with a chaser of water between each glassful.

 

The sort of freshly pressed sake that only a brewery like Nishiyama Shuzojo who brew all year around could produce in this most sultry of seasons. Hearing the word fresh around this time of year really raises expectations doesn’t it.

About Nishiyama Shuzojo

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Located almost slapbang in the centre of Hyogo Prefecture, in Hyogo Tanba City, an area surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. The brewery’s home town of Ichijima is an agricultural hamlet that started growing rice organically around 40 years ago. A brewery that prides in supplying sake that is as close to the fresh taste of just-pressed sake as possible. In order to achieve that desire they brew all year around. The origins of the famed kotsuzumi brand can be traced all the way back to earlier generations of brewers, all of whom studied under the famous poet Kyoshi Takahama. One brewer in particular became his right hand man and it is he who received the Kotsuzumi verse as a poetic gift from the laureate, a gift that his descendants protect to this day. A smooth, soft, well-rounded sake. A Kotsuzumi is a traditional Japanese drum in the shape of an hourglass. If you look at the sake label you should find lots of little Kotsuzumi in the background.

Comment from the brewer

[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/honmaavatar.png” alt=”honmasan” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] A freshly pressed summer sake crafted by a Toji from one of the ‘Big Three’ (3 biggest Toji guilds in Japan): Tanba Toji The biggest difference between this and the other product in the series Kotsuzumi is the rice. This is made entirely using the local variety of superior brewing rice called Hyogo Kitanishiki. Try pairing with dairy based foods / cuisine.[/taidan]

Product Specs

Raw Ingredients: Rice, Koji Malt
Rice: Hyogo Kitanishiki
Rice Polishing Ratio: 50%
Alc: 17%
SMV: -1
Acidity: 1.7
Amino Acidity: 1.3

The Tasting

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■ Appearance
Clear and colourless.
■ Aroma
A rich rice scent.
■ Flavour
Well balanced with a fresh, crisp aftertaste. In many ways certain parts of the palate are similar to Sanko.


Why not come and savour the expertise of the Tanba Toji with a summer twist.

This product is just one of many eagerly waiting to be savoured at KURAND.

Freshly pressed sake in the summer!? Drum roll!

Greetings sake lovers! we are constantly refreshing our fridges with new products so that there is always something different waiting for you to discover. Today’s new product comes from Hyogo Prefecture’s Nishiyama Shuzojo: “Kotsuzumi Junmai Daiginjo Muroka Nama Genshu Sanko”.

What’s it all about?

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This new product is from the limited edition product series “Tsuzumi” which is a spin-off of the brewery’s popular “Kotsuzumi” brand. The brewery introduces the product on the back-label with the following blurb.

This is a freshly pressed Nama (draft) sake. As such, it needs to be refrigerated and is best served lightly chilled. Furthermore, it’s a Muroka Nama Genshu (read more about the jargon here). Drunk in large quantities it will go straight to your head, so please enjoy it with a chaser of water between each glassful.

 

The sort of freshly pressed sake that only a brewery like Nishiyama Shuzojo who brew all year around could produce in this most sultry of seasons. Hearing the word fresh around this time of year really raises expectations doesn’t it.

About Nishiyama Shuzojo

nshiyama
Located almost slapbang in the centre of Hyogo Prefecture, in Hyogo Tanba City, an area surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. The brewery’s home town of Ichijima is an agricultural hamlet that started growing rice organically around 40 years ago. A brewery that prides in supplying sake that is as close to the fresh taste of just-pressed sake as possible. In order to achieve that desire they brew all year around. The origins of the famed kotsuzumi brand can be traced all the way back to earlier generations of brewers, all of whom studied under the famous poet Kyoshi Takahama. One brewer in particular became his right hand man and it is he who received the Kotsuzumi verse as a poetic gift from the laureate, a gift that his descendants protect to this day. A smooth, soft, well-rounded sake. A Kotsuzumi is a traditional Japanese drum in the shape of an hourglass. If you look at the sake label you should find lots of little Kotsuzumi in the background.

