Headline: Kōji-based brewing to be proposed as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage

Love sake but frustrated by the intransience of its aroma and umami flavour? Never fear, butter is here! (No, seriously.)

News site Jiji carries a press release from PR Times on a new product from Japanese brand Carnoble, owned by the company National Department Store.

This isn’t the company’s first foray into mixing things with butter – the front page of the site alone (as of 13 March 2022) is full of mouth-watering images of flavoured butters, including seasonal ones flavoured with lemons or limes from the Seto inland sea, as well as roasted matured sweet potato, orange juice & peel, roasted chestnut, vermouth with 24 herbs & spices, raisins soaked in cognac, amaretto anko, Hokkaido raspberry and caramel & dried fig. There are also sweets made with butter cake and “butter chocolate”. (Because chocolate on its own wasn’t enough??)

The sake that made the cut for their 9-piece sampling box are:

  • Tenshu junmai daiginjō yonwari gobun (Yamada Nishiki polished to 45%, Tenshu Shuzōten, Aomori Prefecture) – junmai daiginjō with rich fruitness reminscent of unripe mango and pear. Characterised by elegant aroma, smooth mouthfeel and a transparent ginjō-style bouquet.
  • Hiroki (飛露喜) tokubetsu junmai (Yamada Nishiki/Gohyakumangoku polished to 55%, Hiroki (廣木) Shuzō Honten, Fukushima Prefecture) Yamada Nishiki from a Special-A region in Hyogo Prefecture was used for the kōji, and Gohyakumangoku harvested near the brewery was added to the main ferment. Classic junmai flavours with powerful umami from the rice.
  • Nabeshima junmai daiginjō Special-A Yamada Nishiki 45% (Yamada Nishiki polished to 45%, Fukuchiyo Shuzō, Saga Prefecture) Elegant sweetness and aroma, and vibrant acidity that expands on the palate before fading out. Carries a gentle daiginjō spark.
  • WAKAZE The Classic (French Camargue rice, polished to 92%, Kura Grand Paris) Barely-milled table rice brewed with extremely hard water with four times the mineral content of Tokyo’s (approx. 216mg/L) and fermented with Bourgogne white wine yeast.
  • Dassai junmai daiginjō migaki niwari sanbun (Yamada Nishiki polished to 23%, Asahi Shuzō, Yamaguchi Prefecture) Daiginjō made from Yamada Nishiki polished to an extremely low 23%. Floral ginjō aromas, transparent sweetness and long lingering notes.
  • Experimental Brewery Data15 (amino acid content 4.0, rice from Gunma Prefecture polished to 90%, Tsuchida Shuzō, Gunma Prefecture) A sake that brings the umami of amino acids out to the fullest. The average amino acid content in a junmai sake is 1.43, so with 4.0 Data15 is a real umami bomb.
  • Hanatomoe Misato Nishiki junmai ginjō namazake (Misato Nishiki rice polished to 50%, Ryozeki Shuzō, Akita Prefecture) Made from Misato Nishiki, a cross of sake-specific rice strains Yamada Nishiki and Miyama Nishiki, this sake has a fresh and fruity floral aroma and and a pop of sharp acidity.
  • Kokuryu daiginjō Ryu (Yamada Nishiki polished to 40%, Kokuryu Shuzō, Fukui Precture) Transparent fruity aromas, sweetness rounded off by long maturation, pleasant acidity and complex flavours come together in perfect unity. 
  • Kōji amazake x butter, the start of the sake x butter journey. Amazake make from rice kōji. A special blend of patissier sugar and kōji amazake made without sake lees, mixed with butter. Your sake x butter joruney starts here.

The packs must be stored frozen and eaten within 30 days. 

The question that comes to mind is, why? (Other than because the company ran out of other things to mix with butter). According to the press release, mixing sake – especially ginjō grade sake with its more volatile aroma and flavour components – with butter lets those components be released slowly as the butter melts, making the experience last longer. The lactic elements of the butter are supposed to enhance the aroma of the sake, while adding salt brings out umami.


The headlines for this story were all about the Dassai and Kokuryu daiginjō, and before I saw the full list of sake my first thought (after “did I read that right?”) was that Tamagawa or Kenbishi might be a better match – so I’m glad to see an umami heavyweight like Data15 (which I had never heard of before).

And not sure a mix of butter and amazake needs any sugar.

Has anyone tried infusing butter with sake? I am very intruiged but I’d say the chances of this getting outside of Japan are less than zero!


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