Kyoto Sake: Learning to Make Hannari Brand Umeshu in Fushimi – part 2 (北川本家はんなり梅酒)
Hannari Brand Umeshu: The tastes of Kyoto are subtle and refined, this umeshu was designed to be hannari, or delicate. In addition to classic umeshu, there are four imaginatively ‘Kyoto’ flavored versions; cinnamon, yuzu, green tea and shiso.
As foodies well know, fine ingredients make for fine tastes. Kitagawa Honke produces its own rice shochu for its umeshu. The shochu, straight out of the still is 35.5% alcohol, shochu sold retail is 25%. As the ume extract and sugar will significantly lower the alcohol content of the finished umeshu, 35% is considered the minimum. The finished product will be about 15%. Lower alcohol content can allow fermentation and spoil the liqueur.
Kitagawa Honke Hannari Brand Umeshu
Hannari Umeshu (はんなり梅酒): Hannari umeshu is made with rice shochu that has been aged 2 years, then after steeping nearly ripe ume fruit for 9 months, the umeshu is aged for 1 year. This process produces umeshu that is complex in flavor and mellow.
Yatsuhashi Umeshu (八ッ橋梅酒): Yatsuhashi is a popular Kyoto omiyage (souvenir). It comes in a myriad of forms and flavorings, but it always includes sweetened mochi that has been flavored with cinnamon, which was a very unusual spice in Japan. This umeshu is flavored with cinnamon! We have never heard of this before. Wow, this is not only clever and imaginative, it tastes very good too!
Nigori Yuzu Umeshu (にごり柚子梅酒): Yuzu, the lemony Japanese citron we have talked a lot about on KyotoFoodie quite a bit last winter. Here the yuzu juice is nigori, or cloudy, unfiltered. (Unfiltered sake is called nigorizake.) Yuzu umeshu is fairly common and this is best rendition I have had of it. Very, very nice!
Uji Gyokuro Umeshu (宇治玉露梅酒): Now here is a masterpiece! Gyokuro is very high quality green tea which Uji, in the south of Kyoto produces. Gyokuro flavors the umeshu which is blended with umeshu made from sake, not shochu. The umeshu is a very gentle background taste with an unbelievably astringent gyokuro green tea flavor raging above it. I have had green tea umeshu before, it was sweet and juice-like. I was stunned when I first tried this umeshu. It is not unlike maccha! As an aperitif or digestif, this is sure to blow guests away! This is a DO NOT miss if you are in Kyoto.
Ohara Shiso Umeshu (大原紫蘇梅酒): In the North Mountains above Kyoto, the village of Ohara is famous for its production of shiso that is usually used in tsukemono, Japanese pickles. Ripe shiso, which is a reddish purple adds a delicious taste and vibrant color to this umeshu. At a recent party at my house, the gals finished a bottle of this umeshu in a flash. I guess this is one of those flavors that is especially popular with ladies.
‘Kiki’ in the Lab
Kiki – Shochu Tasting with Tashima Toji (Brewmaster)
Tashima Toji gave me two kinds of shochu to taste. One is fresh out of the still, this year’s production and the other is aged 3 years. The fresh stuff was pretty rough around the edges, but the aged shochu, though high-powered was drinkable straight at room temperature. The difference that aging makes was obvious to me.
Reference: Green Ume
These were in the lab, they are the typical unripe, green ume. These are from Joyo, a suburb south of Kyoto. I think that they are planning top secret 梅酒R&D with them. Green ume typically produce umeshu that it sweet, but not especially complex.
Over at Okinaya
Kitagawa Honke operates this small store on the main street, next to the river where their sake and good rice can be purchased. We introduced this store in this article about learning to make sake. (map and photos at the bottom of the post)
Ume and Umeshu Lineup
On the left is a bag of ume that was used to make umeshu. These make great snacks! In the middle, the jar contains a generous amount of ume and umeshu. The small jars on the right are about a single serving of umeshu and contain no fruit. These are all Hannari brand.
Ume in Umeshu
Ume in jar detail.
This is the classic, unflavored umeshu, available in 1.8 liter and 720ml bottles with no fruit.
Hannari Umeshu ‘Kyoto’ Flavors
From left to right; yatsuhashi (cinnamon), yuzu, gyokuro (green tea) and shiso.