Comment from the brewer

[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/honmaavatar.png” alt=”honmasan” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] The entire sake was made with Yamada Nishiki superior brewing rice grown in Hyogo to produce fruity, luxurious sake that doesn’t scrimp on the flavours of the rice. It was only through hard work and strict temperature control that we were able to produce this Junmai Daiginjo in the hottest part of the summer. We tried this with the local speciality Edamame and it was a match made in heaven. Any old Edmamae should be just as tasty. [/taidan]

Product Specs

Raw Ingredients: Rice, Koji Malt
Rice: Hyogo Yamada Nishiki
Rice Polishing Ratio: 50%
Alc: 17%
SMV: 0
Acidity: 1.6
Amino Acidity: 1.2

The Tasting

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We are greeted by a profound label printed with the Chinese characters for Kotsuzumi in the centre. Would the taste be just as profound?
■ Appearance
Clear and very fluid.
■ Aroma
A rich scent with a little sweetness.
■ Flavour
The elegant sweetness of rice with a tiny burst of lychee in the centre. There are hints of dried fruits and a few nutty flavours spring out from around the edges. In the middle it opens up to fill the whole mouth. The aftertaste is very crisp. All in all, it has great balance and is very pleasant.


So there you have it! Believe it or not, freshly pressed sake is possible in the summer. At least if you are a brewery that brews all year round it is.

This product is just one of many eagerly waiting to be savoured at KURAND.

KURAND summer cocktails Vol.1

Greetings sake lovers,

For some people, sake can be quite an intimidating challenge at first. That rather rough texture that comes from the rice and the strong alcohol feel isn’t for everyone. And that’s why we set up our sister branch SHUGAR which offers the same all-you-can-drink package, not for sake, but for fruit liqueurs and plum wines made with a base of sake, intended as a slightly less daunting stepping stone into the world of sake. Finding news ways to serve sake is another way of making it accessible to more and more palates. The fact is that sake also makes a very good cocktail base. Luckily one of the KURAND team is an experienced Mixologist so we decided to tap into his vast repertoire and put together a little summer sake cocktail guide.

sakamoto-160x160Sakamoto: Sakamoto san trained for 6 years in Kyoto, during which time, in between convivial conversation with customers, he would invest every spare moment into concocting new recipes to thrill them with; this is the part of the job that he enjoyed the most.

Sakamoto san in action!

1. Water Melon Sunrise

Ingredients

All you need are 4 ingredients.

Water melon 100g
Sake 40ml
Mitsuya Soda (or a light lemonade or cream soda) A splash
Ice A block or two

Method

All it takes is 3 steps to make this very simple cocktail.

1. Put the ingredients into the glass!

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Cut the melon up into chunks and pop into the glass. Pour over the sake. You could remove the pips from the melon to make the drink easier to palate but I prefer to leave them in for a more natural taste.

2. Mix everything together!

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Mash up the melon well using a pestle or fork. Extract as much of the juice from the melon as you can and mix with the sake. By this time the scent of summer should wrapping its way around your senses.

3. Finish by adding the ice and soda!

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All that is left is to add the ice and a splash of soda. Dress with a leaf or two of mint. Let this cocktail take you by the hand and dance with you into the setting summer sun.

Comment from Sakamoto San

“With little or no effort at all, you have a very palatable summer-blend of refreshing fruity flavours with an exhilarating sweetness at the end. And just when you think this is a one trick pony with nothing but sweetness to offer, the sparkling aftertaste ties everything together neatly.”

2. Hatsugi

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Ingredients

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Just 6 ingredients!

Sake 20ml
Dita Lychee 10ml
Get 27 Peppermint Liqueur 10ml
Ginger ale a splash
Soda a splash
Mint 1 leaf (to taste)

Method

Another 4-step easy cocktail

1. Put the ice and sake into a glass

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Pop the ice into a glass and pour over the sake and Dita Lychee.

2. Stir

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Stir well

3. Put in the soda and ginger ale

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Fill the glass to the top with half and half soda and ginger ale.

4. Drizzle the peppermint liqueur

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Finally, drizzle the peppermint liqueur into the mix.
Comment from Sakamoto San
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“The mint leaves create a more refreshing aesthetic. I named the finished cocktail after the 8th lunar month, because I really think the mint leaf completes this cocktail and in Japanese, the 8th month, Hatsugi is written with the Chinese character for leaf. I guess you could say that mint is my leaf of the month.”

“The crispness of the soda and ginger ale and the cool refreshing zing of the mint is just what you need to beat the summer heat. It’s super sleek with notes of sweet lychee on the tongue. Super easy to drink and super addictive. “

“Incidentally, we can prepare this cocktail for you at our Shinjuku branch (for a limited period only).”

3. Sake Blossom

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Ingredients

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Just 4 ingredients!

