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The Akita Seishu Kariho brewery was founded in 1913 in Akita Prefecture. This area is located at the extreme northwest of Honshu island, a mountainous area with very cold winters, and heavy snowfall. Many beautiful rices exist here, and very pure water; making it the ideal environment for quality sake production. The peculiarity of this brewery is that they use mineral rich water, while elsewhere in the region water is rather soft. This allows them to produce a dry sake with a lively and crisp character. The Akita Seishu Kariho brewery has maintained its traditional brewing methods, such as the use of horizontal presses, bypassing the mechanical press, and reccognized specialists of the old method of production called "Yamahai".
Amabuki Brewery is located in North West of Kyushu, in Saga Prefecture. They brew sake only with yeasts cultivated from flowers in order to give to sakes a unique taste. The rice is grown in pesticide free paddies using the method of "aïgamo", a unique method where ducks are living in the rice field and eat weeds and inscects, keeping paddies free of pesticides.
Asahara Shuzo is a family brewery located in Saitama Prefecture, in the middle of the hilly region, right above the Chichibu mountains. This green area, called Okumusashi, is known for the cultivation of fruit trees, including plum and Yuzu. Founded in the late 19th century, Asahara brewery is run by a young Toji, in his thirties, a very dynamic person. Asahara is currently experiencing a great success thanks to its creativity, and to the wide variety of its products: sakes, Plum and Yuzu liquors, and also rice beers.
Asamaï brewery started its activity in 1917 in Bonchi Yokote, in Akita Prefecture, north of Honshu. A region of plains known for the quality of rice, for the quality of water and its very cold winters; ideal conditions for good quality sake. During the 18th century, when the government tried to limit the production of sake, this region has strongly protested to preserve this tradition and went above this prohibition. Thanks to that, many family breweries were kept active, while at the same time, other regions were losing. Asamaï Kura is certainly the best known brewery of Akita Prefecture. It produces only Junmaï sake, which are filtered according to the technique of "funeshibori", through tissues arranged in wooden trays.
Enoki Shuzo is located in the Hiroshima Prefecture, on the small island of Kurahashi. This region called Setonaikai, in the sea between Honshu and Shikoku, has a temperate climate, and freshwater (nansui) is found there. Enoki Shuzo brewery was founded in 1899. They produce sakes full of elegance which are regularly recognized with awards in international competitions. They are at the origin of the technique of "Kijoshu", now known in the sake world, consisting of adding sake in the tanks during the fermentation process. This is a specialty of the brewery that is perfectly illustrated with their aged sake, Hanahato Kijoshu.
The sake Brewery of Hakkaï Jozo, also known as Hakkaisan, is located in Niigata prefecture, one of the most famous areas for sake production. This is one of the largest breweries, in the world and has nicely developed on a zone rich in natural resources with a perfect climate for sake brewing. Spring water is brought to the Kura directly from the Mont Hakkai by a pipeline, and rice used in the production is cleverly selected from the best sake rice varieties (Goyakumangoku and Yamadanishiki in particular). Production of Hakkaisan is large, and they succeed to give beautiful impressions of richness and creaminess to their sakes.
Hayashi Honten is located on the southern border of the Gifu region, almost perfectly in the middle of Japan. This brewery is the property of a woman, who is the 5th generation owner of this typical family brewery. Hayashi Honten is very interesting because of the variety of the techniques they master for the production process; from ancient techniques to make Yamahaï, to the most modern one giving the purest Daïginjo, without forgetting the capacity to age sake and produce a very nice Koshu.
Iejima Distillery is a young factory that exists since 2011. It is set on the island Iejima, west of the main island of Okinawa. Historically, it is a relatively poor area of Japan because the lack of water in these semi-tropical regions do not allow the cultivation of rice. Sugarcane has been cultivated there since 1630.
From this local cane, a former Awamori distiller produces rum. The policy of the factory is very clear: intervene as little as possible on any steps before distillation (for example, no refrigeration of fermentation tanks). The idea is that working in the most natural way possible, the soul of Iejima island will be transmitted to rum, and will travel outside the boundaries of the island.
The Imadashuzo Hoten brewery is located in the region of Hiroshima, facing Setonaïkaï sea, a zone with a moderate climate and known for its soft water (nasui). This water is therefore very difficult to use when making sake and the producers in Hiroshima have had to make constant efforts to become a important region in sake world.
