Fujii Honke brewery was established in 1831, in Shiga prefecture, and has since provided sacred sake to the Japanese Imperial Court and sacred shrines. Former owner Fujii Shizuko had to overcome considerable hardship in a strongly male-dominated society and sake brewery industry. Through her enduring effort and passion, she built a successful sake business which now has some twenty-three buildings including the main sake brewery building made of Keyaki (Japanese Elm).
The current owner is Mr Fujii Tetsuya, who carries on the tradition of sake making, like his father, using the same Watari Bune sake rice and brewed in similar style. Wateri Bune varietal rice originated in Shiga, and is the genetic father of Yamada Nishiki rice or the ‘King of sake rice’.
Wateri Bune is a wild species of rice, which was used with great enthusiasm in the 1920s and 30s. This rice was difficult to cultivate, and it almost became extinct 50 years ago. However, Mr Fujii Tetsuya sought a local farmer to revive the species, and after four years of trial and error, local Watari Bune sake rice is available again for brewing.
Watari Bune, Gin Fubuki, Tamazakae and Yamada Nishiki are the varietal rice species used at Fujji Honke sake brewery, along with underground aquifer water from the Suzaka mountains.
The Kimoto method, is one of the three methods of making the yeast starter mash ‘Shubo’ ( 酒母 ) or sometimes called ‘Moto’ ( 酛 ). The other sake yeast starter methods are Yamahai and Sokujo. Koji ( 麹菌 ), steamed rice, and water are added to the moto ( or shubo) to produce moromi, after pressing the crude sake can be filtered and pasteurised. The Kimoto method is used at Fujii Honke, but it takes twice as long to make compared to using the Sokujo method. With this ancient organic method, only naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria present in the brewery and local yeasts are used. This then produces sake with a refreshing hint of acidity, being dry and smooth and quite full-bodied in taste. The Fujii Honke sake style is therefore rich and full-bodied with excellent umami ( うま味 – savouriness, a fifth basic taste).
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