Sake 20ml
Kimia (Citrus Liqueur) 20ml
Orange juice 150ml
Grenadine Syrup to taste

Method

A delicious cocktail in just 3 simple steps

1. Add all ingredients except Grenadine Syrup into a glass layered with ice

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2. Stir

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Give it a swizzle with a cocktail stirrer. Give it a good swizzle to really chill it.

3. Pour in the Grenadine Syrup

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Pour in the syrup gently. Gentle pouring is important to make sure the syrup gets sinks all the way to the bottom creating the right gradation.

Comment from Sakamoto San
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“I named this cocktail sake blossom to match its gorgeous look. It’s not for me to say of course, but you really can’t go wrong with citrus flavoured cocktails. Frozen orange or tangerine in place of the ice is also really delicious.”

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This is another cocktail that we can prepare for you at our Shinjuku branch.

Bannockburn

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Ingredients

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Just 4 ingredients

Tomato Juice (or fresh tomato) 60ml(1)
Sake 30ml
Passoa(passion fruits liqueur) 30ml
Tabasco 1 drop

Method

1. Pour in the ingredients

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Prepare a glass with ice and pour in the sake (“I used Chikuha Noto Josen”), Passoa, tomato juice and tabasco.
If using fresh tomato, cut the tomato into half, add with the other ingredients and mash. The ice might make mashing a bit difficult so probably best to add the ice after.

2. Stir

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Give it a good stir. Once it’s got just the right chill to it, garnish with the mint.

Comment from Sakamoto San
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“For some reason tomato and passion fruit are a great combination; it just seems to work. ”

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However, it’s actually the heat from the tabasco that is the centre piece of this cocktail. It adds depth to it. Wait a sec!? Tabasco!? you might be thinking. But, please! give it a try. You have my Mixologist’s guarantee that it will not disappoint!

This is my take, a Japanese version, of the Whisky-based Western cocktail of the same name.

It works wonders for heat exhaustion; it will have you up and running again in no time.

Yep, you guess it! this one is available at our Shinjuku branch also.

5. Apricot Club

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Ingredients

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Just 4 ingredients!

Sake 20ml
Disaronno 15ml
Lejay Pear (pear liqueur by Suntory) 10ml
Milk 50ml

Method

All it takes is 4 simple steps.

1. Pour everything into a shaker

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Prepare a shaker and add all the ingredients.

2. Stir!

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Since we are going to shake everything together later, a very light stir will do.

3. Add the ice!

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Well, a summer cocktail is not a summer cocktail without right?

4. Shake!

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Make sure the lids on tight and give it your best rendition of Tom Cruise in that movie.

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Pour into a glass layered with ice.

Comment from Sakamoto San
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A sake with a light, well-balanced palate works best. Pasteurised is better than unpasteurised to contrast with the milk. The finished cocktail is more like a dessert in many ways.

Why not come and try some more irresistable cocktails from Sakamoto san’s recipe book at our Shinjuku branch. And if you fancy making your own blend of sake and fruit liqueurs, SHUGAR market is your heaven waiting with open arms.

Stay tuned for volume 2.

Sake finger food: 4 awesome pairings to try at KURAND

Greetings sake lovers!

Here at KURAND, our primary concern is that your sake experience is an enjoyable one and we are always trying to find new ways to enhance it. In Japanese, they call this Omotenashi. In English we would call it hospitality or extra service. But to the Japanese it so much more than all that. This desire to continually please your patrons, to make them smile from end to end every time they come to visit, is the essence of the Japanese spirit. For example, we recently added a free Baikingu — Japanese for finger buffet — which is available to all customers on the all-you-can-drink plan.

No one does finger food like Japan — except perhaps Spain from whom the Japanese got their inspiration for this so-called Tapas style pub snack culture. Everything is so simple, but simple doesn’t have to mean pre-processed junk. The majority of Izakaya finger food is good wholesome, healthy, savoury dishes, that despite only taking a couple of minutes to prepare are the pinnacle of gourmet cuisine.

Here is a little starter guide pairing 4 of the most popular items in the KURAND finger buffet with 4 sakes from the KURAND lineup.

1.Miso Shiru

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Miso Shiru (LIT: miso soup) is the soup of Japan. It’s basically a base of fish stock mixed with miso, topped with all manner of savoury delights such as clams, seaweed, tofu, Aburage (fried tofu gourd), spring onion, overflowing with delicious Umami. Nearly every meal in Japan is accompanied by Miso Shiru. In Japan, soup is not a starter, it is served as part of the meal. It’s like a piece of the culinary jigsaw puzzle that makes the whole course complete. For all visitors to Japan, this is undoubtedly their first experience of Japanese cuisine. Given the popularity of Japanese food abroad and influx of restaurants serving Japanese food, they may have tasted it before back home, but nothing will have prepared their taste buds for the real thing. The variety we serve at KURAND contains clams said to stimulate the alcohol metabolism.

