Sake: a clear choice – Interviewed by Rick Wallace from The Australian newspaper.

Andre Bishop at Nihonshu

 

MENTION sake to an Australian, and the response may provoke an involuntary shudder and grim memories of something warm they poured down their throat on the wrong side of midnight on a big night out. Or maybe they’ll recall something non­descript being decanted with little fanfare to accompany the sushi at their local Japanese restaurant.

An increasing number of Australians, however, are discovering the pleasures of drinking premium sake, at home or in the growing number of specialist sake bars that are popping up in our ­capital cities.

Melbourne-based restaurateur and bar owner Andre Bishop has made it his mission to elevate Japan’s most renowned drink to the status he says it deserves — something akin to that of wine. Since opening his first bar in 2000, Bishop has done perhaps more than any other Australian to raise the profile (and consumption) of Japanese sake in Australia.

“I grew up obsessed by manga and anime and went to Japan for the first time in 1996 to go backpacking,’’ Bishop says. “When I came back I thought: ‘How can I turn my passion and appreciation for this country into my livelihood?’

“So in 2000, I opened my first sake bar (Nihonshu, in Melbourne city). In the late 90s sake was really just in the realm of Japanese restaurants. I wanted to take it out of that and deliver it as a beverage that people could enjoy at a bar. My mantra was to get more Australians to drink more sake.”

In that task he has suc­ceeded. Official figures show importation of sake has been growing at more than 10 per cent a year for most of the past five years.

“Through most of the noughties it was still a novelty,” Bishop says. “It was a slow progression, people were drinking it, but it’s ­really only been in the last four years that it has really gained groundswell. It has coincided with that interest in food and food culture … and just a growing awareness of craft and boutique produce.”

In my four-year stint as The Australian’s correspondent in Japan I sampled many different sakes, ranging from the very bottom (the One Cup Ozeki that’s available for less than $2 in vending machines) to top drops retailing for several hundred dollars a bottle.

I would usually choose a sake according to region, picking out prefectures such as Niigata that are famous for the quality of their rice, and occasionally choosing Fukushima sake in solidarity with the troubles the prefecture experienced after the nuclear accident.

But Bishop says styles don’t conform to regions and it’s better to work out your flavour preferences and match the sake to the occasion or the food you are eating. “There is such a broad range of flavours — sweet and dry, full bodied and light — the sake world is just as ­diverse as the wine world.”

Sake can be broadly divided into two types: junmai and hon­jozo. Junmai sake is made with rice, water and koji (the mould that sparks the fermentation process), whereas honjozo sakes have a small quantity of alcohol added. It’s not a case of one being superior to the other, they are different styles. A Japanese friend insists junmai sakes are kinder to your head if you drink too many, ­although I am not so sure.

The other main classification system is based on the level of polishing of the rice. Among the premium sakes, daiginjo sake has at least 50 per cent of each grain milled off, while ginjo has more than 40 per cent removed. Basic premium sake has at least 30 per cent of the outside of each grain removed. Below this, sake is usually designated futsu-sho, or everyday sake.

Bishop’s Nihonshu sake bar in Lonsdale Street is named after the drink’s name in Japan. Sake in Japanese is simply an alcoholic drink, whereas nihonshu translates as Japanese liquor.

Bishop has another restaurant, Kumo Izakaya, in East Brunswick, pairing sake with high-end izakaya (tapas) style food.

He and Japanese-born Sydney chef Tetsuya Wakuda are the only Australians to be qualified as sake masters and sit among a group of just 47 worldwide, most of whom are in the industry in Japan.

Over cups of sake at Nihonshu, Bishop tells me his sensei, or mentor, in the sake world was John Gauntner, an American who is perhaps the leading sake authority in the English-speaking world. The name rings a bell so I pull out my phone to discover he is on my contact list.

Just before I returned to Australia last year I went to a tasting of famous brewer Dassai’s premium sake. Gauntner was interpreting for the Dassai chairman’s speech and was so fluent I grabbed him afterwards, thinking he was purely an interpreter, to ask if he could interpret for an interview I was chasing with Japan’s PM, Shinzo Abe. Somewhat taken aback, he replied he was nowhere near up to the standard required, and he sounded word-perfect on this occasion only because the speech was about sake, his life’s passion.

As Bishop pours a glass of barrel-aged sake, or koshu, he explains that the labels, which are usually in Japanese, are one of the main barriers to acceptance among Australian drinkers. He has been advising brewers to keep the Japanese characters on the front label while translating their story on the back.

