KUMASHOCHUThe Hitoyoshi-Kuma area of Kumamoto is the home of Rice Shochu and a Mecca for lovers of authentic Shochu.
Rice Shochu production began in the rice growing area of Hitoyoshi-Kuma. Distillation technology was introduced here about 500 years ago.
Hitoyoshi-Kuma area is located in a basin surrounded by the mountains of Kyushu, having an extreme temperature difference and the Kuma River, one of Japan’s three rapid streams flows through the center of the basin, this area has been known as one of Kumamoto’s premier rice growing centers. Rice Shochu production began in this area about 500 years ago. It is suggested that it started with the distillation technology which was introduced via the flourishing international trade with South East and Continental Asia, the feudal load of those days, Sagara was engaged in. Shochu production rapidly developed and has continued to this day.
Kuma Shochu is one of a few internationally recognized liquor brands. A variety of flavours are created using two distillation techniques.
Along with the likes of Scotch Whisky or Bordeaux Wine, Kuma Shochu is one of the few alcohol brands worldwide which have been recognized by the WTO (World Trade Organization) based on the geographical location of their production. To use the brand name “Kuma Shochu”, the shochu must satisfy the following three conditions, 1: the only raw material is domestically produced rice (including rice koji) and the water of Hitoyoshi-Kuma, 2: Koji and water are added to the first “moromi” for further fermentation and distillated in a single-type distiller, 3: all stages of production are done in Hitoyoshi-Kuma area. More than 200 brands of Kuma Shochu are produced using two distillation techniques, “Jo-atsu joryu” which makes rich aroma and deep taste (koku), and “Gen-atsu joryu” which makes refreshing aroma and lightness goes down easily without leaving a strong aftertaste.
how to enjoy
There are various ways to enjoy Hitoyoshi-Kuma shochu, from “Jikikan” to “Kan the rock” which are Hitoyoshi-Kuma’s unique ways to drink.
In Hitoyoshi-Kuma, people enjoy shochu with a variety of ways of drinking such as classic straight, on-the-rock, and mixture with water or hot water, even cocktails using fruits or fruits juice. Also, there is a traditional way to drink shochu called “Jikikan” using pottery bottles called “Gara” to put over fire directly to warm shochu. This makes shochu smooth and people drink it with tiny shochu cups called “Choku”. Traditional “Kan the rock” which is poured directly on ice cubes from hot “Gara” is enjoyed, too. This not only keeps mellowness and sweetness of hot shochu but also makes refreshing taste of shochu-on-the-rock.
SAKEAlong with its water and rice resources
Kumamoto was also blessed by “the God of Sake”.
A variety of spring water, sake rice and “Kumamoto kobo (yeast)” create flavors ranging from sweet, fruity, and flowery to dry, crisp and sharp
Sake used to mean “Akazake” in Kumamoto, but the popularity of traditional sake spread to the area following its introduction for Kan-gun soldiers during the Seinan War, the civil war at the beginning of Meiji Period. Also, sake producing in Kumamoto was supported and advanced by Kinichi Nojiro, known as “The God of Sake”. Nojiro added his expertise to assist the production of high-quality sake, founded Kumamoto-ken Shuzo Kenkyu-jo (Sake Brewery Research Institute) and became its first chief engineer. By establishing techniques which are still used in sake brewing throughout the country such as the “Niju-oke method” which keeps the fermentation tank at a constant temperature, Nojiro raised the sake of Kumamoto up to the nationwide quality.
Kumamoto groundwater, original sake rice, and yeast that can produce a wide range of flavors, aromas, and richness
Kumamoto is called “the country of water” because of its abundant groundwater. It is known that the water quality has a wide range of hardness depending on the spring, this means that the sake produced at each brewery has its own unique qualities. Kumamoto’s original sake rice “Hananishiki”, which was developed over 14 years, is a large grain rice with a large center of rice called “Shinpaku” and can create various unique tastes depending on how much it’s shaved and makes wide range of tastes from dryness to mellowness. Also, Kobo (yeast) is essential for sake production. Kumamoto kobo, which was isolated and cultured by Nojiro in 1953, is one that creates individual qualities like flowery fruitiness or crisp and sharp dryness, according to the aims of sake-maker. The combination of these qualities results in the variety of delicious sake produced in Kumamoto.
How to enjoy
Cold sake gives refreshing taste and hot sake gives rich aroma and “koku”. Enjoy different taste and aroma depending of the temperature.
Sake changes its aroma and taste depending on its temperature. Cold sake chilled in refrigerator or sake on-the-rock have a mild aroma and refreshing taste. Drinking sake with room temperature is a way to enjoy its original taste. “Kanzake” which is hot sake warmed in “Tokkuri” has some names such as “Nurukan” or “Atsukan” depending of its temperature. The aroma spreads by warming and warming makes more sensitive flavor and “koku”, deepness of taste mixture. Matching the temperature of the dishes with the temperature of the sake creates a synergistic effect that makes the sake and the food more delicious.
WINEKumamoto wine doesn’t have a long history
However, its quality is world-class.
From its origins of fruit wine blended with Amanatsu orange juice Kumamoto Wine has received nationwide attention following its competition success.
