Though sake is a drink steeped in ancient Japanese tradition and history, it’s a category that’s not always easily understood outside of Japan. Fortunately, quality, craftsmanship and taste are universal – and Akashi-Tai places all of these at the forefront of its production to create elegant, balanced but characterful sakes.
Keeping tradition alive
Akashi-Tai is named after its home city, where the brewery started life in 1856 and continues to this day. Akashi city is a coastal fishing town in Hyogo Prefecture, which is known as the traditional sake brewing capital of Japan.
Given the region’s reputation for producing sake, it’s no surprise that the brewery is dedicated to deep-rooted brewing traditions and heritage. Akashi-Tai is true artisan sake, handmade in small batches by the toji (or master brewer) Kimio Yonezawa and his close team of trusted craftsmen. But to Akashi-Tai, respecting tradition also means keeping it alive, in an unending quest to challenge and improve throughout every step of the sake-making process.
For the brewery today, this means treating rice with respect. It means meticulous attention to detail and never cutting corners. It means sometimes going to extreme lengths, for instance making sake not only with the finest Hyogo-grown Yamada Nishiki rice, but also brewing with the
same water that’s used to grow the Yamada Nishiki rice in the first place.
Mr Yonezawa explains the brewery’s philosophy this way: “My mission is to make sake that can reveal the character of Hyogo’s water, rice and yeasts, among the finest in Japan, and really let them shine.”
Mr Yonezawa’s tireless attention to detail results in a sake that is as expressive as it is delicate. Every drop stays true to the unique character of the rice it’s made from, resulting in an impressive depth of flavour and aroma in everything from Akashi-Tai’s Honjozo
to its Junmai Daiginjo.
Akashi-Tai and food: a beautiful pairing
The balance of refined elegance and complexity found in Akashi-Tai range of sakes make them great for drinking on their own, but they also work beautifully when paired with all types of food. As well as being the heartland of sake, Hyogo is also known throughout Japan and beyond for its food culture, making it a global hotspot for gastronomy. This epicurean trait has of course had an influence on the sake the region is known for, and Akashi-Tai is a prime example, having grown up alongside the vivid flavours of one of the world’s most evolved cuisines. Mr Yonezawa says that he is driven by “that moment when food and sake become one, and both are amplified, when the food reveals hidden depths in the sake, and the sake lingers and prolongs the pleasure of the meal”.
While people outside Japan are just catching on to the great potential of sake and food matching, it’s a known fact in sake’s homeland that it can all but transform a meal. What’s more, it goes with a variety of dishes beyond what we might think of as its classic partner, sushi. As the Japanese saying goes, “sake and food never fight”.
As a category, sake may still have an air of mystery about it – but with Akashi-Tai’s focus on quality, flavour and true craftsmanship, the brewery is proving that it’s certainly one worth investigating.
If you're crazy about all things Japanese, take a look at our round up of the best Japanese restaurants in London.