Kikukawa Honjozo – Tasting

This time, I’m stepping back from the premium sake to get something a little less hoity-toity, if you will. Today’s brewery is Kodama Shuzo of Shimonoseki, whose main label is Chomon Kikukawa.

Chomon Kikukawa Honjozo Genshu

This is a very small brewery on the other side of the prefecture, and is very hard to find near me. I ran into a couple of bottles at a roadside rest area on a drive with the family, and had to pick some up. Right away, of course, I could make some assumptions about the sake I would be getting. First of all, their “premium” (i.e. most expensive, most ornately packaged) sake was a honjozo, and their futsushu brews all contained added sugar. To me, this indicates what is often called an “old fashioned” sakagura whose products will be heavy, perhaps cloying, and karakuchi.

This particular sake was the only one that didn’t contain added sugar, so it’s the only one I got. It is a honjozo, which is the lowest level of tokuteimeishusho. It indicates that the sake is made with added brewer’s alcohol, but not more than 10% by weight of the rice used in brewing. Futsushu can use more (as well as other additives).

Seimaibuai 70%

The back label is surprisingly informative for a little country kura. In addition to the basic necessities (ingredients, alcohol level, seimeibuai) it also indicates the flavor ranges (Amakuchi/Karakuchi, Light/Rich) and the recommended drinking temperature (this one is best cool/room temp).

So, then, how was it? Pretty much as expected. It had a surprisingly mild aroma of melon, banana and a touch of molasses. In the mouth, though, it’s as old-fashioned as it gets. It’s a big, meaty sake that fills the mouth with that flavor that everyone seems to associate with sake. It’s syrup-heavy, and honestly I found it hard to finish a single cup.

I’m not going to say this is a bad sake. I can imagine that it’s a local favorite, something generations of people have drunk and loved, a constant companion for evenings after a hard day’s work. But for someone newer to sake, or experienced drinkers used to the new wave of sake making, it is a big challenge.

And it’s not one I’m up to, if I’m honest. But still, it’s another name off the Yamaguchi sake brewery list!

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