“Amanatsu Sangria” from Fukuda Farm in Minamata City is a fruit wine blended with Amanatsu orange juice and wine and is said to be “the pioneer of wine in Kumamoto”. It was created to represent the charm of Minamata which has an exotic atmosphere with seasonal citrus trees lining on well drained mountain slopes. Kumamoto Wine Company was later established in Kumamoto City and produced “Kikuka Night Harvest” which won a prize in a Japanese competition in 2004 and again in an international competition in 2009. Sommeliers all over the country have since paid close attention to Kumamoto Wine.
Kumamoto is generally unsuitable for grape cultivation, however, much trial and error has led to the development of high quality grapes capable of producing complex flavored wine.
Kumamoto wine company grows most of the raw grapes in Kikuka town, which has well drained sandy soil. Also, a lot of trials were done repeatedly to improve its drainage, high quality grape cultivation technique was established. The grapes which are harvested between midnight and dawn when grapes skin’s fragrance component increases. The grapes harvested at the best time are squeezed gently and fermented slowly to produce wine with a delicate taste. “Kikuka Night Harvest” is an exceptional wine and the focus of much attention due of its rarity.
how to enjoy
Temperature and glasses are important to enjoy wine!
Adding fruits and making sangria is good, too.
Each type of wine has its best temperature. It is common to drink wine cooling down in refrigerators or put ice cubes in. Red wine is better to be close to room temperature and white wine’s taste is better when it’s chilled. Also shapes of glasses change the fragrance and taste. Slim glasses enable the drinkers to smell direct flavor and large bowl shape glasses spread the wine fragrance and enable drinkers to enjoy the aroma more. Sangria, added fruits and sweeteners to wine, is enjoyable, too.
liqueurLiqueurs produced from Kumamoto’s water, rice and fruit
by the area’s Shochu and Sake brewers.
Ume-shu (plum liqueur) has been produced since the Edo Period, Now liqueurs are brewed using the local specialties found throughout Kumamoto.
There are various theories about when liqueur was introduced to Japan, however, it is said that Ume-shu (plum liqueur), which is the best known Japanese liqueur was already being produced during the Edo Period. These days, shochu-based and sake-based liqueurs are produced at the breweries in Kumamoto. In addition to Ume-shu, there are liqueurs using Kumamoto’s local citrus varieties such as Dekopon from Uki, Banpeiyu from Yatsushiro and Amakusa Bankan from Amakusa. Furthermore, there are many kinds of liqueurs using local tomato varieties of which Kumamoto boasts the highest production in Japan, yogurt from the Kuma Dairy Farmers Union, coffee and others.
The variety in Kumamoto’s agricultural produce means a variety of liqueurs Bathed in sunlight as they grow its citrus fruits make fantastic liqueurs.
With its abundant, high quality water resources and spectacular natural environments like the Aso area, Kumamoto is a blessed agricultural region. Various agricultural products such as tomatoes which Kumamoto is Japan’s number one producer of and citrus fruits are produced actively in the warmer regions along the Ariake coast. Sunlight from above and reflected upwards from the sea surface produces fruit with refreshing aromas and sourness perfectly suitable to liqueurs.
how to enjoy
Cocktail is the best part of liqueurs.
The number of flavors is infinite as many as the number of combinations
On-the-rock changes the taste from deep to light with slowly melting ice cubes, liqueur with water gives rich aroma, and liqueur with soda adds refreshing flavor. If you want to enjoy it slowly, drink liqueur straight like licking. Cocktails are also essential for talking about liqueurs. When mixed with juice or other liqueurs, the number of combinations is infinite. Tomato liqueur can be enjoyed by adding salt or tabasco.
BEERWith the area’s rich water and agricultural resources Craft beer is hot in Kumamoto now!
The history of beer in Kumamoto began with craft beer Now a variety of flavors can be enjoyed following the Liquor Tax Law revision.
Revision of the Liquor Tax Law in 1994 enabled the small-scale brewing of beer. In 1995, Aso Farmland’s brewery (not operating presently), and in 1997 Kumamoto Craft Beer Company and Fukuda Farm began brewing beer. In 2003, SUNTORY Kyushu Kumamoto Plant was completed in the natural spring rich town of Kashima. In 2018, further revisions to the Liquor Tax Law allowed the use of fruits and herbs as secondary ingredients, now various flavored craft beers are produced at the breweries in Kumamoto.
In Kumamoto good beer comes from good water. Its thriving farmlands provide a variety of fine ingredients.
Because beer is about 90% water, the quality of the water has a major impact on the finished product. It is the direct result of using high quality groundwater and spring water originating in the Aso region that the first class beer produced in Kumamoto. These rich water resources combined with inland, oceanic and mountain climates underpin Kumamoto’s prosperous agricultural sector. Following the 2018 revision of the Liquor Tax Law, the number of craft beers that use local specialties as secondary ingredients, such as “Dekopon” in Uki-city, strawberries in Yamato-cho and rice in Kikuchi have been increasing.
How to enjoy
Beer exhibit its true flavor when it is poured into glasses! Aroma and taste change depending on the shapes of glasses and temperatures!
Many craft beers are bottled, however, their individualities such as aroma and flavor are shown when they are poured into glasses. Pouring beer vigorously into glasses removes the carbonic acid a little and makes the taste smooth like draft beer. Also, in order to enjoy the aroma, use glasses with narrow mouthpieces and not chill the beer too much. When warming beer, wrap the glass with both hands. Holding a beer glass against lights and looking at the color is another way to enjoy craft beers.