Endowed with nature’s gifts from the mountains and the seas, Ibaraki Prefecture has long been known as an agricultural paradise. No other prefecture in Japan can quite beat this fertile piece of land for producing such an impressive range of high-quality produce. Seafood, seasonal fruits, natto, beef and the list goes on.
What many people do not realise is that Ibaraki is also famous for Sake. Home to more than 40 sake breweries, Ibaraki tops the list of having the most number of breweries in the whole of the Kanto region. The reason is simple. A good sake requires good rice and good water. Ibaraki is not only a major producer of rice in Japan, it is also blessed with plenty of pure water sources!
Heritage Sake Brewery That Takes Its Yeast Very Seriously
All of the local brewers here hone their brew with much love, taking pride of the excellent local ingredients that are available. One particularly illustrious brewery with a proud history is Meiri Shurui.
Founded in 1950, Meiri Shurui succeeded in developing two varieties of yeast (Ogawa yeast and M-310 yeast) that are widely used today by sake breweries throughout eastern Japan. With its distinctive rich aroma and mild acidity, the yeast produces high-quality sake that is light, smooth, refreshingly fruity and wonderfully aromatic.
Artisanal Gin and Vodka Made With Sake
Besides its signature range of award-winning sakes, Meiri Shurui makes a variety of other delicious alcoholic beverages as well. Their artisanal lineup includes Shochu, Fruit Liqueurs, Beer and more. However, the ones that caught our eye are the unique Japanese Gin and Vodka that are brewed using a sake base. How fascinating!
Meiri Shurui Premium Craft Gin "Wa GIN"
Gin is typically made by distilling botanicals, such as juniper berries, coriander, lemon, liquorice and flowers, with neutral grain alcohol. The taste of a gin varies from herbal to floral, and even peppery, depending on the type of botanicals used.
Meiri Shurui’s premium Japanese gin is made by a method unique to Japan. Seven kinds of carefully chosen botanicals are used here, including high-quality juniper berries with a woody scent of the forest, lemon peel, orange peel and cinnamon. These are then distilled in a base of sake and stored for 10 years.
The end result is a smooth-as-silk drink that captivates the senses with a rich aroma and a refreshingly floral taste. This elegant Japanese gin is a pleasure to the palate and it will also concoct the most delightful cocktails.
Meiri Shurui Japanese Vodka "Wa Vodka"
Most vodkas in the market are made from fermented grains or starch such as potatoes. Meiri Shurui Wa Vodka is one of the rare few Japanese vodkas to be crafted with a sake base, creating a uniquely Japanese taste.
It is made by meticulously filtering through selected domestic white birch charcoal to give it a clearer taste. Using pristine water from fresh springs in Mito City, this vodka is a winner with its clean, smooth and crisp finish. Meiri Shurui Wa Vodka makes a great base for cocktails, or simply enjoy its refined Japanese taste with a little mixer or straight on the rocks.
The Mellow Richness Of Japanese Plum Wines
More than just sake, this long-established brewery continues to charm its customers with a range of award-winning Plum Wines. Also known as Umeshu, this is a traditional Japanese fruit liqueur made from ume plums.
On their own, these raw plums are extremely sour and can be mildly poisonous when eaten in their unripe state. However, when aged in alcohol to make Umeshu, the tartness of the plums combines with the sugar and transforms into a lip-smackingly delicious golden-hued liquid.
With an endearing name such as the "Hundred Years Umeshu", the makers at Meiri Shurui want this plum wine to be loved for a long, long time. No doubt it will be. This premium Meiri Shurui Hyakunen Umeshu is no ordinary umeshu. It has won numerous prestigious awards, including the Osaka Tenmangu Umeshu Competition and the Mito Plum Festival Umeshu Competition.
The golden elixir is produced using 100 per cent top-grade domestic ume plums that are lovingly hand-picked plums from Shirakaga. These plums are aged and soaked for a period of time, enhanced with the rich flavours of brandy and honey, and then finished with natural Mizuto Kasawara water.
Mellow and sweet with low acidity, the luscious aged taste of the Meiri Shurui Hyakunen Umeshu is remarkably delicious and well-loved by many.
A delicate balance of sweet and sour fruity flavours, Umeshu is addictively delicious and also makes a great aperitif. It became a popular alcoholic beverage in Japan because of its amazing health benefits, especially during the winter months.
If you are craving a sip of this warming plum wine on cold nights, the Meiri Kairakuen Umeshu Plum Wine is the perfect one to enjoy. This is a traditional umeshu made using the finest Japanese Nanko ume. These gorgeous Nanko ume are among the most famous and sought-after plums for making Umeshu because of their fragrant and fruity aroma.
You can now savour the sweet, smooth and refreshing taste of plums with the convenient and fuss-free one-cup Meiri Kairakuen Umeshu.
Sake Inn: Kanpai to Affordable & Exclusive Japanese Alcohol
Beautifully crafted Japanese alcohol always gets us thirsty. Fortunately, our good friends over at Sake Inn carry many popular sake varieties from Japan, as well as the above-mentioned Japanese Gin, Japanese Vodka and Umeshu from Meiri Shurui brewery. They also stock Sapporo Beer, shochu, the all-time favourite calpis and even Japanese food for you to pair with, cook up a feast with or even have an Izakaya house party with!
With so much on their menu, you can sink into the dilemma of too many choices. Check out their special bundle deals then; these are specially curated to bring you on a gourmet exploration of the varying tastes of Japan.
You would also be pleased to know that Sake Inn provides sake barrel ceremonies (Kagami Biraki) to companies that want something slightly different from the usual boring ribbon-cutting ceremonies. With more than 20 years of expertise as a one-stop Japanese products retailer, they can help you rest assured that your Japanese experiences will be as authentic as they can get.
*Those products of Sake Inn are also available on Shopee.
(Cover and product images from Sake Inn)