Sakemochida Brewery is located in the city of Izumo which is in the northeast of Shimane Prefecture. Bordered by the Sea of Japan to the north, and Shinji Lake to the east, it is famous for the Izumo-Taisha Shinto shrine, the oldest in the country with a creation dating back to the 7th century. You may have heard of the "Kamiarizuki", the "month of the Gods present". It is in the temple of Izumo, in the month of October, that according to Shinto beliefs all the gods of Japan gather for their annual meeting. They are of course absent in the rest of the country where October is called "the month without gods" (Kannazuki).
The birthplace of sake is not formally established, but among the hypotheses put forward, Izumo is a convincing candidate. Two 8th century writings, the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, which bring together many ancient Japanese mythological facts, are the first to evoke a legend referring to sake. In these texts we find the story of a man named Susanoo no Mikoto slaying the fearsome eight-headed dragon by making him drink a sake called "Yashiori no Sake", literally sake with eight fermentations (certainly a beverage with a higher alcohol content than the usual drinks of the time). And this terrible fight is taking place... in Izumo!
It is still in Izumo that one finds the temple of Saka Jinja, which shelters the god of sake.In the ancestral beliefs, the Shinto gods ended their annual meeting of Izumo-Taisha by gathering at Saka Jinja for a great feast, necessarily with a generous amount of sake! An additional clue to support the theory of Izumo as the place of origin of Nihonshu.
Today, every October 13, the festival of Doburoku, the "homemade" sake that is made in the sanctuary itself, is celebrated. Many breweries come to commemorate the beginning of the production season.
ABOUT SAKEMOCHIDA HONTEN
Whatever the origin of this beverage, the tradition of sake has long been firmly rooted in Izumo. This is the feeling you get when you visit the Sakemochida Honten brewery. The brewery is located in one of the old wooden buildings that can be admired in the heart of the classic Kitano Kaido neighborhood. Although it was officially founded only 140 years ago, the brewery is a continuation of an almost ancient way of brewing sake in the family.
The "Izumo Toji", the local guild, is known to have an ultra advanced knowledge of the techniques and during the Meiji period (1868-1912) Sakemochida Honten was very much involved in the first scientifically based studies in close collaboration with the fermentation specialists of the time. The brewery was the first in the region to set up an in-situ laboratory, inviting researchers with the idea of improving its methods. The brewery grew rapidly, reaching volumes of more than 1500 goku per year (283,000 liters, which was enormous at the time), before declining after the war due to a lack of raw materials.
It is believed here that there is a direct link between the ethics of Toji and the quality of sake. The personality and attitude of each individual has an impact not only on the quality, but also on the commercial success of the products and the overall reputation of the region.
Yamasan Masamune 90
An example of this work is Yamasan Masamune 90, a sake made with only 90% polished rice. The polishing is done here manually, using a rudimentary semai machine. One might expect a rustic sake full of flaws, but this is without counting on the level of completeness achieved by Toji. It all comes down to starting and controlling fermentation. It is almost a sixth sense that comes into play to achieve a small miracle, a sake of surprising complexity.
The nose is exuberant, with sweet fruity notes of banana and pear. On the palate, it is unctuous, well balanced, between acidity, umami and power. Exquisite, complex, it is rich, fresh and has a nice length. A very successful sake with a strong character, with 18% alcohol. Enough to slay a dragon!
Yamasan Masamune Yamahaï
The other reference we have selected at Sakemochida Honten is Yamasan Masamune Yamahaï. It is produced from Kairyo Omachi rice, this time 70% polished.
It is a yamahaï with discreet and elegant aromas. The nose is lactic, on cereals, fresh honey, ripe fruits. The mouth is silky and soft with a power that comes gradually. One discovers a bitterness which evokes cereals, straw, a great complexity, with light smoky, roasted notes. A long maturation of 3 years, at low temperature, allows a beautiful integration of the aromatic components, the sweetness and the bitterness become rounder.
In the Yamahaï category, it is a clean and elegant sake that can go with various accompaniments, from sashimi to cooked dishes, meats and dishes in sauce.