A Imadashuzo, the Toji who officiates is a woman, which is rather rare in the sake industry. She experiments a lot, especially by taking old methods and making them more modern, like "funeshibori", the filtering is done in wooden tubs through canvas bags. She also uses ancient rice strains such as Hattanso, the ancestor of Hattanishiki.
Kaetsu Shuzo brewery was originally created in 1880 in the Prefecture of Hukushima, then was transferred to Niigata in 1886. Niigata Prefecture faces the Japan Sea, the climate is continental with very hot summers, and cold and snowy winters. The brewery is located in the Aga-machi town where the Agano River and Tokonami meet. It is also surrounded by mountains. This area gave birth to one of the noblest "Sakamaï" rice (rice dedicated to the production of sake). The water quality is excellent with natural sources nearby that give a pure and fresh water. An excellent sake region.
Kameizumi Shuzo is installed in the Tosa region, at the southern point of the smallest of the four main Japanese islands, the island of Shikoku. This region is rather hot and thus it is difficult to produce sake without great technical knowledge. The brewery has mastered the use of different yeasts, multiplying combinations in order to achieve ever better sakes. Kameizumi Shuzo is famous for the creation of many yeast strains in the CEL series, including the exceptional CEL24, which is used in the production of their magnificent Daïginjo.
Koshinohana Shuzo is a small brewery in the Niigata plains. This agricole region, very snowy and cold in the winter, is one of the most iconic terroir for the production of sake. Founded at the end of the 19th century, koshinohana sake brewery has managed to keep their traditions together with being innovative with very original sakes such as Kawasemi that compliments the multiple award-winning Daïginjos from the brewery.
Located in the beautiful region of Fushimi, south of Kyoto, one of the most popular areas for sake in Japan, the brewery Masuda Tokubee is bordered by three rivers. Thanks to the access to water and transportation by river route, many breweries are located in the area from the 17th century. Masuda Tokubee has been installed there since 1675 and is the oldest brewery in Fushimi. She revived the "Doburoku", the "homemade" sake, unfiltered, unpasteurized and sparkling; Masuda Tokubee is a pioneer in bottling Nigorizake, the unfiltered sake.
Mr. Taketsuru, which is at the origin of Nikka was first from a familly of sake producers. He is considered as the father of Japanese whisky. As a chemist, he was sent to Scotland by his employer to for apprenticeship. He discovers whisky for which he developed a passion, along with a beautiful Scottish woman named Rita. In 1934, he established Yoichi, his first distillery on the island of Hokkaido. In 1969, the second distillery opened in Miyagikyo. Nowadays, Nikka whiskeys know a huge success, far beyond Japan's borders. The range of Nikka whiskies are all made from single malts coming from these two distilleries.
Nishi Shuzo is installed for over a century and a half in the hills of Kagoshima, in the of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four Japanese main islands. They produce shochu from different ingredients, but their specialty is by far sweet potato based shochu, typical of Kagoshima region. Nishi Shuzo itself cultivates sweet potatoes use for the production of their shochus and works closely with local farmers to continually improve the quality of products. Nishi Shuzo has, over time, raised a formidable challenge, the challenge to produce shochu with remarkable taste qualities, very refined, using completely traditional methods. Nishi Shuzo shochus are now recognized all around Japan as a benchmark for quality and this success is exported internationally.
Ogasawara archipelago is located in the Pacific, about 1000 km south of Tokyo prefecture to which it legally belongs. It is composed of about thirty islands enjoying a semi-tropical climate, and beautiful environment which was recognized as "remarkable area" by UNESCO. Around 1830 fishermen from other regions in the Pacific began to stop and practice bartering with inhabitants of the island. They discover rum and gradually understand that they take advantage of the climate to start sugarcane production. This is now the mainstay of the island, with the production of fruit. Ogasawara Rum was born in the late 19th century from the distillation of molasses-based product. At the time people called this "awazake", and now this is the oldest rum in Japan.
Located since three centuries in the Ibaraki region, in the north of Tokyo, the Raïfuku brewery is located in a magnificent environment with very pure water coming from the Tsukuba mountains. Its speciality is developing yeast from flowers "Hanakobo" (hana for flowers and kobo for yeast). Therefor, from different flowers it produces a broad variety of yeast that are going to enable the production of very unique taste sakes.