How to prepare

misowbutter

Simply empty one of the soup packets into a cup and pour in hot water.

So far so conventional. However, here at KURAND we like to employ one other little magic ingredient that transforms the flavour… butter!

That’s right, butter. A 4g knob of butter melted into the soup has the rather mysterious effect of taming the all those rather punchy flavours; the flavour is much milder. Of course, if you prefer your Miso Shiru punchy, no need to overcomplicate things.

It’s a mystery why butter works. Perhaps clues can be found in other popular Japanese miso based dishes where butter is added like Ishikari Nabe (salmon and vegetable miso stew), miso ramen and miso basted grilled meat dishes. In all these dishes, butter has the same effect. It seems miso shares an affinity with dairy products. By the same token, milk or even cheese would probably work as well.

Incidentally, the idea for implementing this at KURAND came from Nishie san, the manager of our Asakusa branch who devised this little modification during a homestay in Australia. One day, he decided to try and introduce his host family to a bit of Japanese food, starting with the soup. However, he was aware that outside Japan, similar attempts had been a bit hit and miss with those who liked it and those who didn’t split down the middle. While pondering how to make the soup more accessible to his hosts, he suddenly remembered how Ishikari nabe tasted much milder with the butter. And the rest is history. Suffice to say, the words on the lips of his hosts was simply: “delish!”.

Miso Shiru x sake

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Miso Shiru without butter

Pairing Sake

Iwami Ginzan Tokubetsu Junmai, Ichinomiya Shuzo, Shimane Prefecture
▶ More details here!

The dryness of Iwami Ginzan is a perfect contrast to the saltiness of the soup. The finish of this version of the soup is unimposing, melting away nicely in the mouth so any sake with this level of body should be able to hold its own.

Miso Shiru + butter

Any sake you pair with it needs to have a much stronger flavour profile to stand up to the more pervasive finish that the butter creates. There was only one sake that fitted the bill.

Pairing Sake

KURAND ORIGINAL Matcheese, Miyoshikiku Shuzo, Tokushima Prefecture
▶ More details here!

2. Kyuri no Shiomomi

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Kyuri no Shiomomi is a dish of pickled cucumbers called Tsukemono in Japanese, seasoned with salt. Any sake that can match the freshness of the cucumber while exhibiting savoury and sweet notes to offset the saltiness is game.

Pairing Sake

KURAND ORIGINAL “Sake selling dog, brewing cat” limited edition summer sake, Takarayama Brewery, Niigata Prefecture

▶ More details here!

3. Pickled Daikon

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Next up is another very popular Tsukemono which consists of pickled Daikon (raddish). Sake finger food doesn’t come much more savoury than this. There is a delicate balance of flavour with a tiny hint of sweetness that you need to consider when choosing sake to pair with it. In general, the ideal is fresh sake with an equally good balance.

Pairing Sake

Hirai Rokueemon Junmai, Kiku no Tsukasa, Niigata Prefecture

Layers of UMAMI!

4. Edamame

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Edamame is a dish of green peas in their pods, normally served with salt. For all its rusticity, this Izakaya staple has a certain simple charm to it that is simply irresistible. Not to mention the fact that every pea is packed with UMAMI. There is a certain knack to extracting the slippery little peas from their pods without them flying in the opposite direction onto an unsuspecting fellow bystander’s plate, something much more subtle than a simple squeeze. Having said that, the hilarity of the occasional backfire is all part of the fun.

While you’ll be hard pushed to find a sake that refuses edamame, the lighter ones with the crisp finishes tend to pair the best.

Pairing Sake

Uonuma Tama Fuumi, Tamagawa Shuzo, Niigata

Why not come to KURAND and start your journey into sake and Japanese cuisine!

Is there any meaning behind the colour of the sake bottle?

Greetings sake lovers,

There comes a time when in between sips of sake, all sake lovers come to ponder the same question. And that is: why is the sake bottle this colour? .

The same brewery may use a multitude of different coloured bottles to bottle their sake. But is this purely for aesthetic reasons? or would there be another explanation. We decided to ask some of our partner brewers.

How many bottle colour variations are there and which is the most common?

First of all, we picked one of our branches at random and analysed its fridge contents: approx 100 bottles, to find out just which bottle colour was the most common. Here are the results, ranked from most to least common.

