Get into the spirit

p14_sake02This snowy sake will hit the shelves just in time for the winter season.

Have you ever wondered what a snow-capped mountain would taste like? Kikusui’s Perfect Snow sake is surely the closest you can get. And starting from November 12, Perfect Snow will be available at the LCBO—just in time for the holidays!

Kikusui Sake Co. is located in Niigata Prefecture, which has what is believed to be the ideal climate for brewing sake. In fact, Niigata boasts the highest number of sake brewers in Japan. The rich soil fed by natural springs that flow from the mountains, contributed to by the copious amounts of snow that fall during the winter, creates the perfect blend of clear water and richly flavoured rice—the essential ingredients for brewing sake. The second part of the brewery’s name, sui (水), is a nod to the quality of water in Niigata—the name refers to water from the kiku (菊) or chrysanthemum flower. This name comes from a traditional Noh play, where kikusui symbolizes a source of eternal youth.

Five generations of expert sake brewers

Founded by the Takasawa family in 1881, Kikusui Sake Co. remains a family business, now run by the fifth generation. Despite its relatively short time in business (at least by Japanese standards), the family has worked through harsh times, in- cluding the brewery being destroyed twice—in 1966 and then again in 1967, both times due to flooding. Despite these challenges, Kikusui Sake Co. has worked hard to develop the brewing methods that produce the high-quality sake available today.

p14_sake03The snowy sake effect

Made exclusively for the North American market, Kikusui’s Perfect Snow sake is a nigori-zake, or unfiltered sake, meaning that it retains rice fragments known as moromi. This gives the final product its snowy appearance, reminiscent of the pure mountain snow that turns Niigata into a winter wonderland each year. The sweet and full-bodied flavour is only enhanced by the lack of filtration. While this sake may seem like it would be a good option warmed up on a cold winter night, unfiltered sake like this is meant to be served chilled on the rocks. Perfect Snow is also a type of genshu, or undiluted sake: with 21% alcohol and a bold flavour, it’s ideal for cocktails.

As good as Perfect Snow may taste on its own, it also perfectly complements a variety of foods. Its crisp, clean taste makes it a natural pairing for Japanese dishes, like sushi and yakitori skewers as well as any red meat, while its bold sweetness makes it an ideal companion for the more potent flavours found in piquant Korean dishes. For a simple yet delicious cocktail, try pouring equal parts Perfect Snow and orange juice over ice. Or, if you’re looking for something really smooth, pour equal parts chilled Perfect Snow and milk over ice.

p14_sake04Visiting Niigata

  • Because of its wintry mountain terrain, Niigata Prefecture is a popular ski destination among the Japanese.
  • In a 600-year-old tradition, the Yakushido Shrine in Niigata is host to son-in-law throwing, an annual event where local newlywed men are tossed into the snow as a gesture of well-wishing.
  • Between May and November, visitors to Niigata Prefecture can take in some bullfight- ing. Yet unlike the Spanish variety, here bulls fight each other until one gets too tired, and none are killed.
  • Each summer, 80,000 tons of snow are used for Niigata’s Summer Snow Festival. The snow is piled into a giant slope for sledding, and provides a temporary break from the heat of summer.