Japanese Sake is now a worldwide boom. Especially in this few years, young master brewers are increasing and the high quality Sake are made from a new ideas. In addition, an increase in the number of Japanese sake manufacturers using their own individual styles has been on the rise and helped to improve sake’s over popularity. Meanwhile, in the last few years “Senkin” has been drawing attention as one of the brands that will contribute to the next-generation Sake industry by improving the quality by drastic improvement. This time, while touching the basic knowledge of sake, we asked about ingenuity and the way of thinking about sake brewery of “Senkin” to Mr. Kazuki Usui who is the senior managing director of Senkin Co., Ltd. (Sakura-city Tochigi) and the leading figure of the brewery.
|1.What is Japanese Sake
|2. The only one sake making beginning from “Domainization” of rice|
|3.The taste and pairing of “Senkin”|
|4.The restaurant that can drink “Senkin”|
What is Japanese Sake
Japanese sake is alcohol brewed in a similar style to wine. Brewed alcohol is made through the process of alcoholic fermentation by adding yeast to convert the sugar contained in ingredients into alcohol. The fundamental ingredients used in making Japanese Sake include rice, water, a specially-cultured mold known as “koji,” and yeast. Using koji for brewing is one of the defining characteristics of sake production. The reason why koji is used is because sugar is not contained in the rice itself, so an additional ingredient is required. This can be made by sprinkling steamed koji onto the rice, which creates the sugar-inclusive “koji rice”. Then, sake is made by combining steamed rice, koji rice, water, yeast, which do not sprinkle koji mold. Below is the basic outline behind the process of making sake.
The only one sake making beginning from “Domainization” of rice
Senkin Co., Ltd.
Senior Managing Director
Mr. Kazuki Usui
11th generation member of a brewery established in 1806. After graduating from a Japanese Sommelier School, he was given the chance to work as a lecturer at the school. Following that stint, he took over the Senkin brewery and reformed their quality. “Domaine” is the French term used to describe how producers of rice have total control from start to finish by using their own vineyards, handling their own bottling etc. This influenced Senkin as we decided to make rice in the paddy field, which is on the same vein as the warehouse stock water, and handle everything including rice milling, brewing and bottling. Senkin have gone to the front of the sake industry with only one brewed sake which does not rely on yeast.
The sake brewing process used by Senkin goes even further than the above steps by also making rice in their own paddy fields. Since Senkin’s rice uses water on the same vein as the brewery stock water, the company describes it as “Domaine” for the production of sake according to the wine terms. In this interview, we heard stories ranging from rice making to pressing, which are the main processes of brewing sake.
A country farmer’s paddy field which is located about 5 minutes by car from the Sake brewery. The seedling is the “” in the beginning of June.Although we use herbicides now, after that they are going to raise without using pesticides, and from 2018 switch to complete organic. There are three rice to use in “Senkin”, 60% of the total is Yamada Nishiki, 25% of is Kamenou and 15% of Omachi.
“The main process of Japanese Sake making is divided into chapters 1 to 4. Chapter 1 is ingredient processing. In the process of rice polishing, washing rice, steaming rice, people can calculate and control precisely here. Chapter 2 is koji making, Chapter 3 is making. And chapters 2 to 4 cannot be calculated by humans, the mains are koji and yeast. We will go to support.”(Mr. Usui)
By polishing the rice themselves, the proportion of white rice remaining is consistently at the levels ideal for production. A rice polishing machine is shown on the left. Rice grains are flushed from the second floor of the building and polished here. The basic rice polishing percentage used by Senkin is 40% and it takes around 50 hours to achieve this target. In addition, the lowest rice polishing rate is 7% and it takes roughly 2 weeks. Sake made from this 7% rice polishing rate is mainly shipped to Hong Kong, and some is used for the flagship brand known as Kamosu.
Although it is not specified on the label of Senkin, in general sake that uses rice with a rice milling commission of 50% or less is known as “Daiginjo”, and it is said that it is easier to obtain “Ginjouka” (which describes a fruity aroma like apples and bananas, unique to sake) as the rice milling rate is lowered. The picture on the right is a machine that filters bran, a by-product of scraping brown rice. It is divided into three kinds: red bran, white bran, silver bran.
Yamada Nishiki with milling rice percentage of 40%. This rice is used for “Modern Senkin Purity” which is standard in the company.
Rice wash / Immersion
Washing rice on the afternoon of the day before steaming the rice.Wash rice in 10kg batches with a dedicated rice washing machine. Not only the type of rice, but also the amount of time needed to wash rice is different depending on the temperature and water temperature.
Immerse washed rice in water for about 10 minutes. Drain water and leave it overnight.
After being left overnight, the rice will start to be steamed from 7am. If you place steam directly on rice, it will cause damage to the rice, so a special plastic rice is laid down to soften the steam intensity. Generally, correctly-steamed rice is said to be “hard on the outside, soft on the inside” and it is said that good koji rice can be produced in this state.
Steamed rice will be cooled uniformly by the chiller in the picture.
This is done in a koji making room with a constant temperature of 35 degrees or above. The steamed rice is spread across a rubbing floor known as “Momi doko” and koji is sprinkled onto it. This must be spread uniformly and thorough temperature control is required so that the koji mold may grow easily. The entire process or creating koji rice takes around 48 hours.
The finished koji rice. It has an interesting sweetness when eaten.
