Tasting – Tenbi The First

Tenbi The First, nama genshu. Unlabeled junmai, due to unspecified seimaibuai.

It is a rare thing to see a new sake brewery born. The hurdles to getting a new license to brew are wrapped in Catch-22 conditions, making it nigh impossible (by design) to start from scratch. However, old licenses are transferrable, and once you have the license you are free to get started. And so it is with Choshu Shuzo, of Kikugawa-cho, Shimonoseki.

Kikugawa was once the realm of Kodama Shuzo, founded some 150 years ago. In recent years age and lack of workers kept the brewery from producing their own sake, but the kuramoto doggedly kept buying in sake to sell under the Kikugawa label. Then, local industrial company Choshu Shuzo was searching for some clean water source for another project and stumbled on the well at Kodama. One thing led to another, and Choshu Sangyo bought the license and ground from Kodama, tore down the old kura and built a totally new one using its materials, and water.

That new kura is Choshu Shuzo. The owner, knowing nothing of sake brewing, hired the best toji he could find that was available (and willing to come to rural Yamaguchi), and got Fujioka Miki. Fujioka san formerly worked for very popular brands Kawatsuru and Zaku, and now is making her own sake her own way under the label Tenbi.

This is the very first bottling from their very first pressing, and I am so glad to be able to witness this brand new start. The sake itself almost seems irrelevant to what it represents: a new kura, making new sake, here in Yamaguchi. But, of course, it isn’t irrelevant!

This is a lovely sake, made with evident care. As a nama, it has the expected boisterous, effervescent freshness. It carries notes of muscat grape and herbal, grassy aromas. The flavor is clean and crisp, with a quick finish cleaned up by pleasant acidity.

I actually tried this one warmed up to around 35 degrees Celsius and it revealed a bit more of its character. There was a more pronounced sense of the umami in it, and an overall pleasing level of mellow sweetness.

It’s a great start, that gets me very excited to see what comes next.

The label is a graphic representation of numerical data taken from fermentation, apparently…

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