What’s better than one bottle of sake? Three bottles of sake! Especially when they come from a brewery with the creative skills and history of the Kikuchi Sake Brewery in Okayama Prefecture.
Read on to learn the stories and tasting profiles of three very different types of nihonshu: Sanzen tokubetsu junmai, Kiseki No Osake and Sanzen junmai daiginjo.
Let’s start with the history of the Kikuchi brewery. Founded in 1891 in Tamashima, an industrial sector of Kurashiki City, the brewery exists in an area that’s famous for its trading ports. In the past, large junk ships called sengoku were docked in Kurashiki and transported rice and sake between Osaka and Tokyo,
Kikuchi is watched over by To Kikuchi, who took on the role of toji in 1996. Kikuchi-san brings a gentle, sophisticated style to sake production, which is best summed up by his philosophy:
“Brew delicious, crisp sake that one won’t be able to forget after their first sip.”
Another interesting thing about Kikuchi-san’s background is that he’s an engineer and musician, founding the Kurashiki Chamber Orchestra in 1974. He plays Mozart music at the brewery every season because he believes it helps create better sake. He explained:
“We are a brewery that plays music during the entire sake preparation and brewing processes in order to stimulate the yeast positively. Life requires stimulation, and it is characteristic of living things that they cannot function well without it. Listening to music promotes yeast proliferation. In addition, it decreases yeast mortality rates.
The music we play produces sake with a fresh aftertaste and a crisp finish. While we’ve played a variety of music, Mozart is the best. Thus, we play Mozart for over ten years.”
The next generation of the Kikuchi family, Daisuke and Yoko, have taken up the call to promote the brewery to the world and continue to make delicious sake.
Sanzen tokubetsu junami
Of the three, this was the first bottle I tried and I can say it lived up to its name. Sanzen means brilliant and I was blown away with the wonderful mixture of sweet, spicy and savoury flavours that came together in the glass.
The main flavours I got were apple, cinnamon, apricot, pineapple and mushrooms. The sweetness builds in the front of the mouth, with a spicy undercurrent coming up after a couple of sips. Would recommend chilled.
Polishing ratio: 65%
Kiseki No Osake
Translating to ‘sake of miracles,’ this crowd-pleasing nihonshu does what it says on the label. There’s a briny, creamy quality that bursts into the mouth and electrifies the taste buds. It was an unexpected experience because I’m used to a lot of ginjos having fruity aspects. Just goes to show that nothing is ever as you would expect in the sake industry and that keeps it endlessly fascinating.
Overall, this sake is refreshing and sessionable. It’s also brewed with care. The rice strains used to make Kiseki No Osake are grown without chemicals and pesticides.
Polishing ratio: 55%
Sanzen junmai daiginjo
Last and certainly not least is the effervescent Sanzen junmai daiginjo. This has all the qualities of an epic daiginjo: fruity, flavoursome and way too easy to drink!
A clean texture appears on the tongue, acting as a palate cleanser and a way to enjoy your next mouthful of food. Mandarin orange, pear, grapefruit and anise are the main flavours that I detected.
Polishing ratio: 50%
This sake collection was kindly provided by Sorakami, a premium sake provider in the UK. Shop for some amazing nihonshu and enjoy a variety of styles and tastes!