Nanbu Bijin’s umeshu adds no sugar and instead uses their All Koji Sake (a full-bodied sake with concentrated sweetness and umami made only with koji rice) to balance the tartness of the ume. Macerated with koji sake and ume for only two weeks, this clear, light pink umeshu is bright, light, tart, and clean – think fresh cranberries and pomegranates. One of my favorite things about this umeshu is that it proves that you don’t have to infuse ume for very long to take advantage of the fruit’s merits. A quick maceration highlights the fresh and light astringency of the ume skins. Kosuke Kuji, the 5th generation brewer of Nanbu Bijin adds, “We use plums from the plum grove around Shoboji Temple in Oshu City, Iwate Prefecture.” Try this elegant umeshu chilled in a wine glass with bolder flavors including al pastor tacos, chicken wings, and gindara misoyaki.
Umeshu is composed of two words, ume (often referred to as Japanese plum, but it is arguably closer to an apricot) and shu (the Japanese word for alcohol). Umeshu is often translated as “plum wine,” which is a bit of a misnomer since it’s not fermented – it is a maceration of ume and sugar in alcohol. Although most commonly soaked in shochu, umeshu can also be made with sake, whisky, and vodka.
The first mention of umeshu was documented in 1695 in the Japanese culinary bible Honcho-shokkan. It’s unclear if the objective was to preserve the plums or end up with the liqueur that resulted from the process. Whatever the initial intention, it has evolved to become a drink that almost every household in Japan makes. Each family seems to have a different recipe consisting of three ingredients: ume, sugar, and alcohol, with varying techniques involving ume preparation (to remove the heta stem or not to?) and how long the umeshu infuses.
- Brewed in Iwate, Japan
- Toyonishiki 65%, SMV: -50, Acidity: 3.0
- 10 fl oz (300ml)
- 9% ALC/VOL
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