“It is something that I have been campaigning on and having some success with. Traditionally it is all in Japanese … we would like to see where it comes from, who the brewer was, what are their comments about this type of sake,’’ he says. “Thankfully, Japanese brewers are understanding that if they want to educate Western people about sake it is going to be advantageous for them to tell their story on the label.’

Going out for Sake

Sydney: Kuki Tanuki on Erskineville Road has an interesting range of sakes and is dedicated to explaining sake to Australian drinkers. It also offers a range of small bites, including sushi and sashimi. Fuku, on George St, has a nice range of sakes and some more elaborate food offerings. The menu also explains the origin and flavours of the sakes sold.

Melbourne: Nihonshu, in the CBD, shares premises with Izakaya Chuji, one of the oldest izakaya restaurants in Australia. It has a big range of sake and shochu, which can be drunk with food from Chuji. The drinks list gives full explanations of each sake and grades them on a graphic flavour scale. Kumo Izakaya in East Brunswick, Andre Bishop’s main restaurant, also has a long list of sakes and shochu, as well as Japanese craft beer, and serves high-end izakaya food. Akachochin, on the banks of the Yarra in Melbourne’s South Wharf, is another izakaya that takes its sake seriously with a great list of 40 sakes with food to match.

Perth: Fuku, in Perth’s Mosman Park, claims to have the largest range of sake in Western Australia with more than 500 varieties. Specialising in omakase teppanyaki (grilled dishes chosen by the chef and cooked in front of you), it’s receiving good reviews for its sake and Japanese food.

Brisbane: Trusted friends recommend Sake Restaurant and Bar, which now has branches in Sydney and Melbourne too. Located on the riverside Eagle St Pier in central Brisbane, it has quality Japanese food and a large range of sakes and shochu (distilled spirit) by the glass and bottle. The two branches of Sono Restaurant — Sono Portside in Hamilton and Sono Restaurant in the Queen St Mall — offer a good range of sake with brief explanations on the menu.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/executive-living/food-drink/sake-a-clear-choice/story-e6frg8jo-1227051780365

Meet Australia’s sake samurai – ABC Radio interview with Andre Bishop & Tetsuya Wakuda

Listen to interview here: 
http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2014/08/fbe_20140816_0945.mp3
Saturday 16 August 2014 9:45AM

Andre Bishop credits his suburban childhood with sparking his interest in Japan- it was the 1980s and to a young boy with self described ‘nerdy interests’, Japan, with its walkmans and manga comics held strong appeal.

After making his first trip to the country as a young adult, he was hooked. Now he has carved out a niche, promoting a product that is synonymous with the Land of the Rising Sun- the traditional drink of sake.

Bishop is one of two known sake samurai in Australia, alongside renowned Japanese born, Sydney based chef Tetsuya Wakuda. He was given the title by the sake industry in Japan in honour of his knowledge of the drink and his efforts to promote it abroad.

Sake, which made from fermented rice known as ‘koji’ and water, has humble and rustic origins. It is believed it was originally created when farmers chewed the rice, waiting for it to ferment. Even after more hygienic brewing techniques were mastered, sake did not become more refined until the advent of more advanced technology in the early part of last century. Now there are more than 1,400 sake brewers in Japan, many with their own distinct styles.

With Tetsuya Wakuda joining him to discuss the origins of the drink, Bishop guides Michael Mackenzie through a sake tasting to explore the diversity of the drink.

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IMAGE: BREWING SAKE IN JAPAN (ANDRE BISHOP)
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IMAGE: KOJI RICE USED FOR SAKE (ANDRE BISHOP)

Sipping with the Sake Master #13 Discover New Tastes and Aromas

Sipping with the Sake Master #13 Discover New Tastes and Aromas

12 Aug 2013

This month we conclude the exploration of the new sake arrivals at Sake Online. I hope you have enjoyed discovering the new tastes and aromas that have been presented in this new range.

In this issue of Sipping with the Sake Master I would like to introduce you to Tozai Nigori Kirino Sasayaki Voices in the Mist,Tozai Chie no Izumi Wells of Wisdom Ginjo & Nanbu Bijin Ancient Pillars Junmai Daiginjo.

