Japan boasts an eclectic alcohol industry, featuring all kinds of interesting beverages, like honkaku shochu and daiginjo sake. Japanese plum wine/umeshu is another unique drink that has gained popularity in western countries, and I’ve been eager to get my hands on a bottle. I’ve managed to do just that by trying a bottle of umeshu crafted by the Umenishiki Yamakawa brewery.
Located in Ehime, the Umenishiki brewery uses locally sourced ume plums to make their umeshu. The plums have been steeped in sake and mixed with sugar to provide a fruity and smooth texture. I was inspired to try umeshu after reading Stephan Lyman and Chris Bunting’s excellent The Complete Guide To Japanese Drinks, which goes into detail about plum alcohol production.
Interestingly, the ume plums are much different to the western variety. Rather than being soft and juicy, Japanese plums are hard-skinned and dense. They are used to make umeboshi, a pickled plume base that’s used for medical purposes and is handy for breaking down natural lactic acid in tired muscles. The precision of making umenboshi has been transferred to creation of umeshu like the Umenishiki variety.
The drink has a citrusy aroma, which reminded me of the scent of fresh fruit during Spring. The first sip revealed a deeper fruitiness that built into an enjoyable sweetness. After a few more sips, a subtle tanginess came out. It was a mouthfeel of sweet and sour that left me wholly satisfied.
Drinking the umeshu was easy. It didn’t have any overpowering notes and I found it to be very light and pleasing to the palate.
As far as my first plume wine goes, I was impressed with the Umenishiki umeshu and will certainly be looking to try more drinks from the brewery in the future.
Ingredients: sake, Ehime plums, sugar