The Distillery of Mr. Sakimoto is located on the island of Yonaguni, one of the most remote places from Japanese main islands. In fact, Yonguni is at 2 000km southwest of Tokyo, and only 100 km away from Taiwan! In the past, Yonaguni was part of the Kingdom of Ruykyu which included the islands in the surrounding, doing the junction between Japan and Chinese mainland. Economically, it was a very active area. Mr. Sakimoto is one of three producers of the island which counts only 1300 inhabitants. Since 1927, the distillery produces very qualitative awomori, following an ancestral production process that uses traditional stills, heated with direct fired. It also produces the Hanazake, a special version of awamori, a beverage 60% alcohol, which is used during burial ceremonies.
Shiragiku Shuzo brewery is located in the Ibaraki Prefecture, in the great Kanto plain where rice cultivation is installed for centuries. Mr. Takahashi, the toji in charge of production, is a real character because he produces sake since the 50s! Indeed he began at the age of 17, and has a great experience coming from what he learned in the strict school of Nambutoji. Coming from a time when all the production steps were still manual, he evolved together with the recent modernization of sake making process, putting lots of efforts on respecting what he learned from the traditional methods. Thus, Shiragiku sake have a strong regional footprint because the brewery has always been carefull to answer their local customers expectations, but as the quality is there, Shiragiku sakes are now distributed throughout Japan.
In 1899, a man named Shinjiro Torii opened a imported wine shop in Osaka. Business is good, the company changed its name to Kotobukiya, and, in 1924, the first whiskey distillery is started. It is established for Kotobukiya by a Masataka Taketsuru (who founded later, in 1934, Nikka). The first Japanese single malt whisky called Suntory Shirofuda (Suntory white label) was launched in 1929. A second whiskey comes thereafter, the Kakubin whiskey, that is still available today. Production must be stopped during the Second World War and resume afterwards. In 1963, the company Kotobukiya changed its name to Suntory, and started in the same year, to produce beer in the new brewery of Musashino. The second distillery opens in Hakushu in 1973. In 1989, Suntory launched the Hibiki blended whiskey.
It is in the prefecture of Shiga, inland, that Takeuchi Shuzo brewery is installed. This region, which was called Omi, is surrounded by mountains and bordered by Lake Biwako. It used to be a very important commercial area because it is located at a key point of the river, between Kyoto, the ancient capital, and Osaka, business city. At all times, travelers stopped there for a restn and of course, use to drink sake, contributing to the reputation of the region. Good quality rice, a very pure spring water, and an ideal climate for sake brewing did the rest. Takeuchi Shuzo is a very small unit, run by the 7th generation of owners. For 140 years, they get the best of this ideal environment to produce excellent Daïginjo. We have here two representatives.
Tatsuma Honke Brewery has a long and rich history. It started its activity in 1662 from the discovery of a very pure water in the Nada area, close to Kobe. This area has become over time, one of the most important for the production of sake, and experienced a real golden age during the Edo period. Tatsuma Honke had a very interesting development from that time, diversifying its activities beyond the simple production of sake in transportation, barrels manufacturing, etc ... If the brewery Tatsuma Honke had to overcome many difficulties history recent (destruction from WWII and total loss of production units during the Kobe earthquake, in 1995), it has continued to renew itself while maintaining its traditional methods of production. In a few decades, it has become a major in the world of sake.
The Yamanashi Meijo Brewery is located at the foot of the japanese Alps, in the region of Yamanashi, a region that is very famous for the quality of its water (it is also the region where Hakushu whisky is produced).The water comes from the melted snow that falls from 2900m altitude and is filtered through the granite rocks to supply the local springs. The Yamanashi Meijo brewery takes care of its production with the utmost attention. Mainly using slow fermentation techniques, at a low temperature. Their sakes have in common their subtleness, and the feeling of absolute quality and freshness of spring water.
Facing the Japanese sea, the region of Ishikawa is a rice cultivating region, that has a fantastic water quality and a very harsh climate, with lots of snow in the winter. Farming is very important here historically, being rice plantation workers in the summer yet they gladly transform themselves into sake brewers in the winter.
Located in the small village of Yamajima, famous all around Japan for the quality of its sake, the Yoshida Shuzo Brewery has a very unique and rare quality: two Toji's, with two different methods, work together in the brewery. They inspire each other mutually to keep developping new, and always higher quality products.