 

Tozai Nigori Kirino Sasayaki Voices in the MistDaimon Shuzo

Nihonshu-do: 5
Alcohol: 14.9%
Seimaibuai: 60% (40% of rice grain polished away)
Acidity: 1.1
Rice: Gohyakumangoku / Nihonbare

Made with a unique blend of 3 rices: Yamada Nishiki, Gohyakumangoku, and Nihonbare and milled an additional 5% over the grade minimum to create a dry cloudy sake with beautiful finesse.

Aroma profile: Prominent overipe banana, pear and citrus notes
Taste profile: Very light and accessable nigori style sake
with a clean dry finish that is not typical of most nigori
Drinks well with spicy tuna roll

Tozai Chie no Izumi Wells of Wisdom GinjoNihonshu-do: 5.5
Alcohol: 14.9%
Seimaibuai: 60% (40% of rice grain polished away)
Acidity: 1.5
Rice: Gohyakumangoku / Nihonbare

Crafted with pure, natural spring water from this family brewery nestled at the base of Osaka’s scenic Ikoma mountains.

Aroma profile: Light rice laden nose with a touch of honey
Taste profile: clean & dry finish with stoned fruit flavours.
Drinks well with: oysters natural & cured kingfish.

 

Tozai hails from Daimon Shuzo (also know as Sakahan Brewery), the parent company that produces Mukune, “Root Of Innocence”, another great sake we have introduced on Sake Online. Daimon brewery is one of a very few, but growing number of breweries where the brewery owner also plays the role of skilled Toji (master brewer). Yasutaka Daimon, whose brewery has been in the family for six generations, feels this is the ultimate way to control quality of the entire process – from raw ingredient procurement to bottling. The Daimon brewery is also blessed with its location in the shadows of the Katano mountains which allows Yasutaka to pipe water rich in minerals directly from the underground springs. Tozai represents a unique collaboration between a sixth-generation Japanese sake brewery—Daimon Shuzo, a prominent Kyoto-based American artist—Daniel Kelly, and America’s leading importer of chilled, premium, artisanal Japanese sake—Vine Connections. Tozai means “East-West” in Japanese and evokes the spirit of the alliance that created this special sake. We have combined our vast experience, skills, and passions to create a boutique sake that will thrill your senses of smell, taste, and sight. Drink from the Well.

 

SAKAHAN HISTORY
• Mukune Brand Premium Sake is made by Daimon Brewery
• Mukune sake is named after an old Osaka village called MUKUNE.
• Daimon Brewery is also known as SAKAHAN Brewery
• Daimon also produces Tozai

 

♦ Kura History ♦

Daimon Shuzo (aka Sakahan), founded in 1826, is located at the foot of the scenic Ikomamountain range in Katano City.

Katano occupies a well-known spot in Japanese history. During the Heian era (over 1000 years ago), the aristocracy of Western Japan flocked to Katano to enjoy the very beautiful scenery that abounded there including lovely cherry blossoms in the spring and the verdant surrounding mountains.

Hunting was the main sport of the gentry and cotton seed oil and silk production were the usual industries of the residents.

Sake production began during the Edo period, but of the several sake-producing firms originally present, only Daimon Shuzo still remains.

 

♦ The Sake 

“The sake we make is known by the brand name Rikyubai and also by the name Mukune. Our sake is, in general, full flavored but mellow and balanced. Our higher grades of sake are often very lightly laced with fruit essences such as pear and peach. A nice acidity suffuses the flavor, allowing it to spread out evenly.”

 

♦ Size and Special Characteristics 

Daimon Shuzo produces about 500 “koku.” As one koku (the traditional measure of sake in Japan) is 180 liters, about 90 kiloliters is brewed here each year, in the traditional brewing season which runs from October to May. This is fairly small by industry standards, but allows Daimon Shuzo to strictly control the quality and style of the sake they produce.

 

♦ Current Director / Owner / Master Brewer 

<< Photo: Current Director, Yasutaka Daimon

Yasutaka Daimon is the sixth-generation director of Daimon Shuzo. He notes that in Japan there has been a recent trend away from sake and toward other beverages like wine.

“We take great pride in our traditional product and I feel that the distinctive taste and manner of drinking sake is inherently tied to the Japanese culture and spirit. I promise to endeavor to continue to produce our high-quality sake with the hope that future generations of all people can enjoy and savor this fine and relaxing style of drinking sake.”

 

♦ Notable Quotes from Master Daimon 

“The most important factor involved with producing good sake is the water supply. We have been blessed with a natural spring providing water which is rich in minerals pure enough to be used in the production of excellent sake. Many people have shown an interest in our water alone, preferring to use it when they do the Japanese tea ceremony, or even for healthy consumption at home in regular tea and coffee. We have also been growing our own Yamada Nishiki rice, the king of sake rice, in cooperation with local rice growers, thus keeping us close to the community in yet another way.”

