5 Delicious Japanese Sake to Try From Kyoto, One of Japan’s Best Sake Areas
Boasting the second largest production of sake in Japan, Kyoto is where you will find unique and delicious Japanese sake produced everywhere in the region. Below are five recommended Japanese sake from Kyoto.
1. Tsuki no Katsura Kyoto Iwai Junmai Daiginjo "Heiankyo"
Founded in 1675 in Kyoto's Fushimi area, Masuda Tokubee Shoten is one of the three major sake breweries in Japan. It pays special attention to the seasonality and unique qualities of its Japanese sake, implementing novel brewing techniques while keeping traditional elements.
This brewery has long been famous throughout Japan for being the origin of nigorizake (cloudy Japanese sake) and koshu (aged Japanese sake). In recent years, however, it has embarked on new challenges, such as collaborating with foreign brands and brewing Japanese sake with low alcohol content.
One of the signature products of this brewery is the Heiankyo (3,300 JPY (incl. tax) for 720 ml), a junmai daiginjo (a kind of Japanese sake that is brewed using only rice, water, yeast, and malted rice) that is created by slowly and carefully brewing a special kind of Kyoto sake rice called "Iwai." It is characterized by its refined taste and mild sweetness that is inherent to rice. This Japanese sake is best chilled before drinking.
2. Eikun Junmaishu
Saito Shuzo, headquartered in Fushimi, is a brewery that was established in 1895. The company used to be a dry goods dealer, but its ninth generation owner decided to shift to the business of Japanese sake brewing. Since then, Saito Shuzo has produced a lot of famous Japanese sake using advanced brewing techniques that it has acquired over years in the business.
The signature Japanese sake of this brewery is the Eikun Junmaishu (1,241 JPY (incl. tax) for 720 ml), named after the kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) of the company’s ninth generation owner.
This Japanese sake is known for its clear color and refreshing and light taste. It is the perfect drink during meals as it goes really well with any dish. It can be drunk at any temperature, from cold to warm. If you want to savor its mild dryness and crisp taste, make sure to chill it well. Now, if you prefer to enjoy its rich, deep taste, then it is best drunk warm.
3. Tamanohikari Sake Brewing Junmai Ginjo Shuraku (Tanrei Karakuchi)
Founded in Fushimi in 1673, Tamanohikari Sake Brewing is a long-established brewery that has been continuously making "better sake than last year” since it started operations. It is particular about the rice, water, and koji (rice malt) it uses for its Japanese sake, as it aims to create a classic Japanese sake that can enhance any meal and that people won’t get tired of even if they drink it every day.
Tamanohikari Sake Brewing is also well known for stopping the production of Japanese sake with added alcohol, which had been mainstream back then, in 1964 in favor of the junmaishu variety that is made only with rice and koji.
The recommended Junmai Ginjo Shuraku (990 JPY (incl. tax) for 720 ml) from this brewery is a junmai ginjo (a kind of Japanese sake that uses only rice, water, yeast, and koji, with the rice milled to 60% or less of its original size) that is brewed by hand from polished rice. It has a crisp taste with a light and dry (“tanrei karakuchi” in Japanese) flavor profile, so it maximizes the flavors of dishes. It also boasts excellent value for your money, so it is the perfect Japanese sake to have on hand to be enjoyed with your daily meals.
4. Tamagawa Junmai Nigori
Kinoshita Brewery was founded in 1842 in the town of Kumihama in Kyotango City, located in the northwestern part of Kyoto. This brewery has been working hard to create Japanese sake that will please its customers under the motto “making delicious Japanese sake with all our heart.” It is also famous for being the first brewery in the industry to hire a foreigner as a toji (master brewer).
Believing that the change in taste brought about by time and temperature is the main appeal of Japanese sake, Kinoshita Brewery has been working on the long-term aging of its Japanese sake. It has been taking on various challenges, such as making Japanese sake through a manufacturing method from the Edo Period (1603 - 1867) and developing Japanese sake that can be drunk on the rocks.
The recommended Tamagawa Junmai Nigori (1,430 JPY (incl. tax) for 720 ml) is a limited-edition product that is shipped every April. Nigorizake is characterized by its smooth texture and rich taste, so it will give you the perfect refreshing sensation when you drink it. While this Japanese sake can be enjoyed cold, it is better drunk warm as its delicious taste becomes more pronounced when it is heated up.
5. Sawaya Matsumoto Shuhari Gohyakumangoku
Matsumoto Sake Brewing was established in Kyoto in 1791. It moved its warehouse to the Fushimi area in 1923 in search of quality water. Its wooden warehouse and red brick building that line the riverbank have been designated as a “Heritage of Industrial Modernization” by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry for being a “Fushimi Japanese Brewery Asset.”
Sawaya Matsumoto Shuhari Gohyakumangoku (1,320 JPY (incl. tax) for 720 ml) has a pleasant taste with a light and clean finish, characterized by its refreshing, citrusy aroma. It has a refreshing and light taste, so it is recommended for people who are not used to drinking Japanese sake.
At its core, Japanese sake is made from good rice and water. However, even if the ingredients are the same, the taste of the resulting Japanese sake can still change depending on the production area and brewer. Try out different kinds of Japanese sake to find your favorite!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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