Thursday, December 24, 2015

Mutemuka “Local Sake with a Twist”

Entrance to the brewery.
They steam chestnuts in the large stoves inside.
Chestnut Shochu for Rural Revitalization
   In the mountainous region of Western Kochi lies the town of Taisho, Shimanto-cho. There can be found a brewery dedicated to local sake since its inception: Mutemuka.

   Mutemuka, which began as a simple sake brewery, started making their signature chestnut shochu “Dabada Hiburi” roughly 30 years ago. They got their start when the mayor of Taisho at the time asked them if they could help revitalize the town by using locally-grown chestnuts. They heeded the call, got a shochu brewing license, and got to work making chestnut shochu. At first they were committed to only using local chestnuts, but their rising sales outpaced local chestnut production, so they currently do not follow that requirement. However, Dabada Hiburi, which is made from over 50% chestnuts, still uses only domestic chestnuts.

   Their chestnut shochu, which was born in an era when shochu was thought to be smelly and unpalatable, was crafted through many internal trials while asking the locals for taste tests. Dabada Hiburi, which is made through a vacuum distillation process, is characterized by its refreshing taste that finishes with a full, gentle aroma of chestnuts. It is considerably aged before consumption, so it is easy to drink and goes down smoothly.
The Root of Dabada Hiburi’s Popularity, and Other Original Projects
A look at the bottling of Dabada Hiburi.
   10 years after its creation, when it hadn’t been selling very well, Dabada Hiburi was graced with opportunity during a boom in shochu popularity. One such opportunity was the introduction of the chestnut shochu in JAL international flights. Orders also spiked after Shinya Tasaki, a world-renowned sommelier, declared in a magazine interview that the most delicious food he ever ate was “ayu fish from the Shimanto River with Dabada Hiburi”. It also received a lot of recent attention when Jun Ikeido, author of the popular novel Hanzawa Naoki that was turned into a television drama in 2013, declared that the chestnut shochu the main character Hanzawa was drinking in the novel was Dabada Hiburi.

   At Mutemuka, they are undertaking a couple of unique projects not seen at other sake breweries, such as selling products from the “Mysterious Reserve”, where chestnut shochu is stored in a natural Shimanto underground cellar for “shimanto” hours (40,010 hours, or 4 years 7 months), and the “Shimantogawa Shochu Bank”, where customers can open an account and deposit their chestnut shochu. These projects are meant to bring visitors to the Taisho District, in connection with the nearby Kaiyodo Hobby Museum which recently opened.
A Brewing Process That Utilizes Shimanto’s Nature
   Having chosen to build their sake brewery near the Shimanto River, Mutemuka utilizes the local bountiful nature and works with local famers to cultivate pesticide-free rice. Each rice paddy is covered with paper, and seedlings are placed in holes in the paper. This "paper mulch" process makes it difficult for sunlight-obscuring weeds to grow. They also use the dregs from the chestnut shochu distillation process as fertilizer. Thanks to this, Mutemuka’s products are safe and environmentally-friendly.
“I want to raise public awareness of
chestnut shochu”, says the fifth-generation
CEO Kansuke Yamamoto.

   In order to spread the knowledge of these environmentally-friendly practices, Mutemuka holds rice-growing and sake-brewing courses every year, where participants can enjoy making their own original sake. Foreigners are welcome to take part in these courses and brewery tours (reservation required), but it is recommended that those who don’t speak Japanese bring someone with them who can. Please try this sake, which was painstakingly brewed with the power of nature in a small town!
   Location: Takaoka-gun, Shimanto-cho, Taisho 452
   TEL: 0880-27-0316 FAX: 0887-27-0380

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