 

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

 

Nanbu Bijin Ancient Pillars Junmai DaiginjoNanbu Bijin

Nihonshu-do +3
Alcohol 17.9%
Seimaibuai 35%
Acidity 1.4
Rice Yamada Nishiki

Brewed by a famous veteran master brewer with more than 35 years of experience in one of the coldest and snowiest regions of Japan.

Aroma profile: Highly aromatic nose of candy & friut loops
Taste profile: luscious, rich and full body with a lingering finish whilst
retaining a decent acidity
Drinks well with: tuna yukke

 

♦ Kura History ♦

Nanbu Bijin Brewery (formerly known as Kuji Shuzo) is located in northern Japan’s Ninohe City, an area long referred to as “Nanbu no Kuni.” It is an area blessed with lush and beautiful natural reserves, fine water, two national parks, and a lake. We were established in 1902, but at first were only a sake retailer. In 1915 we acquired the necessary licenses and began to brew sake. Our facilities lie on what was once known as the Okumura Kaido, old National Route Number 4. The all-glass front of the main building gives the proper impression of a shop, while the kura (brewery building) behind it is a gorgeous, all-wood, traditional structure. Its ancient, thick pillars and their shining dark color convey the long history of the place.

 

♦ The Sake ♦

In 1951, we decided to stop making the sweet sake so common back then, a style with plenty of off-flavors. Instead, we decided to brew “clean and beautiful” sake. Hence, we created the Nanbu Bijin brand name to personify our sake. Nanbu stands for the region, and Bijin (meaning beautiful woman) for the delicate, light, and clean nature of our sake. Our sake is brewed with medium-hard water that is purified naturally as it courses through the mountain rock on its way to the sea. We use Hito-mebore, Toyonishiki and Sasanishiki sake rice and of course, our sake is brewed by a Nanbu-area toji.

 

♦ The People ♦

<< Photo: Kuramoto Kuji Hideo and Son, Kuji Kosuke

We employ about 25 people at Nanbu Bijin. We are still very much a family-run organization. About six people are involved in the brewing process, one of them a former sumo wrestler! The future of Nanbu Bijin lies with our present chief of production, young and energetic Kosuke Kuji. Slated to be the 7th generation kuramoto, he has already come to represent the face of Nanbu Bijin. “I want as many people as possible to know of and taste the sake we brew; it is a piece of our history, our culture, and of Iwate Prefecture.”

 

♦ Size and Special Characteristics ♦

We brew about 1200 koku of Nanbu Bijin each year, which amounts to about 200 kiloliters. This just about suits our size in terms of personnel and equipment. If we became much bigger, we might not be able to control our quality as well as we would like.

 

♦ Notable Sidelights 

We have a strong web presence (in Japanese language only), with lots of information on sake brewing. Check it out at www.nanbubijin.co.jp. Also, Ninohe City, beyond being blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, is also rich in historical assets and anecdotes. You can learn more than you will ever need to know about Ninohe at
www.w-net.ne.jp/ninohe/ (again only Japanese). Should you travel to Ninohe, you can see the oldest sake vending machine in Japan, a Taisho Era (early 1900s) wooden box that sold free-running sake for 5 sen (half a yen). There was also a spigot for water for rinsing your cup. It is now in the Ninohe City Historical Folk Materials Museum.
♦ Toji (Master Brewer) ♦

Our toji, Mr. Hajime Yamaguchi, is truly amazing. He has been with us since 1964, more than a quarter of a century. He has won countless awards from the tax department, as well as from the Nanbu toji association. In 1992, he was selected by the Ministry of Labor as one of the 100 Great Craftsmen. While fervently preserving traditions, he actively develops new technology and contributes much to the industry. Yet, he remains humble. “No matter how long I make sake, I am clueless about brewing. In the end, it is a matter of understanding the relationship between the water and the rice, and it is difficult to try and grasp the infinite variations between them.” Sake is born of the experience and efforts of the toji, and their love for the sake they brew. We are proud and privileged to have such a skilled and intuitive toji with us.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Andre Bishop is a Melbourne based Sake Professional and is recognized as one of Australia’s leading authorities on Sake. His 12 years of experience in designing Asian and specifically Japanese venues include well know Melbourne establishments Robot Bar and Golden Monkey. He currently owns the 22 year old Japanese dining institution Izakaya Chuji and Sake Bar Nihonshu. He is also co-owner and founder of Melbourne’s flagship Izakaya and Sake Bar, Kumo in Brunswick East. Andre studied Sake in Japan and is the only Australian who currently holds a Level 2 Sake Professional Certificate from the International Sake Education Council.

