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Sake Nation: “Craft Gin and Vodka: Part 3”

By Kosuke Kuji
The last issue covered craft gin. This issue covers craft vodka.
When we obtained a license to produce spirits, the spirits we were permitted to distill did not include “vodka” at the time. Vodka is a specialty of Russia with no need to force production in Japan, while gin was fast gaining attention in Japan with many craft gin distilleries across Japan and worldwide. Therefore, our plan was to produce gin only.
As we produced gin however, we researched vodka, defined simply as “filtered using active carbon from Japanese white birch.” The alcohol to be filtered can be the same base alcohol as gin, produced from sake rice. The most important point was that Iwate prefecture boasted the highest production volume of coal in Japan. The city of Kuji neighboring the city of Ninohe is home to the renowned “Hiraniwa Kogen,” famous for their forest of Japanese white birch. We decided to use active carbon already generated from decayed Japanese white birch to produce vodka.
Gin production requires “lacquer,” the highest volume produced in Japan. We decided to use carbon from Iwate prefecture, where the highest volume of carbon is produced in Japan, to exude regional characteristics in our craft vodka also. Using two raw materials from Iwate prefecture, boasting the top production volume in Japan for both to distill craft gin and craft vodka, we truly succeeded in creating products produced in Iwate prefecture only.
Our craft gin and craft vodka will both be released in the U.S., so please try them if you find them on store shelves. These products are monuments to the new dreams and challenges of Japanese sake breweries.

酒豪大陸「クラフトジンとウォッカ その3」

#flavor #gin #japanese #sake #vodka

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History of Sake

Chapter 1: What is the Origin of Sake?

Sake production (brewing) requires rice “molded” with rice malt, thus the same classification as Chinese rice wine. Compared to the Korean sake production exactly matching the Chinese, Japanese sake varies greatly according to the mold type and sake production process.
These differences are due to geographical and climate conditions more suitable for mold to grow in Japan, and the sea distanced Japan from direct influence by the continental culture. This distance is one reason why the continental culture was not accepted as is in Japan, but led to the invention of original and creative brewing technology unique to Japanese sake, another reason for the major difference. This original and creative brewing technology is still used today.

Wetland Rice Cultivation Introduced
Around the second and third centuries B.C., wetland rice cultivation was introduced from Goetsu, China to North Kyushu prefecture, Japan, and South Korea. Rice planting spread from Northern Kyushu to Sanin, Setouchi. The Yayoi people developed new rice fields at low lands, and concurrently passed on sake production using malted rice prepared from only planted rice.


第1章 酒のルーツは?



#history #japanese #origin #sake #wine

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Sake Nation: “Craft Gin and Vodka: Part 2”

By Kosuke Kuji
The last issue covered how the coronavirus pandemic inspired our production of craft gin and vodka as a new business. Although the initial plan was to produce gin only, the decision to also produce craft vodka was made along the way, which I’ll explain in another issue.
First, Japan’s first domestically produced craft gin pioneered by the recent release of “KI NO BI” in Kyoto sparked the gradual launch of craft gin distilleries in Japan.
The greatest appeal of craft gin is the adherence to one rule - use Juniper berry with ingredients that determine the aroma components, such as “botanicals” – allows the use of various botanicals.
In other words, the selection of botanicals add regional characteristics effectively, another appeal of craft gin. The Nanbu Bijin craft gin uses “Japanese lacquer,” the highest volume of world-class botanicals proudly produced in Ninohe city, Iwate prefecture, Japan, where Nanka Bijin is based.
Japanese lacquer of Ninohe city is registered as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and as Japan Heritage, used as an adhesive to apply gold onto the Kinkaku-ji Temple and to repair the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, an important cultural heritage that supports the national treasures of Japan.
The Japanese lacquer tree is scorched to use as botanicals to produce craft gin abundant in regional characteristics, possible only in Iwate prefecture.
Sake rice left over from the pandemic is used to produce the base alcohol.
This gin made from Japanese lacquer is one-of-a-kind worldwide; a truly valuable craft gin released from Iwate prefecture to Japan to the world, now complete.

