The basic concept behind sake from Tosa is that it “compliments food.” At Suigei, we further pursued this concept, refining the appeal that our products have as “sake to enjoy while dining” in the process. Our goal has been to bring forth sake that has inherent flavor yet tastes sharp and carries a moderate aroma, but ensures to keep the food it complements at the forefront at all times. With our premium brews as well, we make sure to keep a gentle aroma and sharp aftertaste (ideal acidity) present, and bring forth sake that demands a refill while bring out the taste in food. That is the kind of sake Suigei creates. That is where our story lies.
Blessed rain brought forth by abundant nature
Water makes up approximately 80% of sake. It therefore largely accounts for how that sake tastes. Moreover, the considerable amount of water used in the sake brewing process extends to both preparation water and water used in cleaning brewing tools and bottles. As such, the importance of water as a resource to sake producers is irrefutable.
Kochi Prefecture, where Suigei Shuzo is based, has a strong image of being a “land of the sea” given that the Pacific Ocean is situated right below it. Ironically, its proportion of forested land (percentage of the region’s total area accounted for by forests) is the highest among prefectures in Japan at 84%. Moreover, Kochi is simultaneously a “land of mountains.” Kochi is also home to Japan’s highest level of annual rainfall. In the prefecture, the vast volume of rain that falls is built up in the region’s vast forests, which are referred to as a “natural dam” in that capacity. Over time, that rainwater is gradually released to rivers in the form of clear spring water. That spring water, which has an unlimited supply, is without a doubt a blessing of nature, and makes up part of the basis of our brewery operation at Suigei Shuzo.
Raindrops form the source of our sake at the upstream of the Kagami River
The demanding environment surrounding our brewing efforts compels us to master
The water used to prepare sake at Suigei hails from the springs of the Mount Tosa District, which is located in the northern part of Kochi City. While Koichi Prefecture, where we are based, has no shortage of water resources due to the high amounts of rainfall, our policy is to only use headwater that can be gathered from the Mount Tosa District, which contains the upstream basin of the Kagami River and home to a wealth of water. This water contains none of the iron, manganese and other elements that are unsuitable for brewing sake. Moreover, by virtue of being surrounded by mountains, the Mount Tosa District is removed from the living space of people, making the naturally-filtered water that springs up there fresh. This freshness carries over to the sake produced using that water, resulting in sake with a sharp taste and low levels of degradation in its quality.
Additionally, the abundant ecosystem nurtured in the Mount Tosa District has served to protect the water resources found there. Due to the quality of the water in and rich natural environment of the Kagami River that flows from the Mount Tosa District, as well as the preservation of its water environment over time, the river was selected as one of the top hundred bodies of water of the Heisei period by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment in 2008. Perhaps more than anything else, we at Suigei are grateful for the fact that the deeds of our ancestors who protected this environment over generations have enabled us to create sake.
Given its location in the deep southern part of Kochi Prefecture, Tosa is hardly an ideal environment for brewing sake. In fact, with its warm climate and rainy, high-humidity environment, one could say that Tosa in fact makes sake-brewing, which involves microbe activity, an arduous endeavor. Nonetheless, our ancestors in Tosa managed to ambitiously hone their techniques within such an environment to bring forth refined sake that only Tosa and its deep-south location can produce.
Among such refined sake produced in Tosa, we at Suigei have adopted “sake to enjoy while dining” as our theme, and have evolved over time alongside the food culture local to the area. Today, our challenge extends to the production of new sake that is capable of leaving an impact on food culture all over the world, not just that in Tosa.
Bringing out the flavor of the rice to the fullest extent
The main ingredient in sake-brewing and a major determinant of the taste of that sake is rice. There are multiple kinds of sake rice to be found all over Japan, each with their own individual traits. At Suigei, we gather together types of sake rice from across the country. After doing so, in order to bring out the individual traits of each type to the fullest, we only use sake rice bearing identical types and polishing ratios for each of our products. Moreover, we prepare our sake without modifying non-base rice elements (such as yeast type and brewing method) as much as possible. This allows us to offer a lineup whose individual products let the drinker savor the distinctive characteristics of the sake rice that went into them.