Andre is available for Consulting on Sake, Japanese Beverage Lists, Sake Staff Training and Sake Equipment. Contact: andrebishopsan@gmail.com

Sake Master Andre’s blog: www.sakemaster.com.au 
Twitter: sakemasterandre

 

Sipping with the Sake Master #12
Sipping with the Sake Master #11
Sipping with the Sake Master #10
Sipping with the Sake Master #9
Sipping with the Sake Master #8
Sipping with the Sake Master #7
Sipping with the Sake Master #6.2
Sipping with the Sake Master #6.1
Sipping with the Sake Master #5.2
Sipping with the Sake Master #5.1
Sipping with the Sake Master #4
Sipping with the Sake Master #3
Sipping with the Sake Master #2
Sipping with the Sake Master #1
Please click here for Sake Master Andre Bishop’s older interview

Sipping with the Sake Master #11 Deeper into our new arrivals

Sipping with the Sake Master #11 Deeper into our new arrivals

02 May 2013

Last month we proudly announced 10 new arrivals into the Sake Online stable, and hopefully you have had a chance to sample our first highlight, the Junmai Daiginjo, “Soul of the Sensei” from Doi Shuzo in Shizouka.

This month I am going to detail three more from this amazing range of sake.

These three Junmai sake are great examples of the brewers art, remembering, that Junmai is “pure rice’ sake that contains no addition brewers alcohol added during the brewing process.

Nanbu Bijin’s “Southern Beauty Junmai Ginjo” is on the softer side but both “Mukune Root of Innocence Tokubetsu Junmai” and “Mantensei Star-Filled Sky Junmai Ginjo” have great body and richness that well are suited to a variety of food.

Kanpai!

 

Southern Beauty Junmai GinjoNanbu BijinNihonshu-do +1
Alcohol 16.0%
Seimaibuai 50% (50% polished away)
Acidity 1.5
Rice Iwate #2

Aroma profile: Lolly water and pear pastille
Taste profile: Dry, short finish, some residual sweetness with a hint of anise and
herbaceous notes
Drinks well with teriyaki chicken and yakatori

 

♦ Kura History ♦

Nanbu Bijin Brewery (formerly known as Kuji Shuzo) is located in northern Japan’s Ninohe City, an area long referred to as “Nanbu no Kuni.” It is an area blessed with lush and beautiful natural reserves, fine water, two national parks, and a lake. We were established in 1902, but at first were only a sake retailer. In 1915 we acquired the necessary licenses and began to brew sake. Our facilities lie on what was once known as the Okumura Kaido, old National Route Number 4. Theall-glass front of the main building gives the proper impression of a shop, while the kura (brewery building) behind it is a gorgeous, all-wood, traditional structure. Its ancient, thick pillars and their shining dark color convey the long history of the place.

 

♦ The Sake ♦

In 1951, we decided to stop making the sweet sake so common back then, a style with plenty of off-flavors. Instead, we decided to brew “clean and beautiful” sake. Hence, we created the Nanbu Bijin brand name to personify our sake. Nanbu stands for the region, and Bijin (meaning beautiful woman) for the delicate, light, and clean nature of our sake. Our sake is brewed with medium-hard water that is purified naturally as it courses through the mountain rock on its way to the sea. We use Hito-mebore, Toyonishiki and Sasanishiki sake rice (see Rice Varieties for more), and of course, our sake is brewed by a Nanbu-area toji.

 

♦ The People 

<< Photo: Kuramoto Kuji Hideo and Son, Kuji Kosuke

We employ about 25 people at Nanbu Bijin. We are still very much a family-run organization. About six people are involved in the brewing process, one of them a former sumo wrestler! The future of Nanbu Bijin lies with our present chief of production, young and energetic Kosuke Kuji. Slated to be the 7th generation kuramoto, he has already come to represent the face of Nanbu Bijin. “I want as many people as possible to know of and taste the sake we brew; it is a piece of our history, our culture, and of Iwate Prefecture.”