酒豪大陸「クラフトジンとウォッカ その2」

#flavor #gin #japanese #sake #vidka

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Compatibility between Sake and Japanese Cuisine

Also, clean and dry sake mild in distinct flavor along with pure sake pairs well with any food.
Aromatic sake and refreshing sake pair well with acidic foods or food prepared from bland food ingredients, while pure sake pairs well with simmered and stir-fried cuisines, food that line the dinner table daily, and food flavored with milk and butter.
Rich foods pair well with hot sake rich in flavor and refreshing sake.
Next, let’s think about foods compatible with Japanese sake.
Foods that pairs well with sake evolved since traditional sake fans once licked salt and miso paste while enjoying sake.
Sake is not selected to match the food, yet foods can be selected to enhance delicious sake flavors.
Appetizers paired with sake are unique dishes for which the Western counterparts are rarely found.
Traditionally, licking salt or miso paste is a unique way for true sake fans to enjoy sake.
Appetizers served with sake also tend to be salty, such as salted and dried mullet roe or salted fish guts.
Similar to sake, rice crackers and snacks are also made from rice and contain salt, thus pairs well with sake.
On the other hand, chocolates, cheese, and nuts enhance the sake flavor.
First, classic appetizers paired with Japanese sake consist of salted fish guts, dried mullet roe, and other classic delicacies served in the industry.
Strong salt flavor and rich fermentation flavor enhances the sake flavor.
Nuts faintly aromatic like rice and fermented food products like cheese pair well with sake, along with sweets like chocolate.


#flavor #japanese #pairing #sake #wine

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Sake Nation: “Craft Gin and Vodka: Part I”

By Kosuke Kuji

The widespread novel coronavirus depleted supplies of rubbing alcohol across Japan early in the pandemic and created a supply shortage.
Therefore, regulations were relaxed on an emergency basis for sake breweries like my own to produce rubbing alcohol, as I wrote before in this series.
I met disabled children requiring lifelong care and their families, who thanked me saying, “thank you for saving lives.” To ensure these families lifelong supplies of rubbing alcohol, I vowed to continue “local production (of rubbing alcohol) for local consumption” to service the approximately 200 patients in Iwate prefecture. As I wrote before, the production of Japanese sake decreased dramatically at the same time, with plenty of leftover sake rice originally allocated for contracted farming.
To continue the production of rubbing alcohol indefinitely requires a license for the authorized production of “spirits.” This license to produce spirits also authorizes the production of gin and vodka, along with distilled, highly concentrated alcohol for which the leftover sake rice can be used. Nanbu Bijin decided to produce craft gin and vodka as a new business during the coronavirus pandemic.
I, along with other Japanese sake breweries, decided to start new businesses in this manner.

酒豪大陸「クラフトジンとウォッカ その1」

#flavor #japanese #pairing #sake #wine

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Pairing Japanese Sake with Foods


Bad pairing refers to the delicious flavor diminished when sake is paired with food.
Depending on the combination, the sake flavor may counter the flavor of the food, generating unpleasant aroma and texture.
In many cases for example, sake may enhance the odor of fish and seafood. On the other hand, we want to avoid combinations where the balance between the sake vs. food flavors are bad and completely overwhelms the flavor of the paired item.

Therefore, let’s confirm the following.
-Does Japanese sake pair well with other foods besides Japanese cuisine?
Japanese sake pairs well not only with Japanese cuisine, but also with various other cuisines such as Western, Chinese, and ethnic cuisines. In addition, Japanese sake also pairs well with food ingredients other than Japanese food products such as butter, cheese, and spices.

- Flavor of sake paired with food is characteristic by sake type.
For each sake type, certain combinations pair well. Depending on the sake classification type, food that pairs well differs according to the flavors and aroma.
For example, mellow sake pairs well with rich foods, pure sake pairs well with foods strong in umami flavor, refreshing sake pairs well with refreshing foods, and aromatic sake pairs well with light foods.
Now, let’s pair specific sake with foods.
The basic approach when selecting sake is whether to pair sake similar in flavor (to the food), or to pair the food with sake completely different in flavor. Combining sake with foods similar in flavor ensures the best compatibility. For example, sweet foods are compatible with sweet sake, while spicy foods are compatible with acidity sake. On the other hand, combining alcohol with a unique, different flavor can generate a new delicious flavor. This type of phenomenon is referred to as ‘marriage’ in the wine world, also slightly more difficult to pair.





#flavor #japanese #pairing #sake #wine

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Compatibility between Sake and Japanese Cuisine

In this issue, let’s discuss the compatibility between sake and Japanese cuisine.
The flavor of sake enhances the flavors of Japanese cuisine and vice versa, a compatible combination that produces a synergistic effect that enhances both flavors.
Complex in flavor, Japanese sake is easy to pair with any cuisine and optimal as an alcoholic beverage to enjoy during meals.
Sake is compatible not only with Japanese cuisine, but various cuisines worldwide such as Italian, French, and Chinese cuisines, complimenting without overpowering distinct, subtle, and strong flavors or aromas.
Therefore, there are no rules for pairing sake like there are in wine. However, some are compatible in flavors while others are not. What are the guidelines to ensure good compatibility between sake and cuisine?
First, sake and cuisine with similar flavors produce a synergistic effect that enhances the umami flavors in both.
In other words, sweet sake pairs well with cuisine with sweet flavors, while refreshing sake pairs well with cuisine with refreshing flavors.
Second, sake and cuisine with different flavors can combine to create a new flavor. The combination produces a new flavor not present when savored individually.
Third, the sake flavor enhances the flavor of the cuisine, or the cuisine enhances the flavor of sake, where one enhances the flavor of the other. On the other hand, sake can inhibit the oily; bitter flavors in some cuisines while enhancing the preservability of the cuisine, another way that sake pairs well with cuisine.



