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Another article from Shokuhin Sangyo Shinbunsha News, this time about something that doesn’t get a lot of coverage – the distilled alcohol used in non-junmai sake, otherwise known as aruten (from アルコール添加, arukōru tenka, alcohol-added).

The six breweries that form the Nihon Kissui Jizake Sangyōsha Kyōgikai (Japan Authentic Local Sake Producers’ Council) are developing made-in-Japan distilled alcohol for brewing and products made from it.

The six breweries are:

  • Otokoyama Honten
  • Mikunihare Shuzō
  • Toshimaya
  • Kitagawa Honke
  • Nissin Shurui
  • Kawatsuru Shuzo

The distilled alcohol, normally added to sake just before pressing to extract flavour and preserve the filtered liquid, is brewed by Nissin Shurui in Tokushima from locally grown sake-specific rice Yamada Nishiki. It has already been used by Otokoyama in Miyagi Prefecture and Mikunihare in Toyama Prefecture to produce 1,000 bottles of daiginjō which will be mainly sold through department stores. Two more breweries will join production of daiginjō using the distilled alcohol this autumn.

Tatsuo Koshida, head of the council, noted that the current sake market is more favourable to junmai, leaving honjōzō and other aruten styles in the lurch. He commented that it can be hard to get hold of information on where the distilled alcohol came from, which makes the “pure rice” junmai seem like a safer bet. However, adding the distilled alcohol draws out aroma and also stabilises the brewed sake, so he wants it to be recognised as the sake brewing innovation that it really is.

The group hopes to lay consumers’ minds to rest by advertising the fact that they can prove that all their distilled alcohol is made in Japan. They aim to make high-quality products and Koshida is grateful that a brewery who can also distil joined the group. After some trial and error spanning nearly three years, they succeeded in making what they aimed for. The 100% made-in-Japan rice-derived distilled alcohol is used in Kissui Jizake Premium My Star daiginjō, and sake will have to pass a strict evaluation from the council before it can use that title.

The Otokoyama daiginjō is stored part-frozen at -10°C, retails for JPY 4,200 for 720 ml and is characterised by mellowness. Their local area of Kessennuma is famous for fishing, so they partnered with local businesses that have chilled warehouses. Mikunihare’s daiginjō is stored in made-in-Japan Mongolian oak barrels, blends a characteristic refreshing daiginjō  aroma with the woodiness of the barrels, and retails for JPY 4,000 for 720 ml.