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Japanese sake series: Ippongi Sake Brewery

Ippongi Sake Brewery sign

An illustrious history, location, and master brewers upholding quality. The awards Ippongi sake brewery has won show its clear taste is loved by many.

Ippongi Sake Brewery is located in Katsuyama City, Fukui Prefecture, a town nestled in the foothills of Mt. Hakusan (lit. White mountain) known for its deep winter snows. Perhaps because of its rich historical background and beautiful nature, Katsuyama ranked 1st on Forbes's "World's Cleanest Cities" in Asia, and 9th globally.

Snowy Katsuyama City

History and background of Ippongi sake brewery

In the days when samurai still roamed the streets, the feudal lord of Katsuyama, Lord Ogasawara, gave the symbolic name ‘Ippongi’ to the sake brewed exclusively for him. The name ‘Ippongi’ comes from the Zen term 'Daiichigitai', which means ultimate truth.

When Ippongi Sake Brewery was founded in 1902, the company inherited this historical name.

Since the beginning, Ippongi has brewed high-quality dry sake, and within 10 years of its founding, it became the top brand in Fukui prefecture. Ippongi continues to hold the top position to this day, 100 years later.

Ippongi sake barrels in the early Showa period, at a dealer in the Yokohama area

Around the 1950s, having already made a name for itself with its excellent dry sake, Ippongi began to seek a way to create an even more elegant and refined taste. The taste Ippongi was aiming for was something pure with a beautifully articulated aroma and flavour.

To accomplish this, Ippongi turned to the Nambu brewing method (developed among brew masters from southern Iwate prefecture, which was famous for producing sake with a clean, clear taste). The company began employing a toji (brew master) well-versed in the Nambu methods, and since then, Ippongi has consistently worked to produce quality sake which embodies these ideals of purity in both taste and aroma. In the 89th Nanbu-Toji Sake Contest (2007), Ippongi won the grand prize out of 586 contestants, thus attaining the highest possible honour among all sake brewed with the Nambu method.

~About the Nambu-toji~

The Nambu-toji is one of the three most excellent brewmaster groups in Japan, along with Echigo-toji and Tamba-toji. Of this esteemed triad, Nambu-toji is widely considered to be the premier group. It has a history of over 350 years, and the skills and craftsmanship of the Nambu brewing method have been praised throughout the history of sake brewing.

Ippongi’s essential ingredients

Oku-Echizen rice fields

Katsuyama City and the neighboring Ono City make up the region called Oku-Echizen.

The region is blessed with pure water, fertile soil, and an ideal temperature difference between night and day, creating the perfect environment to grow large amounts of high quality sake rice.

Oku-Echizen is known among sake brewers for being one of the most productive areas in Japan for the sake rice, Gohyakumangoku. In addition, the famous Yamadanishiki and newly developed sake rice Koshinoshizuku, are also grown here.

Koshinoshizuku first appeared in 2003, and is a very rare type of sake rice. Only around 2000 bales a year are produced. It is developed in Fukui, and grown and distributed only within Fukui Prefecture.

Sake brewing

Ippongi is well known for its main brands of sake: ‘Ippongi’ and ‘Denshin’, and has steadily become more well-known worldwide. It has won a multitude of awards, including:

The grand prize of Nambu-Toji Sake Contest (Year of 2007, 2016)
- Gold prize of Nambu-Toji Sake Contest (44 times)
- Gold prize of Japan Sake Awards (17 times)
- Gold prize of Kanazawa Regional Taxation Bureau Sake Awards (48 times)
- International Wine Challenge (Gold 1 / Silver 13 / Bronze 18)
- International Sake Challenge (Trophy 2 / Gold 9 / Silver 13 / Bronze 15)
- U.S. National Sake Appraisal (Gold 11 / Silver 7)
- Kura Master (Platinum 1 / Gold 4 )


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