Bottle Colour

1st Brown (40 btls)
2nd Green (30 btls)
Joint 3rd Blue (10 btls)
Joint 3rd White (10 btls)
Joint 3rd Other (10 btls)

Lots of green and browns; a few blues and whites as well.

Upon further analysis, we learned that the choice of colours is simply endless: even pink and black bottles exist. It’s worth nothing that the same bottle colour also comes in different shades, but for the purpose of this analysis we counted  them all collectively.

*The results would vary depending on the contents of the ‘daily special’ and ‘manager’s special’ corners.

What’s the meaning behind the colours?

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First of all, why so much brown!?

In among the plethora of different coloured bottles, brown was by far the most common. But why do brewers use this colour so much? Actually, generally speaking, in the past, all 1.8L sake bottles were brown by default. This was to block out sunlight to prevent the flavour of the sake inside from degrading — in effect to act as a sort of sunscreen. When sake comes into contact with sunlight it releases a rather unpleasant stench aptly referred to as the “sunlight-struck smell” or Nikkoshu in Japanese. The next most common colour green is used for pretty much the same reasons. And that’s undoubtedly why we found so many brown and green bottles in our store’s selection.

Is it okay to use white and blue?

Which, by the law of natural selection, leads us to the question of whether any other colour is acceptable. Have no fear! As long as the sake is stored away from direct sunlight, in the fridge, it will be fine. That is to say that because of its colour these sakes cannot be stored any other way. You can limit the effect of sunlight by wrapping the bottle in a thin cloth or sunlight-cutting plastic film. Oh, and if you have neither of those to hand, newspaper works wonders too.

At KURAND SAKE MARKET, we take the upkeep of our products very seriously!

And so, to get the real answer to our question we interviewed a few of our partner breweries.

We decided to focus on the breweries with the most colourful portfolios.

Takara Shuzo – seasonality and simplicity

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Takarayama Brewery is a small brewery that began life in 1885 as regional sake to Iwamuro Onsen,a well-known 300 year old inner parlour in Niigata. In the frozen lands of Echigo, with “harmony among people” as their motto, a team of three including the master cherish every single drop of the brewing process. In a little plot at the back of the brewery the staff grow the variety of sake rice that was developed in Niigata: Echigo Tanrei. From this year, master brewer Watanabe Keita who completed his training in a brewery outside the prefecture joins the team and takes over the reins from 78 year old master Mr. Aoyagi. A new wind is blowing at this brewery.

Q. Are there any specific reasons why you use so many different-coloured bottles?
[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/wakamatsuavatar.png” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] For some of them yes, to make those products more self-explanatory. For summer sake, we use a blue colour, for nigori sake we use colourless. Sometimes, it’s a product design choice. Having said that, our signature products are normally bottled in brown and green bottles. [/taidan]

So colour is used to emphasise the sake’s traits, interesting! Actually, when you think about it, putting nigori sake in a colourless bottle to make its white colour more vivid makes a lot of sense.

Kanbai Shuzo – a clever use of colour

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Established in 1821, Kanbai Brewery is located almost dead centre of the Kanto plains in Kuki which is a good location for both water and rice. The brand name Kanbai comes from the line in a famous Chinese poem: “the bloom of winter just before spring”. The owner of the brewer has now taken over the role of master brewer as well and focuses all his attention on a small production that it is as attentive as possible and leaves nothing to chance. With the ethos “to provide delicious and fun moments” he strives for sake brewing with personality that attacks the task head on with sincerity.

Q. Are there any specific reasons why you use the different coloured bottles that you do?
[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/suzukiavatar.png” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] In the past, I expect it was mainly a case of keeping the sunlight out, but these days a better storage environment removes the need for such countermeasures, so it’s now more about the presentation of the sake, about creating an aesthetic that makes the customer want to pick-out your product over others. That in my opinion, takes precedence. That’s certainly the case for my company’s products anyway. [/taidan]

1. Junmai Ginjo Sake Musashi: black
[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/suzukiavatar.png” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] For this product, a black bottle was chosen to make the label of gold writing on a white background — an image that screams well-balanced premium sake — stand out more, to add an air of elegance and give it a more superior feel. Without the label it wouldn’t work though, because black doesn’t present the same premium feel on its own. In this case the bottle colour and label are intertwined.  [/taidan]

