Kikuhime & Co., Ltd. has a strong commitment to sake brewing in Ishikawa. I first came across the Kikuhime brand, through the sake called Kukurihime. Kukurihime matures for 10 years – and is absolutely uncommon and expensive. Yet, it was on my list of 5 sakes to drink.
You may see their thoroughness and commitments to sake on their website (as long as you are Japanese…sorry for those who have no idea of Japanese, yet i will explain what it is as this article goes on 😉 )
On their website, they provide thorough and educational knowledge on a sake rice called Yamada-nishiki.
Today I am going over 5 things that Kikuhime is committed to for sake brewing based on an interview with Mr. Fukuoka through e-mail; giving us a rare and valuable insight of this particular premium brand of sake.
Yamada-nishiki, Yamada-nishiki and Yamada-nishiki!
One of the prominent features of Kikuhime is its extremely high quality sake rice that they use and explicitly emphasize. It is Yamada-nishiki that suits sake brewing the best, and they only utilize the best crops cultivated in Yoshikawa-cho, Hyogo for their Ginjo-shu and Junmaishu.
Even though Yamada-nishiki is the best quality rice for sake, the rice is vulnerable and sensitive to grow and to provide for it. Because of that, it is expensive to cultivate. Kiku-hime, however, having a strong and lasting partnerships with the rice farmers who grow Yamada-nishiki, is capable of supplying sake made with Yamada-nishiki.
Brewing through Fresh, Natural and Pure Water
The most vital thing for brewing high quality sake is absolutely water. Because 80% of sake is made of water, Kikuhime utilizes fresh water sourced from Hakusan mountain for sake brewing. Mr. Fukuoka said that they utilize only untreated, natural water.
Quality Sake Rice + New Tech Facilities + Experienced Crafters equal…
What Kikuhime really cares for are quality sake rice, new tech facilities, and most importantly, experienced crafters. Only an experienced crafter is capable of taking advantage of a new tech facility. In other words, good sake rice and facilities are not even good enough to brew good sake. What’s necessary is WHO crafts the sake given the tools.
Kikuhime has also put a lot of effort on educating young sake crafters for 20+ years by developing a program called “Sake Meister” in order not to rely on only knowledgeable crafters, but also to develop new and upcoming crafters.
Kikuhime figured out way to take over the brewing skill that was traditionally handed down verbally from a scientific point of view in order to make sake brewing more tangible and approachable.
Equipments in their brewery designed to encourage the best ingredients and high-skilled brewers
One of notable things that I came across on their website was that they designed their facility based on human engineering. I asked Mr. Fukuoka what is the difference from regular one.
The process of making sake can be roughly divided into two parts. In the first part, it takes 20 hours to develop the environment for the right conditions for the sake fermentation process. In the second part, it takes 30 hours to let it stand in order to increase Koji; the yeast mixture that helps with the sake fermentation process. In this stage, the sake brewers try to control and balance the quality of enzymes contained in the Koji to suit the sake brewing process. Those 2 parts require 2 different types of rooms and facilities.
Therefore, they created 4 150 square meter sized rooms: 2 for the first part of the process and 2 for the second part of the process so that they are capable of taking care of the quality carefully.
I wouldn’t think that this can be replicated by all sake breweries since it costs a lot to invest in these facilities. Kikuhime is, however, passionate about streamlining and optimizing the process as shown by their investment in these facilities.
Sake Maturing for 10 years
As I said, one of the most prominent features of Kikuhime is that they let the sake mature for 10 years even though it is most recommended to drink it while it is fresh (within 7 to 14 days later than opening it)
General speaking, sake is vulnerable and sensitive enough to change its taste and aroma by the way its stored, and it is good to have it as soon as possible before it goes changed. Kikuhime, however, with their educated and meticulous experience, gets control of the vulnerabilities of sake.
According to Mr. Fukuoka, it could happen that all of a sudden, any problem pops up and lasts for a week, and ends up ruining the entire 10 years’ worth of effort even if it’s a week out of the 10 year process!
Wrap it Up!
“Kikuhime is seeking out timeless and authentic sake that isn’t affected by any trends.”
Mr. Fukuoka also said “Kikuhime is not such a thing to be liked by everyone, but rather as something beloved by particular person, a drink that’ll blow their mind.”
As I mentioned in the beginning, Kikuhime is not inexpensive, and not for everyone. Having said that, if you are a connoisseur of good sake, you have to try Kikuhime at least once in your life.