Whilst Kuncho’s English language online presence is unfortunately minimal, it’s clear that they’re a highly respectable brewery, extremely proud of their underground water supply, and wholly committed to producing excellent quality ‘old-fashioned, unchanging taste’ sake. Housed in a beautifully grand, late-Genroku period (1688-1704) building in Hita city, in the Oita prefecture of Kyoshu island, Kuncho also operate a sake museum and shop.
As a vegetarian, the recommended food pairings of roast pork and mackerel were unfortunately out. However, it being World Sake Day 2020 and all, I remained optimistic that the brewery’s Junmaishu (using Toyama Gohyakumangoku and Oita Hinohikari rice), with its enticing, rainbow-foil kanji label, would speak for itself. I decided instead to experiment with a few gos, served both chilled and lightly warmed through…
Appearance: Typical, still and colourless body; appears perfectly filtered.
Nose: Medium intensity cereal / starch fragrance, with a distinct soy note. Certainly at its most pronounced when chilled.
Palate: Umami-driven, cereal / rice flavour, again with punchy soy and additional subtle citrus notes. Served warm, this acidity is muted, yet Kaorucho retains its drinkability and ‘classic’ sake taste profile. Short, dry finish at either temperature.
Verdict: Above all, this is a beautiful, no-nonsense junmai, in which simplicity is certainly the key attribute. It may just be the bottle you’d want to grab if (for some bizarre reason) aliens landed and demanded a perfect example of junmai classification nihonshu!
Sure, it shines a little brighter served chilled, but gentle heating rounds off the edges just enough to make it the perfect choice to introduce to a (extra-terrestrial?) friend, otherwise repelled by sake characteristic soy flavours.
Seimaibuai/Rice Polishing Ratio: 65%
Rice: Toyama Gohyakumangoku and Oita Hinohikari
Bio: Jordan Smithcroft is a Manchester-based healthcare worker with an interest in Japanese culture, including Studio Ghibli, Haruki Murakami and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Having travelled to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto in 2019, he hopes to return to see more of Japan in the near future.
Jordan was shortlisted for the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Best Young Beer Writer in 2016 and has since expanded his interest into sake. He is currently undertaking the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) sake qualification in the hopes of becoming a judge and educator.