Doburoku. Unrefined sake.

What is Doburoku? In short, doburoku is a type of home brewed and completely unfiltered sake. It as a cloudy and chunky milky white appearance. Considered rough and rustic, this is a type of sake you may see served at festivals in Japan.

Doburoku has a few characteristics to look out for. First, a shubo (fermentation starter) is not used for doburoku. In addition fermentation period is shorter than standard sake, which leaves a lot of residual sugar, so you may notice sweetness in doburoku. The short fermentation time also means most doburoku is lower alcohol – somewhere around 6-8%. The license to make doburoku is different from the standard sake brewing license and may be granted to special production zones, establishments or shrines that produce doburoku for festivals, religious events or on-site consumption by tourists. There are well over 100 Doburoku zones registered across Japan and dozens of shinto shrines that hold Doburoku festivals. Home brewing of Doburoku has been outlawed in Japan since 1899 making the brewing of doburoku illegal without a special license. The liquor tax act outlines the punishment for brewing doburoku without a license in Japan, which is up to 10 years in prison or a fine of ¥1,000,000!

There may be some confusion between Doburoku and nigori sake, which is also cloudy in appearance. In contrast to Doburoku, Nigori is a coarsely pressed sake that is produced in the traditional way with a full fermentation starter and a longer, standard fermentation period. The coarse pressing of nigori (some particulate removed) is the main difference as doburoku is fully unfiltered.

The flavor of Doburoku can be sweet and yet have a tangy, high acid, yogurt-like flavor as well. Rice and lactic characteristics often predominate on the palate. The texture is also a standout with lots of chunky rice bits floating around.

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