2. Nama Genshu: green / blue
[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/suzukiavatar.png” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] Each of these unpasteurised types offers up a fresher flavour, so we wanted to convey this using the colour of the bottle. Hence we chose green. For the summer sakes which tend to err more on the dry side, we chose blue. Sometimes the sake’s character influences the decision over colour.  [/taidan]

3. Junmai, Futsushu:brown 
[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/suzukiavatar.png” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] For the Junmai series, while the equilibrium between bottle and label was also important, we actually chose brown because we wanted to imbue the drinker with a provincial feel; that alcoholic-beverage-made-from-rice sort of look. Furthermore, the local people are used to seeing Futsushu in brown bottles. In the past, green and brown were the only colours available, green being the more expensive of the two.  [/taidan]

4. Koshu (aged sake):White(colourless)
[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/suzukiavatar.png” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] This sake’s colour is a bit special and we wanted to show if off, so we chose a colourless bottle.      [/taidan]

So there you have it. This brewery put’s a lot of thought into the design process, thinking out how the bottle and label will work together, using different coloured bottles to communicate the personality  of the sake.

Miyoshikiku Shuzo – a focus on blue

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Miyosiku Brewery’s brewing is open minded and does not fit into a conventional mould. The brewery location of Shikoku Awaikeda is situated upstream of the Yoshino River, one of the three biggest in Japan, with Asan’s Yamanami to the North, embracing the Kenzan mountain range to the South, and provides a perfect cold place for brewing. Tokushima Prefecture is where the pinnacle of sake rice Yamada Nishiki is grown. The brewery uses mainly this and other varieties of locally grown sake rice to make each and every bottle by hand. An acidity locks in a fruity aroma and unfolding sweetness. The Miyosikiku World Trinity continue to breed new sake fans.

Q. Is there a reason why you always use blue bottles?

[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/mamiyaavatar.png” alt=”なとみ様” width=”300″ height=”300″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-13704″] 10 years ago when we first launched this brand of Miyoshikiku, we received quite a lot of complaints from people preferring the so-called drier sakes that this sake with its acidity and sweetness was too unconventional. Our sake was a bit ahead of the times you see. Wondering whether it might not be better suited to those people who knew little about sake, who weren’t so interested in it, we tried blue bottles.

As predicted, the complaints almost all but stopped and we’ve been using blue ever since.

[/taidan]

Wow, so that’s how it all started. They continue to realise their motto: “to brew contemporary sake” and have a big fan base that includes female drinkers and beginners etc. The fact that they didn’t bow to those complaints and just make ordinary sake is quite admirable.

Conclusion

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In conclusion, some brewers employ a particular focus behind choice of bottle colour; whereas for others it’s more a question of fate. Before asking the brewers, the best scenario we could come up with was the one where a brewer uses blue bottles to convey a refreshing summer image. We never imagined there would be so many other different reasons: “to make sake more accessible for the unseasoned drinker”; “to show off its unique traits”; “to communicate the design and flavours of it”.

More than anything else,  it’s clear that a lot of thought and effort goes into this one decision — to deliver a satisfactory product to the customer.

Why not come and ponder the question in more detail over an Ochoko or two of sake at KURAND.

Brewer’s Medley – August schedule

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This special event is designed to bring our customers and the breweries that we represent closer together. Every month, on a random basis, we invite representatives from the breweries to come to the bars with a selection of 3-4 of their sakes to share with everyone. As well as hearing the passion that goes into sake direct from the craftsman/woman, you can also try sakes that have been prepared exclusively for the event. It all adds up to an extremely special event, not the sort that you can experience everyday.

The Allure of Drinking Sake with the Brewer

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“Sake tastes all the more delicious when you drink it knowing who made it and why”.
This is the KURAND concept. To ‘Share a toast with a brewer!’ is to experience sake at the same level, to hear stories that normally don’t get heard outside the four walls of the brewery, and to ask questions. Even your average tasting event does not bring you this close.

For the brewers themselves, this event represents an opportunity to gather feedback about their sake direct from the customer, feedback that leads to quality improvement in the future.

CALENDAR

We have added the above calendar so that you can find out when and where the breweries are going to be, to enable you to plan ahead.

Introducing the Breweries Visiting in August

This where we introduce the breweries who have taken time out of their business trip to Tokyo to pop over to our 4 branches in Ikebukuro, Asakusa Shibuya and Shinjuku and spend time with everyone.

The event calendar shows you when and where the breweries will appear.

