Sake Blossoms: The World’s Greatest Sake and ‘Ume’ Plum Blossoms

The World’s Greatest Sake and ‘Ume’ Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗

The World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗
Sake Blossoms: On a late winter morning in Kyoto you can find delicate flakes on a stone pavement and pause to investigate whether they are snow or plum petals. Of course the presence of a penetrating fragrance tips you off. Several years ago, while walking my dog on a snowy night, at the gate of a neighborhood temple, with sake waiting at home, I plucked a few blossoms from a plum tree. I discovered that the delicate fragrance goes extremely well with fine sake. Floating a blossom in some chilled sake has become a late winter ritual for me.

I couldn’t help commemorating this year’s sake and ume with a major photoshoot in my garden. Unfortunately there was no snow. I used two bottles of my favorite sake from Uehara Sake Brewery; Furosen Muroka Nama Genshu Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo Kidaru Jikomi and Soma-no-tengu Tenbin Shibori Nama Genshu. (I recently visited the brewery and will tell you more about their sake soon.)

I really hope that you like the photos! Lots of comments please!

Ume Blossom Floating in Furosen Sake
The World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗

My Favorite Sake in the Whole Wide World: Furosen
The World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗
The bottle on the left is Furosen (不老泉) Muroka Nama Genshu Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo Kidaru Jikomi, I think that this must be the sake served in heaven. So far, it is the best sake that I have discovered. Soma-no-tengu (杣の天狗), on the right, is very good too, also from the same brewery.
The sticker on the bottle neck that says, 要冷蔵 which means ‘requires refrigeration’, that is how you know it is real sake: nama genshu.

Ume Blossom Floating in Furosen Sake
The World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗

Furosen and Soma-no-tengu Nama Genshu and Ume Blossoms
The World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗

Furosen and Soma-no-tengu Nama Genshu and Ume Blossoms
The World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗

Furosen and Soma-no-tengu Nama Genshu and Ume Blossoms
The World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗

Ume Blossoms – DetailThe World's Greatest Sake and 'Ume' Plum Blossoms 上原酒造 不老泉・杣の天狗

Here in Kyoto it is late winter and the ‘ume’ plums are in bloom now. The blossoms come in white, pink and dark reddish purple. Japan and Kyoto are better known for ‘sakura’ cherry blossoms, which are very nice, but I prefer the ume plums. Ume blooms when it is still winter, if you are lucky you can see ume blossoms in the snow, I have only seen that a few times. It is among the most beautiful things that I have experienced. The smell of fresh snow and ume blossoms, the unlikely contrast of snow and flowers, and sometimes even a few hardy and enterprising bees buzzing around it is all more than one can easily dream up. But, alas, fact is often stranger than fiction – and tastier!

The Sake
・Furosen Muroka Nama Genshu Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo Kidaru Jikomi
・Soma-no-tengu Tenbin Shibori Nama Genshu
Both are produced by Uehara Shuzo Sake Brewery in neighboring Shiga prefecture. Furosen is the brand name and means ‘fountain of youth’ because the water that they use to make their sake naturally bubbles up out of the ground.

15 Responses to “Sake Blossoms: The World’s Greatest Sake and ‘Ume’ Plum Blossoms”

  1. Jo Green says:

    Very nice write up. I actually have the green bottle of sake in my fridge here in Belgium and I do love the taste. Now I need to find a cherry blossom to put in the glass.

  2. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Jo,
    You have Furosen IN Belgium? Really? I was just at the Uehara Brewery last week and asked the owner if they export. He said that a very, very small amount *seems* like it is being exported. You are one of the VERY, VERY few to have Furosen abroad! One of the VERY, VERY few to have Furosen ANYWHERE!

  3. Jo Green says:

    Because of the many Japanese businesses here, we have some extremely good Japanese grocery stores. They are quite expensive but if you are dying for Japanese home cooking like my husband is then it is the only place to get the real ingredients. The sake selection at the store closest to us is one of the best.

