Get a taste of Japan’s signature drink in its purest form.
Located along the idyllic coast of the Sea of Japan in Niigata Prefecture, Kikusui’s award-winning brewery creates some of the nest sakes in the world. Kikusui was established in 1881 as a family business, and the family’s expert skills, techniques and recipes have been passed down for five generations. The respect and pure love for sake of each generation has brought the company into the upper echelon of sake breweries and cemented its name as one of the best-known in world.
One of the keys to Kikusui’s success is its location in northern Niigata. The region’s abundant snowfall each year acts as a natural air purifier and creates an atmosphere that is virtually pollutant-free; in the spring, melted snow flows from the mountains into the rice paddies to deliver pristine, nourishing water. The result is the cultivation of rice that is among the best in Japan—and ideal for sake brewing.
A longtime favourite in Japan and the winner of the 2014 International Wine Challenge, Funaguchi Kikusui Ichiban Shibori is the first and original nama sake (raw or fresh sake), created over 40 years ago. Unpasteurized and undiluted, Kikusui’s nama sake delivers incredibly delicate and pure flavours that are diffcult to find in typical pasteurized sakes. Normal sake is pasteurized twice during the brewing process, and the heating in pasteurization inevitably burns off a lot of the natural and fragile characteristics. Because Funaguchi is never heated at high temperatures, you’re able to enjoy the delicate and unique flavours that you can normally only taste at the source.
The freshness of Funaguchi is immediately palatable, with a strikingly fruity aroma and a distinct liveliness. Rich, full-bodied and full of umami, it is delicious chilled or on the rocks, and pairs nicely with otsumami (salty snacks). Because it’s unpasteurized, you can expect the flavour to age and change over time. Pop open a can after six months and you’ll find a compelling flavour similar to that of brandy; after a year, the taste takes the shape of a Chinese rice wine. But no matter when you choose to drink it, this nama sake is not to be taken lightly—at 19% abv, it’s one of the strongest sakes out there.
Funaguchi is available at the LCBO’s Markham location (Highway 7 at Woodbine Avenue).
Aluminum provides a shelter from the elements.
Not only does the aluminum can with its nostalgic design give the sake a unique presentation, it also has an important purpose. Putting the sake in a can was Kikusui’s solution to keeping the delicate characteristics of the raw sake intact and avoiding any damage by sunlight. The cans are filled to the top to ensure minimal air contact, further protecting the award-winning product’s fragile nature. The result is the pure, fresh taste you would expect to find on a tour of Kikusui’s brewery—but in the convenience of a can.