#french #italian #japanese #sake

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To avoid being on the “losing team”


By Yuji Matsumoto

This is a trend I’ve recently noticed in the last two to three years, but I’ve noticed a widening division between the winning vs. losing brands of sake and shochu.
The reason is as follows:
• The selling products vs. those that don’t are clear at the storefront
• At restaurants, labor costs food ingredients, and especially variable costs for fish and seafood, and fixed rental fees are increasing while the cash flow is tight
Especially on site, because the retention time directly influences the cash flow, future tasks includes how to increase merchandise turnover.
While there is no problem as long as the merchandise is turning over, it’s likely that restaurants are considering that perhaps, it’s better to rotate cheap Japanese sake (if not, it’s a dangerous sign) rather than having expensive Japanese sake worth 500 dollars sit in storage (with a retention period of 2~3 weeks).

What must the sake and shochu industry do in order to remain competitive “winners” in the industry?
-Are you effectively communicating and impressing the quality of your products to customers?
This is the first consideration to be made. The use of materials and verbal communication does not necessarily equate to effective understanding by customers.
For example, do you offer limited promotions?
On site, table tents and creating new menus require already limited time and manpower, with very few restaurants actually able to make such offers. Thus, help from sake manufacturers and wholesalers are greatly appreciated by onsite staff.
Also, more involvement in staff training and study sessions are helpful.



#japanese #restaurants #sake #shochu #training

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First and foremost, get people to sample

By Yuji Matsumoto

Many people have never tried Japanese sake, and even if they have, the most they’ve tried is hot sake. Hardly any will remember the brand name., say “This is a great, try it” and offer a sample with a smile. And once a customer appears interested, take the opportunity to simply explain the information pertinent to support why the beverage is delicious. Therefore, how to create the first opportunity will be the key to success.

Deciding who to communicate the information to is important
Is sufficient training being conducted to servers and bartenders? Offering samples alone to customers will not be sufficient to understand the appeal of Japanese sake to customers. Why is this sake delicious…? This point needs to be thoroughly understood by staff members. Also, because sampling alone will not be sufficient to understand the flavors of the sake brand, always pair the sake with food for sampling. It’s important for customers to taste the drastic change in the sake flavor with their own palate.

To get the customers to try sake
Find things to say to the customer’s to get them to react, “Oh, really?” For example, “How about this dry, refreshing sake brand AAA from Niigata prefecture, that goes great with sushi?” Or perhaps, “would you like to try brand BBB from Akita prefecture, which goes great with teriyaki because of it’s full body?” During sales pitches, explain to customers in simple terms that entice the customer’s interest.





#japanese #nigori #niigata #sake #shochu

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Enjoying Sake and Tastes of Fall

By Yuji Matsumoto

In these modern days, we’re feeling less seasonality – but Japanese food has always focused on enjoying the four seasons. Indeed, vegetables, fruit and fish are at their best in fall to satisfy the so-called “autumn appetite.” Let’s go back to what Japanese food is about; here are some tips on some “tsumami” (small dishes to be enjoyed with alcoholic beverages) perfect for this season.

Mushrooms are a must for fall. When cooking fall mushrooms, avoid rinsing with water and heating for a long time, and cook quickly to keep their fragrance and texture. They are great grilled or sautéed alone, but shiitake, which contain guanylic acid, considered one of the three great umami generators, greatly increases its umami when cooked with glutamic acid of konbu, so cook them together as suimono (clear broth) or dobin-mushi (steam-boiled vegetables/meat in earthenware pot). In this case, pair the dish with a fragrant Junmai Ginjo.

Tuna, bonito, salmon, barracuda, the various mackerels, saury, yellowtail, and snapper are some of the notable fish that are excellent at this time of the year. If making nigiri, lightly broil to bring out the sweetness in the fish immediately before making them into sushi that is heavenly when paired with sake. And don’t forget the condiments. Use ginger, scallions, garlic, yuzu, Japanese pepper, and grated daikon radish to accentuate the main ingredients’ flavors.
For sake pairings, Junmai Daiginjo and Ginjo go well with white-fleshed fish, and Kimoto and Yamahai for fattier fish. For nitsuke (fish boiled with soy sauce mixture), sweeter Junmai go well.





#beer #japanese #price #sake #wine

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