Hasegawa Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

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Established in 1842, Hasegawa Brewery has carved over 170 years of brewing in Settaya, in Niigata Prefecture’s Nagaoka City. Settaya is a charming town with a popular miso, sake and soy sauce production that dates as far back as the Edo Period, and counts 5 breweries that are registered as tangible cultural properties. As one of the breweries that were built in the Edo and Taisei Periods, they brew the sake by hand, in the traditional way using properly maintained antique tools and small Daiginjo purpose tanks to produce a savoury flavour that extracts the best from the rice. A sake that compliments food and brings the whole table to life.

Takarayama Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

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Takarayama Brewery is a small brewery that began life in 1885 as regional sake to Iwamuro Onsen,a well-known 300 year old inner parlour in Niigata. In the frozen lands of Echigo, with “harmony among people” as their motto, a team of three including the master cherish every single drop of the brewing process. In a little plot at the back of the brewery the staff grow the variety of sake rice that was developed in Niigata: Echigo Tanrei. From this year, master brewer Watanabe Keita who completed his training in a brewery outside the prefecture joins the team and takes over the reins from 78 year old master Mr. Aoyagi. A new wind is blowing at this brewery.

Tamagawa Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

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With over 340 years of history, Tamagawa Brewery is located in Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture. The sake they brew deviates slightly from the more traditional styles. A brewery that is not afraid to challenge.

Sugita Brewery (Tochigi Prefecture)

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Sugita Brewery is located in the southern part of Tochigi Prefecture in the western part of Oyama City. The water in that area which originates at Mt. Nikko is the hardest in the prefecture. The brewery has been brewing sake that puts emphasis on the umami factor ever since the first generation came to Oyama from Niigata. Starting from this year, the 5th generation of the brewery will pass the Nanbu Guild exam to become the first brewer in the family since the first generation. A slow ageing process of between 6 months to a year is the key to the power of the brand Goriki Masamune.

Shuho Brewery (Yamagata Prefecture)

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Shuho Brewery was started by first generation Seigoro in 1890 in Yamaka Town which lies North East of Yamagata City at the foot of the Zao Renpo mountain range. Shuhou translates to calm. Rich nature, pristine water and a calm soul are the key ingredients of their hand-crafted sake. Tradition and the brewery’s personality and techniques complete a natural production. Over 10 different varieties of sake rice are used, and distinctive characteristics and umami from the rice is used to maximum effect to lend the sake an individuality and make it shine in the regional sake country of Yamagata. The result? warm feeling Yamagata sake that moves the drinker.

Ariga Jozo (Fukushima Prefecture)

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Ariga Brewery started in 1772 as a manor house ruling over 33,000 sqm of the Echigo Takada clan enclave and before long was being commissioned by a feudal lord to brew sake. 300 years later, traditional skills passed down and rich arable lands are the key to this brewery’s craft. The signature brand is Arinokawa. Popular products include a dreamy makkori called Tiger Makkori and the brand Jinya which has been brewed by both the 11th and 12th generations and establishes new traditions. A fusion of the latest tech with the traditions of a sibling brewery with a checkered history gives birth to authentic sake.

Kanbai Brewery (Saitama Prefecture)

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Established in 1821, Kanbai Brewery is located almost dead centre of the Kanto plains in Kuki which is a good location for both water and rice. The brand name Kanbai comes from the line in a famous Chinese poem: “the bloom of winter just before spring”. The owner of the brewer has now taken over the role of master brewer as well and focuses all his attention on a small production that it is as attentive as possible and leaves nothing to chance. With the ethos “to provide delicious and fun moments” he strives for sake brewing with personality that attacks the task head on with sincerity.

Tahara Brewery (Niigata Prefecture)

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A brewery located in the southwestern part of Niigata, Itoigawa City, which is also home to the kingfisher. The signature brand Yuki Tsuru is intended as a lucky brew with a similar sort of nobel construction to the beautiful crane dancing in the snow after which it is imagined. Made with natural spring water from the Kubiki Komagatake mountain range and Gohyaku Mangoku brewing rice from Niigata, this is a conscientious small scale brewery that presses all their sake using the old fashioned fune press. Yuki Tsuru shrugs off the generalisation that all sake in Niigata is clean and dry, instead they make regional sake that is full of umami.

Fukunishiki Brewery (Hyogo Prefecture)

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Established in 1839, Fukunishiki Brewery is located slap bang in the centre of the Banshu Plains, the number one grower of sake rice in Japan. They might be small but they brew sake with belief. In 1992 they switched to Junmai-only sake and since 1996, brew with only rice grown in their local Kasai City. There lies a passion for pure honest sake brewing that “is what it is because it is loved by the region”. Using the umami from the rice to full effect to give it a slightly golden hue and melt in the mouth acidity. The flavour that resounds in your heart half way through is evidence of the mutual love for rice.

