Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tasting the Local Drop

With David’s professional interest in the liquor industry, he was keen to visit a few of the local producers of the ‘smooth stuff’ while in town. To be honest this is an aspect of Kansai tourism that Jules and I hadn’t previously considered, so we would be dabbling into unfamiliar territory, yet we were curious about what might be on offer. First stop was the famous Suntory Yamazaki whisky distillery that sits in the foothills outside of Kyoto. Now, I first heard of this famous whisky in the movie ‘Lost in Translation’ when Bill Murray says the memorable line…’for relaxing times, make it Suntory time’ in a scene where he is making a TV commercial. At the time I actually thought it was a made up company, but it turns out it has been operating since 1923 and it is now very well known worldwide, winning many international awards. Despite my obvious ignorance, the tour of the distillery was brilliant, with a comprehensive explanation of the whisky making process (in English), a viewing of their extensive ‘whisky library’ (something I had never heard of or seen before) and of course the obligatory whisky tasting, which is particularly well organised. Having enjoyed this tasting experience we were all keen to explore the wonderful world of sake by visiting the Hakutsura brewery, which was one of a number that can be found on the outskirts of Kobe. Arriving at Simiyoshi train station we were somewhat confused where to actually find the brewery, but not for the first time a local was kind enough to lead us to our destination, which as it turned out was only five minutes walk away. While on a much smaller scale than Suntory, the Hakutsuru sake brewery was particularly well done, with English brochures and ‘Madame Tussauds’ style wax figures depicting every stage of the sake brewing process. Of course it’s the tasting that had attracted us and the other foreigners who were there on the day and the amazing range on offer did not disappoint. Having had a preconceived notion of the sake taste, we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of flavours, particularly the fruity ones that were deceptive in their alcohol content. Jules was particularly impressed with one that tasted remarkably like limoncello (one of her favourites) and happily purchased a bottle for further taste testing at home. Here sake (rice wine) is appreciated in the same way as we regard a grape wine. There are many different styles and qualities that are enjoyed depending upon the meal, occasion or time of day. Certainly both visits had enlightened our knowledge and our palettes, while providing yet another facet to what this region has to offer.

No comments:

Post a Comment