Every May, we celebrate the women who are in the center of our industry, whether that's for drinks, design, or Japan. We take every opportunity to highlight the people who are making a difference in their professions – and with Mother's Day in May, it's a good time to champion the ladies. We are a women-owned business, afterall.
It is still very rare for women to work in the sake industry, making it a challenge to find sakes mades by women for this month. But I believe it is important to spotlight these women in the sake industry because they bring new ideas and perspectives to sake-making, like using new strains of rice or exploring new fermenting techniques. Traditionally, the intensive labor involved with sake-making was reserved for men, but these women are defying those boundaries by rethinking and modernizing the industry. This is important especially in a climate where sake consumption in Japan is decreasing due to the competition alongside other drinks like wine, beer, and shochu.
On our blog this month, we have an interview with Rieko Hayashi of Hayashi Honten, who carries on the torch as the 5th generation head of the brewery. We've included a sake from her brewery at both levels (the OneTen Red Junmai at Level 1 and the OneTen Purple Yamahai Junmai Ginjo at Level 2). Level 1 will also get a bottle from Kaetsu Brewery, run by Yoshiko Sato and her husband, who makes the Kirin Koshi no Takumi Tokubetsu Junmai, while Level 2 will get a Kimoto Junmai from Yuho Brewery with female President Mijo Fujita.
Check out our blog this month for interviews with other Women in the Industry, including a feature with Emiko Kaji, Manager of International Business Development at Nikka Whisky.
Yoko + KayokoLEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
OneTen Red Junmai
Hayashi Honten (Gifu, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 70%, SMV: +12
Hayashi Honten’s owner, Rieko Hayashi attended Tokyo Agricultural University to keep the brewery in the family for a 5th generation. She is inspired by her grandmother who ran the brewery after her grandfather unexpectedly passed away. This dry and smooth sake has notes of fresh grass, minerals and nutty brown rice. I encourage you to try this brew both chilled and slightly warm, as the sake opens up when it is warm. The acidity pairs well with meaty or salty foods like pork belly or fried chicken.
Kirin Koshi No Takumi Tokubetsu Junmai
Kaetsu Brewery (Niigata, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 55%, SMV: +4
Yoshiko Sato and her husband own Kaetsu Brewery who specialize in making muroka (non-charcoal filtered) sakes which tend to be more bold and full of umami than charcoal-filtered sakes. They also make “Bride of the Fox” a junmai ginjo that has recently been featured in our club. This sake is a tokubetsu junmai. Tokubetsu means “special” due to the blend made with Gohyakumangoku rice that has been polished down to 50% and a yamahai sake made with rice polished down to 55%. The result is a creamy, soft brew that has a strong aroma of sweet mushrooms and savory porridge. I love the pleasantly clean ending of rice porridge that lingers. This sake is the opposite of a fruity sake and I encourage you to try this warm or at room temperature. Pair with a warm spinach salad or slices of avocado.
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
OneTen Purple Yamahai Junmai Ginjo
Hayashi Honten (Gifu, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 60%, SMV: 0
At the age of six, Rieko Hayashi knew she wanted to continue the family brewery as its 5th generation owner. Knowing that women are a minority in the sake industry, she continues to hire women onto her team, most recently, last month. This yamahai junmai gingo is lively and acidic and tastes like a basketful of umami: tofu, jamon iberico, sesame seed, coffee, and hemp! Sip this sake at room temperature alongside earthy foods like olives, pesto, or aspagagus.
Yuho Rhythm of the Centuries Kimoto Junmai
Mioya Brewery (Ishikawa, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 55%, SMV: +3
President Miho Fujita of Mioya Brewery makes this beautifully wild expression of a kimoto with her toji (brewmaster) Mr. Yokomichi. It has a bold acidity that tastes like yogurt and preserved lemons. In addition to using the kimoto method (a 17th century sake making technique that incorporates naturally occurring yeast and lactic acid), it is aged for four years in the bottle to round out the flavors. This sake takes you on a journey, from a juicy, tart beginning to hints of burnt sugar in the middle and, finally, a clean finish. The acidity pairs well with seared beef or grilled mushrooms. Bring it to your next barbecue party and serve it at room temperature or a little warm as the sun goes down. Fun fact! Miho believes her sake can stay open for longer than most – she prefers to drink them after being open for 1-2 months.
Top photo L-R: Yoshiko Sato of Kaetsu Brewery, Miho Fujita of Mioya Brewery, and Rieko Hayashi of Hayashi Honten