You may be used to describing sake as having a mellow, rich aroma (芳醇, hōjun), but what about having that aroma tickle your nose as you lick an ice cream?
The Oita Press site reports on a jizake (local sake) ice cream made by the Sachihime brewery in the sake town of Kashima in Saga Prefecture. The soft serve ice cream is blended with their junmai genshu to produce a sophisticated rice sweetness that lingers in the mouth.
The ice cream contains no alcohol and is popular with visitors to the brewery.
Sachihime is close to Yūtoku Inari, one of Japan's big three shrines to the god of the rice harvest, and regularly used by tour guides as their "sakagura tourism" feature. The brewery has tours featuring everything down to growing kōji, as well as a space for tasting and other opportunities to let visitors get well acquainted with the taste of sake.
The brewery developed their jizake ice cream in 2004, as they wrestled with the twin problems of declining domestic consumption and how to engage with people who wouldn't or couldn't drink (drivers, women, children, etc.). Owner Yukihiro Minematsu (70) jokes that the method of removing alcohol is a trade secret, but it's still an amazing combination. Senior managing director Hiroko Minematsu (62) commented that they tried out many different ratios of ingredients to get the right level of sweetness and make the flavour reasonably light.
The ice cream costs JPY 350, and they sold 1,000 in a day at a Kashima Sakagura Tourism event in March, which also increased their fan base. Yukihiro Minematsu smiles as he challenges the journalist to describe the ice cream's flavour. It does what he always wanted to do, brings people close to sake and gives them good memories of their visit to a sake-producing town.