The progress of modern technology often makes people forget their original intentions. Full of floral and fruity aroma, stable sake quality, crisp and light-bodied style, fresh and slightly carbonated texture…Have you ever thought of sakes hundred years ago were not like that?
Fortunately, more and more sake breweries have gradually revisited their original missions. Being supplemented with advanced technology and sanitation technology, the so-called old-style brewing methods are constantly returning. In addition to kimoto brewing, there is also “wooden barrel fermentation (brewing).”
Sake beginners always talk about the function of wooden barrels during maturation, which is to give the sake a refreshing woody aroma. However, wooden barrel fermentation is not aimed to produce woody taste. Instead, it is to attribute sake to a higher level of complexity. Wooden barrel brewing is a kind of complicated technique, and requires rigorous sanitation management.
What is the charm of wooden barrel brewing? Wooden barrel brewed sake can produce complex and diversified flavours. Drinkers can subtly feel the array of sweetness, bitterness, acidity and rice at the same time. In addition, microorganisms exist in the brewery grow within the interstices of barrels. Even barrels are cleaned after the brewing process, unlike enamel tank or stainless steel tank, flavour precipitated with time, which earmark more and more unique and sophisticated characters over time. The wooden barrels used for sake brewing can only be used for around ten years, so the barrels often need to be replaced.
The most important question, where do the barrels come from? At present, only Nihonmono in Osaka can produce barrels which are large enough for sake brewing (20 koku, i.e. 3,600L). And there is only one barrel craftsman who is at his age of 70 and would like to retire soon. Aramasa which is working towards 100% wooden barrel brewing, they have been racking their brains to train their own barrel craftsmen, therefore sake breweries with similar brewing direction also have to follow in their footsteps.
Based in Hong Kong / Official trainer of Dassai / Experienced sake educator (WSET, SSI) / JSA Sake Diploma / International sake judge