    Cherry blossoms I can find but the plum may stretch the resources of even my local shop.

  4. Mora says:

    Gorgeous photos! I printed out the one with the 2 bottles and will be taking it with me to New York City this week. On Friday, March 6 my partner and I are having dinner at En Japanese Brasserie and will meet with Harris Salat, the man behind JapaneseFoodReport.com. If luck is with us perhaps we will find some Furosen at En. Otherwise it looks like we’ll have to wait until our next trip back to Kyoto in November 2009.

  5. Forager says:

    Thanks for this post! I have not had the best experiences with sake to date but I assume I might have had a cheap and nasty sake. So I’ve been wanting to try it again – but wanted to make sure the next time I try sake its a good one and so I can appreciate what sake is about. Now I have to see whether Furosen is available in Australia.

  6. Paul Hays says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the great idea. I saw some ume at the local onsen, Okatan, in Miki, Hyogo, and I thought it would be great to have a bit of sake and watch them grow.

    I want to help you visit the sake brewery! I haven’t seen any since I was at the Sake Festival in Hiroshima many years ago.

    Food On!

    ps – I love the photography. Subarashii!

  7. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Jo, Wow, you are fortunate to have such great sake in your neighborhood! Cherry blossoms are just fine too.

    Hello Mora, Taking the photos with? Wow! What an honor!! Please let me know if you find any in NYC. And give Mr JapaneseFoodReport my warm regards. His site is excellent.

    Hello Forager, If you had nasty sake it was likely futsushu (regular sake), it has ethyl alcohol added to it. Daiginjo is about the most expensive kind of sake and it also has ethyl alcohol added to it, but it is very high quality sake to start with, so it is often pretty good. Namagenshu usually has nothing added to it. The sake that I would recommend has to be kept refrigerated.

    Hello Paul, Which sake brewery? In Hyogo? Food on, man! Food on! (Sake on too!!)

  8. How very Japanese:-) Your photos look great! I bet Uehara could use them for their marketing materials (hopefully in exchange for some free sake).

  9. Peko Peko says:

    Hi Marc, Yes, that would be great! I don’t think that they do much marketing though. I think that their philosophy is that if you make great sake, people will find it and drink it.

  10. Rachel says:

    Beautiful photos! I especially love the third one. I don’t have access to such high-quality sake; in fact I’m only 3-4 years into a love affair with wine, so I haven’t really started investigating sake yet. What I do have is an ornamental nectarine tree in my yard: the blooms are almost identical to what you have there, but they are a deeper pink, almost fuschia. The scent is heavenly!

  11. pixen says:

    gooshhhhh.. so beautiful!!! Really made me longing to visit Kyoto ne :-( I have to wait few more 1-2 years more. It’s not about $ … I can’t travel peacefully when there’s a toddler. I have already been invited to Kyoto but have to wait for awhile. Perhaps patience pays… :-)

    Thank you for sharing gorgeous photos!

  12. Jonathan says:

    Hello
    I loved the photos that you have posted on this topic.
    I’m currently in Kyoto, where can I find some ume blossoms?

  13. Peko Peko says:

    Sorry, quick reply —

    Jonathan, please see our ‘Top Ume Spots in Kyoto List’ at the link below:

    http://openkyoto.com/kyoto-support/topic/top-16-places-to-see-plum-ume-blossoms-in-kyoto

  14. We do import and sell Soma no Tengu of Furosen in The Netherlands and to various other countries in the EU. It is one of my personal favourites! In case anyone is interested, please contact us through our website.

  15. […] When do Kyoto Fruit Trees Blossom? February: Plum (ume 梅) March: Peach (momo 桃) April: Cherry (sakura 桜) Due to global warming these fruit trees are often blooming earlier than they did traditionally. Forget the namby-pamby late spring sakura and seek out the ume! […]

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