All the best
This one-of-a-kind brew is an ideal toast for the holidays.
Luxurious sweetness. Velvety texture. Unique concept and flavour. As winter picks up and the holiday season approaches, you may think these words refer to a new and exotic brand of chocolate or a succulent dessert at one of the city’s top restaurants—but no. In this case, it’s all about All Koji.
For both sake aficionados and newbies learning the rice-wine ropes, Nanbu Bijin’s All Koji is a great choice. Its name says it “all”: while sake is typically made from 80% steamed rice and 20% komekoji or koji rice (cooked rice inoculated with Aspergillus oryzae), All Koji boasts 100% of the latter. Considering the delicate nature of koji rice and the skill required to produce even a small amount of sake using it exclusively, All Koji is undoubtedly at the top of its class. Robust and bursting with flavour without overwhelming the palate, its freshness pairs well with rich, savoury meals like a perfectly cooked steak or with cheesy, buttery dishes. It’s also ideal on the rocks or mixed Sangria-style with soda and fresh fruit. And on a scale of sweet to dry, All Koji falls on the super sweet side—so it’ll nicely complement that dessert you’ve been eyeing. (Oh, go for it! ‘Tis the season!)
All Koji’s unique nature is easy to understand when its origins are taken into account. Located in the oceanside city of Ninohe in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, Nanbu Bijin (literally “Southern Beauty”) is an exceptional brewery in a picturesque atmosphere. Dating back to 1902, the business boasts a traditional wood kura (brewery building) set in a town composed of 70% forest and mountainous regions—not to mention multiple national parks and freshwater sources. So it’s no surprise that the brewery sought inspiration from its surroundings when honing its process in 1951 to produce the clean, sweet sake that has set it apart from the competition for more than half a century.
It is said that each sake reflects the efforts and experiences of its toji (master brewer), and that the brewer’s respect for the craft is apparent in the drink. If this is true, imagine the dedication that can be felt in the work of Nanbu Bijin’s first nanbu toji, Hajime Yamaguchi. Named one of Japan’s “100 Great Craftsmen” by the Ministry of Labour, he has created a legacy with the brewery that continues to this day.
Ready to try All Koji? Unfortunately you won’t find it in Toronto. Plan a trip to Japan or luck out and find it in the high-end restaurants of Los Angeles, New York and London. If you manage to take a bottle home, age it in the fridge or the pantry and watch as its rich amber shade gradually darkens. Open and savour the sweetness on a special occasion.
Getting to know Ninohe
A few tips if you’re planning a trip to the beautiful Iwate Prefecture …
With fewer than 30,000 people and land reaching across 400 square kilometres, Ninohe offers plenty of room to spread out. Visit Oritsume Basenkyo Prefectural Natural Park for a breath of fresh air.
Farming comes first in Ninohe. The city’s economy is largely based on agriculture and food production, so spend the day at a local farm and try the region’s specialty—apples!
Ninohe is home to the world’s oldest sake vending machine. This wooden box from the early 1900s previously housed sake bottles that were sold for half a yen. Find it on display at the Ninohe City Historical Folk Materials Museum.