The Sankei Biz site reports on a sake brewery celebrating its 300th anniversary with cherry blossoms - specifically the wild yeast found on them.
The Fujinishiki brewery in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture has been making sake and fruit liqueurs for a long time. To celebrate, they chose a yeast strain isolated from a variety of cherry tree called kawazu-zakura (yeast KA2541) to produce a commemorative sake that is both sweet and acidic.
The fukazu-zakura yeast was developed in Shizuoka from wild yeast taken from this early-flowering variety of cherry tree, which originates in the city of Izu in the same prefecture. The Industrial Research Institute of Shizuoka Prefecture spent a long time studying the yeast before releasing a cultured strain in 2015 to breweries inside the prefecture for trials.
Fujinishiki ran many trials brewing sake with the yeast until they finally developed one with wide appeal. Sake made with the kawazu-zakura yeast is relatively low in alcohol (the one released is 11%) and high in sugars and acids. The results were nothing the brewery had ever seen before - sake normally has a nihonshudo* of between +3 and +5, but the kawazu-zakura yeast yielded one with a nihonshudo of -43, stunningly sweet. Drawing out the full effect of the yeast resulted in a mould-breaking sake that is both sweet and sour while still being crisp and lively.
Although the sake is still at a fairly experimental stage, the Fujinishiki brewery have christened it Sakura no Kagayaki (サクラノカガヤキ, The Brilliance of Cherry Blossoms) and put it on sale from 18 May 2018 after presenting it at the local town civic centre on 14 May. Its sweet and sour qualities are expected to go well with summer barbecue meat dishes.
*日本酒度, sake meter value. This number indicates the specific gravity of a sake and is used as a measure of sweetness/dryness, although it isn't a completely reliable indicator. Others put the spectrum between -3 and +10 (see the John Gauntner article linked below).