Introduction to Chikurin

marumoto_san.jpgI was so honored and excited to recently meet Mr. Niichiro Marumoto, President of Okayama Prefecture’s Marumoto Sake Brewery – makers of well regarded Chikurin brand of sake which is imported by Joto Sake. I met Marumoto-san twice on his last trip to New York City, once at the recent Japan Society sake tasting and again at a tasting event at Sakaya.

Both times I met him, Marumoto-san was a tireless educator about his sake! He was enthusiastic and excited to answer questions and help people (myself included) understand better what makes Chikurin tick.

chikurin_junmai2.jpgI started by tasting the Chikurin Fukamari “Depth” Junmai. This sake is in the fuller and richer range of the two sakes we tasted. Very interesting to note that they add a small percentage of Koshu, or aged sake, to their junmai to ‘pump of the volume’ so to speak. Learning this explained a lot about what made the taste of this brew so intriguing. You can pick up on rice aromas in the nose. Marumoto-san confided that he was inspired by the essence of rich incense at the local temple when creating this sake. This must be one aspect of what the name “depth” refers to… fascinating!

chikurin_junmai_ginjo.jpgNext, i eagerly dove into Chikurn Karoyaka “Lightness”Junmai Ginjo. Lightness is well named. This sake if so easy to enjoy. it’s light yet with enough body to hold it perfectly together. An important note is that this sake is only pasteurized once instead of the usual 2 times giving more vibrancy to the sake. It is also easy to pick up on and enjoy the light fruits in this aromatic brew. This is a true winner in my book! loved it.

Besides the Chikurin brand, Marumoto brewery also makes the run away hit sake sparkling Hou Hou Shu Junmai. This confection is enjoyed by people far and wide! It’s sweet and lower alcohol adding to it’s appeal with some contingents that my not be 10o% on board with sake yet. Hou Hou Shu also comes in a version infused with rosehip and hibiscus if plain sparkling sake is not enough razzle dazzle for you. The bottle design is well executed and quite interesting.

bizen.jpgTowards the end of his visit, Marumoto-san surprised me with an really amazing omiyage gift… he gave me a beautiful small Bizen tokkuri. Bizen is a stoneware pottery that has been made for hundreds of years in Marumoto’s native prefecture of Okayama. Part of the beauty of Bizen is that is is completely unglazed.

Maruomoto-san wanted to show us the effect this local pottery could have on the taste of sake. We tasted Fukamari that was just slightly warmed in the Bizen Tokkuri and then some Fukamari straight from the bottle. The sake from the Tokkuri had a pronounced yet pleasant mineral taste that the sake from the bottle did not. It was really exciting to see concrete examples as to how serving and temperature can influence and/or improve the experience for the drinker. Side by side taste test are fun!
I really left this week with a new respect for Chikurin and I surely want to drink it some more to get even better acquainted with this sake brand and brewery. If you get a chance to try Chikurin, let me know what you think! kanpai, everyone!