Making yeast starter
A lot of yeast is needed to make sake, so there is a need for a “yeast starter maker” which will cultivate large quantities of yeast. Ingredients for making this yeast starter are water, koji rice, steamed rice, lactic acid (or lactic acid bacteria), and yeast (in some cases, yeast is not used). Lactic acid is added since yeast may be eliminated when it comes together with other microorganisms, and this may adversely affect quality. The lactic acid therefore becomes an essential part of this process. In addition, yeast starter is divided into “quick-fermenting yeast starter” which adds liquid lactic acid for brewing and “kimoto yeast starter” which takes in lactic acid bacteria in nature.
＜Quick-fermenting yeast starter＞
The picture is the tank of quick-fermenting yeast starter. Quick-fermenting yeast starter of “Senkin” is made from ordinary quick ferment which performs temperature management at 20℃ or less together with water drawn from underwater flow of Kinugawa flowing to the brewery, koji rice, steamed rice, lactic acid, Tochigi’s yeast starter (New Delta).
＜Kimoto yeast starter＞
30% of the sake making is a kimoto yeast starter and uses yoshino cedars. By keeping the prepared water, koji rice, and steamed rice together and maintaining the environment at 6 to 7℃, it could be able to take in lactic acid bacteria in nature. And, when lactic acid bacteria themselves make lactic acid, the yeast that lived in the brewery begins to grow. The whole process of making yeast starter requires more than 50 days.
In addition, the process of making kimoto’s yeast starter is seperated into “kimoto” and “yamahaimoto”. Kimoto refers to doing “Yamaoroshi” which grinds rice with a stick called “Kai” to promote saccharification of rice. Yamahaimoto means to abolish this yamaoroshi and melt rice with just koji. In Senkin, they decide whether to make it from kimoto or yamahaimoto by looking at the state of melting of rice during making a yeast starter.
＜The shikomi using quick-fermenting yeast starter＞
After finishing the yeast starter making, the prepare (shikomi) for sake will start. In sake brewing using a quick-fermenting yeast starter, firstly they put a yeast starter in a thermal tank that can be controlled, add koji rice, steamed rice, water. This is referred to as “First stage”. After “rest” which means waiting for breeding of yeast for 1 day, they will do “second stage” which is adding the koji rice, steamed rice, water again the next day. Then, the same ingredient is added next day which is said the “third stage”. Since these operations are carried out three times, it is called “three-stage preparation”, and alcohol is fermented by simultaneous rice saccharification and alcohol fermentation, whereby sake is made by “parallel multiple fermentation”. The preparation is done for about a month, and what is finally completed is called moromi.
The first day is “first stage”. Alcohol fermentation has not been done yet, and rice grains are clearly left.
Day 6 of preparation. Foaming is because yeast is actively, producing alcohol while emitting carbon dioxide and carbonic acid gas.
Day 13 of preparation. The bubbles decreases and it becomes the state of the ball.
＜The shikomi using kimoto yeast starter＞
For the Shikomi of kimoto yeast starter, Yoshino cedar wooden trough are used like making yeast starter . It has three stages, rest day is provided for two days. The amount charged in one wooden pail is about 2,000 bottles in sho bottle (about 1800㎖). Sake made with this yeast-free kimoto yeast starter is sold under the brand “Senkin Nature”, and each cedars has its own individuality.
Picture provided by Kurodamakibi
It is called “Joso” to squeeze the finished moromi to separate sake cake and liquid. In “Senkin”, according to the quality of the sake that want to make, it is squeezed in three ways: bag hanging, Sase-style, and Yabuta (automatic crusher).
Pour the moromi into the sake bag made of cloth, bind the mouth with a string, collect only the drop of sake that drifts naturally. Because it does not apply pressure, it is said to have a gorgeous and delicate flavor. The prime series of the company “Senkin issei”, “Urara”, “Kamosu” adopt this squeezing method
Spread the sake bag that pours the in the tank, press from the top and squeeze for 3 days. This is a method which is called Sase-style. In this case, the liquid which comes out first is called is “Arabashiri” , the next is “Nakatori, Nakakumi”, the last is called “Seme”.
An automatic crusher so-called Yabuta. It is in a refrigerator at room temperature of 3℃. By squeezing at once in a machine, the merit is that there is almost no oxidation of sake.
The taste and pairing of “Senkin”
“There is no clear difference as to wine grape varieties about the difference in used rice and the taste of Japanese Sake. In order to obtain a complicated fermentation process, the used yeast and the manufacturing process are reflected largely in the taste. However, as an image of the taste, sake using Omachi is plump and masculine, kamenou is tight and feminine, Yamada Nishiki is a unisex type in Omachi and kamenou. ” (Mr.Usui)
“Nature” which means natural in French is made with the slogan “Kimoto is responsible for the future of sake “, making full use of the individuality of the brewery. It reproduces the old style kimoto that the manufacturing technology of sake is not yet developed, ingredient rice is not rice suitable for brewing but uses the ancient rice kamenou. Rice polishing rate also follows the era when the technology is not developed, more than 90%.They do not add yeast, but attract yeast that lives in the brewery and make yeast starter. Individuality of alcoholic beverage differs for each wooden tree, and the brewing in 2017 is ” Senkin nature un” “Senkin nature due” “Senkin nature trout” “Senkin nature quatre” and “Senkin nature cinq”.
Restaurants that can drink “Senkin”
Nishiazabu Kikuchi (Nishiazabu Tokyo)
Sushi Bando (Shinjuku Tokyo)
【References】Nihonshunomoto（Sake service institute）