Japanese Sake Series: Choryo Sake Brewery
Choryo Brewery’s famous ‘Tarusake’
History and innovation come together to recreate old methods and flavours and produce Choryo’s award-winning bottled barrel Japanese sake.
Choryo Shuzo is located in Koryo-cho to the north-west of Nara, said to be the birthplace of sake.
Koryo-cho is surrounded by historical sites: the shrine dedicated to the God of Sake, "Omiwa Jinja", to the east; the holy site of the origin of Buddhism, Asuka-ji, to the south; and Horyu-ji temple, nominated as a World Heritage Site to the north.
The philosophy of Choryo’s sake brewing is based on "Shou-dou-mu-kyu-kyoku" (The idea that self-satisfaction shall be avoided, for one can always better themselves). They have been dedicating themselves to brewing great-tasting sake, and therefore pay special attention to the rice, water, and people at each step of the sake brewing process.
History and background of ‘Tarusake’
Barrel sake and bottled barrel sake
Once upon a time, all sake used to be called “Tarusake” (Japanese cedar barrel-flavored sake).
From the beginning of the Edo Period to the end of the Meiji Period (17th – 19th centuries), sake was normally stored in barrels called taru, made of cedar. Therefore, in those days, sake was simply called tarusake. Cedar barrels are expensive and not suitable for mass production, and temperature control and cleaning are also difficult. Additionally, barrels may negatively affect the taste of the sake if special attention isn’t given to the storage conditions and period after barrelling. Thus, it became common sense to use bottles, and the aroma of the barrels disappeared from ordinary sake.
The founder of Choryo Sake Brewery, Mr. Iida, wanted to bring back this nostalgic taste to the Japanese people by bottling the former high-quality "barrel sake" in a bottle with the best balance of flavour and aroma. From the initial idea to implementation, Choryo brewers struggled to select and secure high-quality barrel materials, and even formed a barrel material manufacturers’ association to support their efforts. After conducting plenty of research, they devised an effective manufacturing process, and worked passionately to bring it to the market with the trademark "Yoshinosugi no Taru Sake" on the label.
In 1964, Choryo succeeded in making an excellent tarusake using Yoshino cedar barrels, making this the first bottled barrel sake in Japan. Since then, for almost 50 years they have been making tarusake in the same traditional way.
An award-winning company
Since then, Choryo has won many awards, including 10 gold medals from the ‘Monde Selection’ (since 1992), 10 gold medals from the ‘National Sake Awards’ in Japan, Gold Prize and Regional Trophy at the ‘2009 International Wine Challenge’, and the Golden award of Excellence Junmai at the ‘2007 USA National Sake Appraisal’.