Additionally, in order to bring out the quality taste of the rice to the fullest, we at Suigei endeavor to polish the rice to the best of our ability so that polishing ratios are low. Our adopted standards for polishing ratios per product are no more than 40% for super-premium brew sake (versus the established standard of no more than 50%), no more than 50% for premium brew sake (versus the established standard of no more than 60%) and no more than 60% for pure-rice sake (no established standard present). While keeping polishing ratios low results in an increase in ingredients costs, our policy is not to make compromises in order to realize the sake that we aim to create.
The earnest skills of master sake brewers at work
Our next step : Realizing sake enjoyed around the world
Infused with sentiments cultivated by the climate of the
Japanese food culture has spread around the world together with sushi and other elements of Japanese cuisine. Likewise, Japanese sake has also become a global phenomenon as a liquor to enjoy with that cuisine. An extension of the worldwide champagne boom of recent years, sake is currently enjoyed in numerous cities across the globe. At the same time, enjoying sake overseas still tends to take place in restaurants and hotels and in other situations where a special sake is served in a special place. Given that state of things, Suigei sought to have more and more people around the world who represent different generations experience and appreciate sake as part of their everyday lifestyle. For that purpose, we actively hold a series of events based on the theme “Enjoy SAKE Life,” or “E.S.L.,” for short. Currently, Suigei conducts its E.S.L. Events as a form of community gatherings not only in Japan, but in multiple overseas cities such as New York, Paris and Berlin as well. In doing so, we seek to use our sake and the Suigei brand as a means of bringing together and expanding the community of sake connoisseurs.
Even during winter preparation periods, temperatures in Kochi Prefecture (particularly along the coast), where Suigei’s storehouse is located, are high. This creates difficulties in brewing sake, which involves microbe activity. Today, with the advent of air conditioning, the impact of those high temperatures has been mitigated; however, our environment remains one that poses challenges to sake-brewing. With that in mind, we at Suigei keep the following two points in mind in all of our brewing endeavors: “prepare small volumes in appropriate sizes” and “conduct sound fermentation using properly-made malted rice.” Preparing sake in small volumes makes it possible to control temperatures meticulously and, in the process, maintain a satisfactory environment that is suitable for fermentation. Moreover, properly preparing malted rice makes it possible to perform to break down and ferment the base rice in a balanced fashion, resulting in sound fermentation. While brewing sake in a high-temperature region does have its difficulties, that environment is precisely what makes it possible to conduct sake-brewing with character. At Suigei, the proper preparation of malted rice and sound fermentation gives way to sake with just the right amount of acidity and a fine sharpness. This process largely defines who we are.
The food culture of Tosa has long been a product of the rich blessings of the sea and the mountains. The dishes found on the dining room tables of local residents are varied and seasonal in nature, from bonito brought in from the Kuroshio Current and an abundance of other marine products to various edibles that hail from the mountains. A good majority of those dishes take advantage of the goodness of the ingredients that go into them. One category of dishes that no dinner party in Tosa goes without is “shallow bowl dishes.” These dishes, which are served during such parties, consist of a single platter topped with food prepared using ingredients from the sea and mountains. In Tosa, dinner parties are enjoyed by paring food served on sizable platters, from sashimi to tempura, with suitable sake and fun conversation. The presence of such a food and dinner party culture means that in Tosa, the taste of sake has to match and/or bring out the taste of the food being served as a matter of course
At Suigei as well, we have exclusively pursued a taste of sake that is to be enjoyed while dining. With an image of Kochi Prefecture’s majestic Katsurahama Coast in our hearts, our ongoing goal in our sake-brewing endeavors is to provide sake that can accommodate such dining occasions, from those that involve your own cooking to those that take place in your favorite restaurant.