Japanese Sake Series: Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewery
The soft flavour of Kiku-Masamune’s dry sake has been its selling point throughout its history. They strive to make sake which complement Japanese traditional meals.
In this age of ever-increasing choice, the number of sake brands available to consumers is also expanding.
Yet Kiku-Masamune has consistently held fast to its pursuit of authenticity despite the fads of the moment.
It has been able to do so because it believes that consumers will never tire of drinking authentic Japanese sake. Its crisp, dry sake provides precisely this type of timeless authenticity. Crisp, dry sake is free of a lingering sweet aftertaste so that the flavour of the meal is not lost. Many Japanese dishes feature delicate flavours derived from natural ingredients, requiring a sake lacking in intense flavours of its own (so that drinkers will not tire of it). Only dry Japanese sake can play this role.
Customers worldwide have chosen the smooth, dry sake that Kiku-Masamune produces based on these beliefs.
History and background of Kiku-Masamune brewery
Shipping sake barrels
A single thread unites Kiku-Masamune's history since its founding 350 years ago: the resolute and unwavering pursuit of dry sake.
Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewing was founded in 1659, when Japan was ruled by Ietsuna, the fourth Tokugawa shogun. The Kano family built a sake brewery at their residence and began large-scale brewing operations. At the time, the Nada region, where they lived, had not yet become well known for its sake. However, Osaka and Kyoto sake, known as kudarizake, became popular in Tokyo, which led to a rapid surge in demand for sake from the Nada area. Tokyo residents were particularly fond of sake made by the head Kano family, who produced mostly kudarizake.
During the Meiji period, Jiroemon Kano (Shukoo), the eighth head of the family, laid the foundation for the business today by pioneering industry-leading improvements in technology and pursuing a range of initiatives to increase the quality of Kiku-Masamune's sake in pursuit of "doing whatever it takes to create a better sake."
It was during this period that the Kiku-Masamune brand was registered as a trademark. From the Meiji period to the Taisho period, the company laid the groundwork for its subsequent development; for example, by increasing overseas exports and serving as a purveyor to the Imperial Household Agency.
The brewery strived to maintain quality even in the face of the hardships of the tumultuous Showa period. This becomes evident in the results of a 1949 public opinion survey conducted in six of Japan's largest cities by an industry newspaper. Kiku-Masamune took top place in three cities and led in the overall results of the poll, which asked sake stores to identify the sake brands they preferred to sell and the brands that they believed offered a particularly high level of quality. These results indicate the extent to which sake stores recognised the brand's quality as well as the popularity it had earned.
What was it about the quality of Kiku-Masamune sake that earned the approval of professionals in this way? One answer to this question revolves around the brand's single-minded pursuit of dry sake. Customers simply do not tire of drinking dry Japanese sake that has been brewed using the same Kimoto method since the Edo period by Kiku-Masamune's master brewers, who have taken great pride in honouring the brand's tradition of brewing only dry sake. Going forward, Kiku-Masamune remains committed to this single-minded pursuit of dry sake.
Kiku-Masamune Brewery’s essential ingredients
Sake brewing process
People say that the process of making sake starts with growing rice, and indeed, rice has a profound effect on the flavour of sake.
Kiku-Masamune has long used only Yamada-nishiki brewer's rice as the most basic ingredient for its sake, the result of a stubborn dedication to exceptional quality. Yamada-nishiki is a type of sake rice, or shinpaku-mai, that is characterised by a larger grain size than normal rice varieties, low protein content, and a soft consistency that allows the yeast to more easily penetrate the rice. Furthermore, this variety's thin surface layer of bran, which makes it easy to absorb and digest but hard to husk during the milling process, is ideally suited for sake rice.
Kiku-Masamune’s master brewer at work
Authentic dry sake is the essence of Kiku-Masamune's approach. It would be impossible to bring about the refreshing, robust flavour of this sake without the mystical flavour of Miyamizu water. Water used to brew sake must be not only free of turbidity and contamination so that it tastes delicious, but must also be extremely low in iron, which can compromise the colour and flavour of the sake. Miyamizu water contains almost no iron yet is rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Dry sake is the most authentic and popular variety of Japanese sake, one that complements the flavour of Japanese cuisine and one that you will never tire of drinking.
Not only does Japanese sake play a supporting role in Japan's rich culinary culture, but it also is attracting attention worldwide alongside the booming popularity of Japanese foods such as sushi. Kiku-Masamune will continue to pursue the ideal authentic dry sake with a refreshing, clean flavour and a crisp finish that complements all styles of cuisine.