 

♦ Size and Special Characteristics ♦

We brew about 1200 koku of Nanbu Bijin each year, which amounts to about 200 kiloliters. This just about suits our size in terms of personnel and equipment. If we became much bigger, we might not be able to control our quality as well as we would like.

 

♦ Notable Sidelights 

We have a strong web presence (in Japanese language only), with lots of information on sake brewing. Check it out at www.nanbubijin.co.jp. Also, Ninohe City, beyond being blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, is also rich in historical assets and anecdotes. You can learn more than you will ever need to know about Ninohe at
www.w-net.ne.jp/ninohe/ (again only Japanese). Should you travel to Ninohe, you can see the oldest sake vending machine in Japan, a Taisho Era (early 1900s) wooden box that sold free-running sake for 5 sen (half a yen). There was also a spigot for water for rinsing your cup. It is now in the Ninohe City Historical Folk Materials Museum.

 

♦ Toji (Master Brewer) ♦

Our toji, Mr. Hajime Yamaguchi, is truly amazing. He has been with us since 1964, more than a quarter of a century. He has won countless awards from the tax department, as well as from the Nanbu toji association. In 1992, he was selected by the Ministry of Labor as one of the 100 Great Craftsmen. While fervently preserving traditions, he actively develops new technology and contributes much to the industry. Yet, he remains humble. “No matter how long I make sake, I am clueless about brewing. In the end, it is a matter of understanding the relationship between the water and the rice, and it is difficult to try and grasp the infinite variations between them.” Sake is born of the experience and efforts of the toji, and their love for the sake they brew. We are proud and privileged to have such a skilled and intuitive toji with us.

 

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Root of Innocence Tokubetsu JunmaiDaimon ShuzoNihonshu-do +1
Alcohol 16.0%
Seimaibuai 50% (50% polished away)
Acidity 1.5
Rice Iwate #2

Aroma profile: Clean light nose with slight mustiness
Taste profile: Hint of nectarine, peach, and stone fruit with a slight and
pleasant citric sourness and good acidity.
Drink with Tori karaage, gesso karaage or  tempura

 

♦ Kura History ♦

Daimon Shuzo, founded in 1826, is located at the foot of the scenic Ikoma mountain range inKatano City (near Osaka).

Katano occupies a well-known spot in Japanese history. During the Heian era (over 1000 years ago), the aristocracy of Western Japan flocked to Katano to enjoy the very beautiful scenery that abounded there including lovely cherry blossoms in the spring and the verdant surrounding mountains.

Hunting was the main sport of the gentry and cotton seed oil and silk production were the usual industries of the residents.

Sake production began during the Edo period, but of the many sake-producing firms originally present, only Daimon Shuzo and one other remain.

 

♦ The Sake ♦

“The sake we make is known by the brand name Rikyubai. Our sake is, in general, full flavored but mellow and balanced. Our higher grades of sake are often very lightly laced with fruit essences such as pear and peach. A nice acidity suffuses the flavor, allowing it to spread out evenly.”

 

♦ The People ♦

<< Photo: Current Director, Yasutaka Daimon

The current director, Yasutaka Daimon, is the sixth-generation director of Daimon Shuzo. He notes that in Japan there has been a recent trend away from sake and toward other beverages like wine. “We take a great pride in our traditional product and I feel that the distinctive taste and manner of drinking sake is inherently tied to the Japanese culture and spirit. I promise to endeavor to continue to produce our high-quality sake with the hope that future generations of all people can enjoy and savor this fine and relaxing style of drinking sake.”

 

Daimon also runs a restaurant and bar at the brewery — Mukune Tei. The setting is both rustic and quaint, the food quite good, the prices reasonable. It’s a great treat to drink sake where it is made.

 
▲Photo (right) Inside Mukune Tei Restaurant located within Daimon Brewery

 

♦ Size and Special Characteristics ♦

Daimon Shuzo produces about 500 “koku.” As one koku (the traditional measure of sake in Japan) is 180 liters, about 90 kiloliters is brewed here each year, in the traditional brewing season which runs from late October to early April. This is fairly small by industry standards, but allows Daimon Shuzo to strictly control the quality and style of the sake they produce.

 

♦ Notable Quotes from Master Daimon ♦

“The most important factor involved with producing good sake is the water supply. We have been blessed with a natural spring providing water which is rich in minerals pure enough to be used in the production of excellent sake. Many people have shown an interest in our water alone, preferring to use it when they do the Japanese tea ceremony, or even for healthy consumption at home in regular tea and coffee. We have also been growing our own Yamada Nishiki rice, the king of sake rice, in cooperation with local rice growers, thus keeping us close to the community in yet another way.”

