Sake Review – Nara’s Inada Shuzo: Kuromatsu Shiboritate

Feb. 15. 2021
by Cindy Bissig

Thinking about Nara, we more often than not associate it with woodland temples and the messengers of the gods, the deers, roaming freely, bowing to visitors as they are looking to receive some heavenly treats. However, once we enter the world of sake, we quickly move past the tourist sights and enter a long history of craftsmen and brewers dedicated to their communities. Delivering some of Japans best sake, produced by family-run breweries, small-sized, with lots of history.

Inada Shuzo – Behind the Sake

One of them is Inada Shuzo. This over 130 years old sake brewery, located in the Mishima Hondori shopping district, close to the JR Kintetsu Tenri Station, is a great example of how sake brings people together. They poetically believe that individual strings are needed to create a single thread. Meaning that when the producer, the merchant and the customer all come together face to face a unique connection is created. A strong community built on knowing each other and because of that most of their sake is only available in the region. Mainly sold at their directly managed stores. It is this close connection that makes the brewery so special and well-loved in the area.

They also still believe in using traditional brewing methods, but and this may come as a surprise, do not shy away from modern technology, smoothly transitioning into a new era of sake making.

Aside from delicious sake they also produce Narazuke, a traditional Japanese pickle. Using the sake kasu, the leftover lees of sake making, giving it a unique taste. They have created many flavours including white melon, cucumber, watermelon or ginger. Great to eat on their own and particularly delicious as part of Naras beloved ochazuke.

The Sake – Nama Shiboritate Junmai/Honjozo

These two bottles of sake are almost like twins. They are the same, but then they are not. What do I mean with that you may wonder? Well, looking at the information on the label we find the same details, semaibuai 70%, Nihonshudo +3 and alcohol content 17-18%. Yet, one is a pure rice sake and the other is a honjozo, meaning a tiny bit of alcohol has been added at the end of the fermentation process.

So when you drink them and compare, the flavour and the aromatics are respectively the same, however, the finish and the intensity are very different. 

Starting with the Kuromatsu Inaten Honjozo Nama Shiboritate, the first thing I noticed was the delicious fruity smell and pouring it into the glass, its crystal clear look. Then having the first sip, it is impossible to not taste melon, it is smooth, with some acidity but with a very clean, warm finish. A very fresh and vibrant sake, easy to drink.

Great as a pallet cleanser between courses, though I would stay away from too heavy, and very rich foods, keep it light. As it already has that melon taste, eating it with melon and cured meats would be an excellent pairing. Also, a light crisp tempura or a light zaru soba (cold soba with a dipping sauce) would taste beautiful with this sake. I prefer this one slightly chilled, however, it is also great at room temperature and heated up. A great all-rounder. 

Now moving on to the Kuromatsu Inaten Junmai Nama Shiboritate, compared to the honjozo, it is more intense, like turning up the volume on the radio. Having all the flavours of its “twin", this one can stand up to dishes that are a little stronger. Still, overly rich and spicy food would do nothing for it. Nevertheless, grilled oily fish, such a salmon or slightly richer dishes such as sukiyaki or nabe would indeed make a wonderful pairing. I also do like it served slightly on the colder side, yet it is also very pleasant at room temperature.

So if you do spot one of them in a shop or on a menu, make sure to give them a try. Be careful though, being so easy to drink it’s also easy to forget that with 17-18% alcohol they might give you a little headache after too many…

Facts

Kuromatsu Inaten Junmai Nama Shiboritate

Semaibuai: 70%

Alcohol Content: 17-18%

Brewery: Inada Shuzo

Location: Tenri, Nara Prefecture

Kuromatsu Inaten Honshozo Nama Shiboritate

Semaibuai: 70%

Alcohol Content: 17-18%

Brewery: Inada Shuzo

Location: Tenri, Nara Prefecture