The city of Kure is just a laid-back 50-minute ride on a swaying train from downtown Hiroshima. Then, hop in a taxi to the town of Ondo on the island of Kurahashijima jutting out of the Seto Inland Sea. Why? For a small sake brewery on the island. Amazingly, it produces kijō-shu, hailed as the world's finest grade of sake.
One sip of kijō-shu will completely wipe away any preconceptions you've had about Japanese sake. Brewed from rice, water and sake, kijō-shu delivers an unbelievable flavor. Kijō-shu--whether a cloudy, raw nigorizake similar to a sweet and tart yogurt drink, a thick, smoothly tart shinshu reminiscent of a noble rot wine, or a standard kijō-shu matured for eight years--is much like an aromatic, rich sherry or port wine. It is hard to immediately accept that the flavor and aroma come only from rice and water. A small seaside brewery is on a quest to find such flavors: Enoki Shuzō.
Kijō-shu is a rare sake produced in quantities that are limited, even for a Japanese sake. The unique brewing method, conceived about 40 years ago at the Governmental Institute of Brewing (now the National Research Institute of Brewing), is also found in literature from the Heian Period (794-1185). So it is both modern and ancient. Enoki Shuzō was among the first to create and market amber-colored sake, back when nobody else imagined such a thing. The brewery, an innovator to the core, is always trying, with the help of the master brewer and other workers, to come up with new ways of making sake, like kijō-shu stored in oak barrels or made with white koji (rice fermentation starter).
Kijō-shu exhibits a surprising variety of flavors, depending on how it is fermented. The more you become acquainted with Japanese sake, the more you discover profound hidden wonders. The way to experience these fascinating aspects of sake is to heartily savor tasting various brews. You are certain to have an astonishing sake encounter that opens your eyes to something entirely new.
2-1-15 Minamiondo, Ondo-cho, Kure, Hiroshima
* Brewery tours require advance booking.(Samples are available anytime.)