 

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Star-Filled Sky Junmai GinjoSuwa ShuzoNihonshu-do +1
Alcohol 16.0%
Seimaibuai 50% (50% polished away)
Acidity 1.5
Rice Iwate #2

Aroma profile: Soft, honey-laced nose with just a tad of fruitiness.
Taste profile: Dry and rich with an aged savoriness.
Drink with steak, cured meats and cheese

 

♦ Kura History ♦

Our kura was founded in 1859. The name Suwa Izumi was taken from a local Shinto shrine, Suwa Jinja. The shrine itself has been in existence since 1278, and is a famous local attraction. Tottori Prefecture, where we are located, is one of the least populated regions of Japan, and undoubtedly has some of the most beautiful nature. Mountains, oceans and wooded areas vie for space, with people in the minority. The clean air and the cold winters make it ideal for sake brewing. Located about two hours outside of Osaka by express train, there are only 23 sake breweries still remaining in the prefecture.

 

♦ The Sake ♦

Overall our sake is dry, and wonderfully approachable as a result of the water from which it is brewed. Our water is extremely soft, but it ferments well at low temperatures. So we make our sake with long, low-temperature fermentation, which allows a gentle ginjo fragrance, and a fresh lively flavor to develop. Also, as we know koji is where good sake begins, we do it our own way, which is to make the koji at a slightly higher temperature than usual. This helps give our sake a clean and pleasant finish.

Our sake, in particular our Daiginjo Ottori, has its fans from all over Japan. We have won nine gold awards in the national New Sake Tasting competitions, including five consecutive awards, from 1991 to 1995, and 12 similar awards within Tottori.

 

♦ The People ♦

“I want to make sake that continues to be competitive, and that calls for using highly polished rice,” states our former president and now chairman of the board, Michio Nanjo. His enthusiasm and willingness to spare no expense and cut no corners is a big reason why our sake is so popular. He keeps extremely busy not only with keeping tabs on how the sake is coming along, but also working with the Tottori Prefecture Brewer’s Union.

 

♦ Size and Special Characteristics ♦

Presently we brew about 1400 koku each winter. One koku is equivalent to 180 liters, so we are brewing about 250 kiloliters a year. Indeed, we are quite small, but we can accomplish all of our goals from where we are.

 

♦ Notable Quotes ♦

Our water source is a well of very soft water (hardness is about 2.0) on our land. We have plenty of it, so we use the same water for everything: brewing, washing tools, even blending. The well is surrounded by lush nature and pine trees; it needs no filtering nor chemical doctoring at all.

 

♦ The Toji (Master Brewer) and Kurabito ♦

Our current toji is Touda Masahiko. His many years of experience with us continue to allow us to provide consistently flavorful sake to our customers. In 1997, our former toji, Mr. Narikawa Mitsuo, retired from active toji work, but remains on with us as an advisor. He was replaced by Mr. Oka Kentaro, a wonderful Hiroshima toji who died in an unfortunate accident in 2004. Both were highly skilled and creative brewers, helping to make Suwa Izumi what it is today. Mr. Narikawa was the only Hiroshima toji in this region while he was active, as was Mr. Oka. In 1996, Narikawa won an award from the Ministry of Labor as being a “Famous Craftsman of this Generation.”

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Andre Bishop is a Melbourne based Sake Professional and is recognized as one of Australia’s leading authorities on Sake. His 12 years of experience in designing Asian and specifically Japanese venues include well know Melbourne establishments Robot Bar and Golden Monkey. He currently owns the 22 year old Japanese dining institution Izakaya Chuji and Sake Bar Nihonshu. He is also co-owner and founder of Melbourne’s flagship Izakaya and Sake Bar, Kumo in Brunswick East. Andre studied Sake in Japan and is the only Australian who currently holds a Level 2 Sake Professional Certificate from the International Sake Education Council.

Andre is available for Consulting on Sake, Japanese Beverage Lists, Sake Staff Training and Sake Equipment. Contact: andrebishopsan@gmail.com

Sake Master Andre’s blog: www.sakemaster.com.au 
Twitter: sakemasterandre

 

Virgin Australia Airlines Inflight Magazine

Interviewed by Virgin Australia for their inflight magazine April 2013

virgin sake

Sipping with the Sake Master #10 The arrival of ten new sakes

sake line upI am proud to announce the arrival of ten new sakes, that have been hand picked by none other than world sake expert John Gaultner. John is my dear friend, sake mentor and knows more about sake than just about anybody in the world!