Maruse Brewery (Nagano Prefecture)

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Maruse Brewery was established in 1870 and makes sake as a family unit using the time-honoured 4 stage brewing method. The method adds steamed rice to the conventional 3 stage fermentation method. Their version is unique because they use glutinous rice as opposed to sake rice. At present, there are few breweries making sake this way. The pillow like softness and mellow flavour of the mochigome is something that is unique to this brewery. Hidden amongst the nature of Shinshu their speciality well-rounded 4 stage sake possesses a hidden power that is guaranteed to soothe the soul of the drinker.

Ichinomiya Brewery (Shimane Prefecture)

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In the Shimane Prefecture World Heritage Iwami Silver Mines, in the National Park Sanbesan lies Ouda City, with its 120 years of brewing history. It is here that Ichinomiya Brewery (est 1896) is based. While following sake tradition, they also put a lot of energy into product development for the new age which in recent years has included a number of liqueurs and sparkling type sakes. 2 years ago, Asano Rika who was training at Tokyo University of Agriculture, joined with the role of master brewer in her sights. The rice and raw ingredients for the liqueurs are all grown locally in Ouda City. A Sake with oodles of sincerity and love.

The first taster of summer: nomikiri

Greetings sake lovers, we are proud to announce the completion of yet another KURAND original. This time we teamed up with a new partner brewery from Kyoto, Sasaki Shuzo. It is without further ado, that we present to you “Nomikiri Kuradashi Genshu”! Available now at all branches.

Learn more about the product

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Nomikiri is a brand new special limited edition seasonal summer sake. Sasaki Shuzo introduced it on their website with the following strapline.

This is a traditional style of summer sake called Nomikiri sake. In the early summer, we take a small sample from tanks that have been in storage since completion in the winter to check their condition. We take the sample from a small outlet valve called a Nomikuchi at the bottom of the tank. The fact that no water is added before bottling means that the alcohol content is around 19%. Furthermore it’s quite rich. Therefore, we recommend serving it on the rocks or mixed with a dash of soda.

If you want to learn more about this style of sake, no one explains it better than sake evangelist John Gauntner, so please check out an article he wrote on the subject to learn more: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2000/09/14/food/hatsu-nomikiri-still-a-summer-ritual-for-brewers/#.V57HYzU5u2l

Note: More than one sample is taken; this is simply the first one.  

So basically, it’s sake that has been in storage taking a little nap for about half a year.

A comment from Sasaki Shuzo’s Itasugi Tomoko

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[taidan img=”http://kurand.jp/en/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/itasugi.png”]”Nomikiri Kuradashi Genshu” has an alcohol content of 19%, a little bit on the strong side. Furthermore, because the flavour is quite a rich, sweet one, even when paired with quite rich, strong flavoured dishes, neither should get in the other’s way. My personal recommendation would be hamburger, or perhaps some Korean seaweed (Gim) or miso preserved foods. You could always just chill it until it’s ice-cold and try it with your BBQ. As for the best way to drink it, as it is of a pretty sturdy complexion to begin with, I think it would taste delicious on the rocks or mixed with soda. One way or the other, please be sure to give it a try! [/taidan]

Product Specs

Raw Ingredients: Rice & Koji
Rice: Kojimai: Gohyaku Mangoku, Kakemai:Kyo no Kagayaki
Rice Polishing Ratio: 75%
Alc: 19%
SMV: +4.5
Acidity: 1.5

Tasting Notes

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The label design is pretty simple, but how would the sake taste?

■ Appearance
Clear with visible viscosity
■Aroma
Gentle
■Flavour
Sweet with punch. The sort of well-rounded palate that you would expect from a sake that’s just awoken from a short hibernation. It’s as sturdy and well-defined as undiluted sake can be.

About Sasaki Shuzo

会社 Established in 1983, Sasaki Shuzo is located in an ancient part of Kyoyo called Rakuchu. The water they use for brewing originates from the same subterranean channel as that which was said to be used by the great tea taster “Sen no Rikyu” in his tea ceremonies: Ginmeisui. The rice they use is Yamada Nishiki grown locally through contracted farming. The Toji strives for authentic brewing that leaves no questions unanswered, cherishing the belief that a brewer’s mission is to help raise a healthy batch of koji and yeast”.


Why not come and experience this old traditional tipple for yourself at KURAND!