Japanese refreshment with a Canadian flair
Crisp Muskoka spring water puts a Canadian twist on this traditional Japanese beverage.
Located in the Distillery Historic District, the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company uses time-tested methods to brew traditional Japanese sake right here in Toronto. It is the first sake brewery on the eastern side of North America—quite far-removed from sake’s birthplace in Japan. Owner and Toronto native Ken Valvur started brewing in February 2011, thanks to assistance from the Miyasaka Brewing Company, based in Nagano Prefecture in western Japan. Since then, the brewery has been capitalizing on the thriving Japanese food and drink industry here in the city and locally producing its own brands of this ancestral Japanese potable.
The brewery’s original Japanese sake brewmaster, Yoshiko Takahashi, also hails from Nagano. The region is famous for its approximately 100 sake breweries, there to take advantage of its climate, which is ideal for producing high-quality sake ingredients. Ms. Takahashi brought her expertise with traditional sake brewing methods and ingredients, which she has instilled into the brewing process that is now used by Ontario Sake to produce their own variety of sake.
The Izumi (泉) brand, Ontario Spring Water Sake Company’s signature product, gets its name from the Japanese word meaning “fountain” or “spring”—referring to the water that is used in the brewing process. Izumi-branded sake uses spring water from Muskoka, adding an element of Canada into this centuries-old Japanese brewing process. Izumi is made from special sake rice sourced from California, which is ground down to 70 per cent its original size before being used for brewing, producing a smooth taste and finish without the harsher flavour that comes from proteins found in the outer layers of the grain. Izumi is also a namazake, a variety that is unpasteurized and unfiltered, known for its fragrance and fresh taste. Izumi itself is slightly sweet and fruity, with notes of melon and pear. Because it is unpasteurized, it must be served cold, making it a refreshing drink to enjoy in summer weather.
The past four years have been fruitful for the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, and customers are eagerly buying up this award-winning sake brand at local Japanese restaurants, LCBOs and the brewery’s retail store in the Distillery District. The brewery’s store also offers a number of sake-based products and accessories. Or, for a truly immersive experience, local sake connoisseurs and curiosos alike can sample Izumi sake at one of the brewery’s tasting tours.
Your next flight to Japan
Ontario Spring Water Sake Company also offers sake “flights” for $10. The latest flight features Nama-Nama, Genshu and Teion Sakura, each with very different flavours. Teion Sakura is a lighter-tasting option, with a flavour that has more in common with white wine than traditional sake. The other two, Nama-Nama and Genshu, are both traditional sakes. The Nama-Nama is light, medium-dry and smooth, while the award-winning Genshu is more rich and complex, with the highest alcohol content of the three. If you are feeling adventurous, try the cloudy, oarsefiltered Nigori.