都美人酒造 (Miyakobijin Shuzō)
秋鹿酒造 (Akishika Shuzō)
Most sake brewers buy their rice – some from contracted farmers, most from unknown sources. “From our own fields to bottle” is the motto of Akishika Shuzō, where 6th-generation kuramoto Oku Hiroaki made a decision to take the brewery as close as it gets to being self-sustained for rice production.
At present, the brewery farms 25 hectares of biodynamically grown rice, sacrificing high yields for superior quality and taste. Breaking with the production methods of postwar Japan and going against the trend of the time, Oku-san was one of the initial pioneers of junmaishu, sake made without any additives; and in 2009, he achieved the goal of the brewery’s entire production being made that way. Akishika ages a big part of their production until it reaches perfect drinking condition, allowing them to offer an unrivaled variety of matured sake.
Using their unique fermentation method of dissolving a very high portion of the fermentation rice into the brew while maintaining low amino acid levels, Akishika’s sake is medium-bodied yet very flavorful, complex, and layered.
寺田本家 (Terada Honke)
Established in 1670, Terada Honke made a decision about 30 years ago to part ways with the industrial brewing methods of postwar Japan and take sake back to its roots. 24th-generation kuramoto Terada Masaru is following in his predecessor’s footsteps, leading a brewery where the whole incredibly labor-intensive process is done by hand. The rice used is all organic, and most of it is polished far less than the average in the industry. Fermentation relies on brewery propagated kōji (a rarity) and either kimoto or bodaimoto fermentation methods, which when combined with the little-polished rice, results in tastes that are bold, full-bodied, and expressive with a signature high presence of lactic acid.
向井酒造 (Mukai Shuzō)
Located in the picturesque seaside village of Ine, with the brewery situated right on the water’s edge, Mukai Shuzō’s production is entirely junmaishu. The brewing is headed by Mukai Kuniko, one of Japan’s first female tōji, and one of the most creative altogether. Her ability to envision taste and her incredible technical prowess mean that she can construct sake flavors that are stunning and groundbreaking.
美吉野醸造 (Miyoshino Jōzō)
Fourth-generation kuramoto Hashimoto Teruaki became the tōji at Miyoshino Jōzō in 2008, and has since turned it into one of Japan’s most innovative and creative breweries. Hashimoto sees sake brewing as part of the local agriculture, working closely with nearby farmers and adjusting his sake to the rice they grow, not the other way around, as it is in most breweries. Brewing methods are very creative and rely entirely on natural yeast, with an ethos of “helping” nature do its work. The resulting sake is full-bodied, layered, rich in umami and acidity.