You can learn more about him here:

http://www.sake-world.com/html/about-john.html

John and I have worked together to bring a beautiful collection of new sake to Sake Online for your discovery and enjoyment. There are eight 300ml bottles and two 720ml bottles. We felt the 300ml bottles are perfect to discover new tastes without having to commit to a larger bottle and are great to share with a friend.

The breweries chosen offer great regional representation spanning the length of Japanese main island Honshu. From Nanbu Bijin and Asamai in the north, we come to Sudo Honke in central Ibaraki, we skirt around Tokyo and come to Doi in Shizouka then we head south to Daimon in Osaka, across to Suwa Shuzo in Tottori and then end our journey at Imada Shuzo Honten in Hiroshima. A great tour of Japan by sake that you can do from the comfort of your own dinner table.

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting each and every sake and giving you some information on the amazing breweries these sakes represent.

See the full range here:

http://www.sakeonline.com.au/articles/11/100.html

 

Sipping with the Sake Master #9 Gift Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Since historically, Valentine’s Day was celebrated as the Feast of Saint Valentine it seems appropriate that food and drink have become an integral part of how most couples celebrate the day. Most restaurants experience their busiest day of the year as couples with newly found love or many years of memories, enjoy a meal, drinks and intimate conversation.

Japanese cuisine is a popular choice on Valentine’s Day as it is fresh and for the most part light and healthy and we all know nothing can match Japanese food better than premium sake. Although Japanese cuisine is the obvious choice to match with sake it doesn’t end there. Sake’s savoury profile, it’s umami, and subtle acidity is a great match to most food, and in our opinion partners better than wine with any seafood.

Whether you are dinning out or preparing a romantic dinner at home or looking for a gift or treat for your partner, we have put together a few suggestions that we hope will inspire you.

http://www.sakeonline.com.au/articles/11/96.html

Drinking Japanese – Broadsheet

By Delima Shanti,
17 December 2012

With their unique flavour profiles, the use of Japanese spirits in cocktail culture is on the rise. We chatted with Japanese beverage expert Andre Bishop to find out more.

Over the past few years, the popularity of sake and the growth contemporary Japanese cuisine has been on the rise in Australian cities, providing us with a refreshing outlook on an often intriguing, innovative and charming culture.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Japanese spirits such as shochu (a rice-based spirit), umeshu (plum liqueur) and yuzushu (a citrus liqueur) have crept into the bar scene as both experimental and inventive ingredient options.

Andre Bishop, owner, sake expert and resident Japanophile at Melbourne’s Kumo Izakaya, explains that cocktails actually make for a perfect “gateway drink” for Japanese spirits.

“Cocktails are a great way to introduce Japanese spirits into the usual line-up of cocktail ingredients. Bars around the world are now looking to see what they can do with spirits like umeshu and shochu and how they can use these the same way you would use vodka or tequila,” he says.

However, as a sake purist, Bishop prefers not to use the refined flavour profile of sake (especially high-grade sake) in cocktails.

“Most premium sake is probably not suited for cocktails because it’s such delicate, subtle taste. The subtle notes can get lost pretty easily in a cocktail,” he explains.

“But with cocktails in mind, there are…certain styles of sake that are better suited in drinks, like the more full-bodied, high-alcohol Nama Genshu sake, or the Nigori sake [a cloudy sake with floating rice sediments] that adds a nice acidity and texture to cocktails.”

And in regards to the largely unknown nature of Japanese beverages, Bishop explains that there really is no great mystery. Put simply, it is better to approach mixing the ingredients into a cocktail with a light touch. The Japanese palate is in general subtler, lighter and less boisterous than the usual cocktail ingredients we are familiar with, so all you need to do is treat the process with a bit of care.

“Part of what makes Japanese cocktail ingredients so special is that it brings new flavour profiles and even textures that you don’t get with popular Western ingredients,” Bishop says.

“Some more modern sake companies are now making sweeter, carbonated sakes that are almost like champagne and are great in tall cocktails and spritzers.”

That said, the world of cocktails is all about discovering and experimenting with new flavours, and with modern sushi bars and izakayas now a common fixture in most cities, it only makes sense that Japanese alcohols are now taking their worthy place on the shelf next to other worldly staples like vodka, gin and tequila.

kumoizakaya.com.au

http://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/food-and-drink/article/drinking-japanese