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Image: Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery
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Kikkawa Sake Brewery shines with two platinum and one gold award at France’s Kura Master 2023

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Kura Master, a world-renowned sake competition, was held in France on May 22. Afuri Sake from Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery in Kanagawa Prefecture was honored with two platinum and one gold award.

A remarkable achievement, this win follows on from platinum and gold awards at last year’s event. With consecutive victories, Kikkawa Brewery is emerging as a highlight of popular Nihonshu brands and raising awareness about the quality of sake from Kanagawa Prefecture.

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Kura Master sake competition Image: Kura Master

First held in 2017, Kura Master brings together professionals in the food and beverage industry, sommeliers, bartenders and wine experts from top hotels, restaurants, and culinary schools in France. Kura Master also boasts participants qualified as Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France), France’s highest artisan qualification.

Thanks to the competition's growing reputation, entry numbers have increased since the event began. Last year, a record-breaking 1,110 brands were submitted and this year saw some 1,092 brands, making the performance of Kikkawa’s brands all the more impressive.

An outline of award-winning brands from Afuri Sake is as follows. They can also be purchased online or interested individuals can stop by the Kikkawa brewery shop near Mount Oyama in Isehara City.

Platinum Award:

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Image: Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery

TERRA/O: This sake is made using 100% Omachi rice from Okayama Prefecture as the main ingredient. It has a rare brewing combination with a polishing rate of 90% and a koji ratio of 40% (twice the usual amount). It combines the difficult-to-handle Omachi rice and Afuriyama's hard water in a Yamahai fermentation method to bring out the rich and distinctive flavor of the rice. This brand also won a Gold award at the CINVE 2021 International Wine Competition in Spain.

KURO-KOJI. (Ranked among the top five brands in the finals): This sake is made using 100% Yamada Nishiki rice from Hyogo Prefecture as the main ingredient for both the rice and the koji, with a polishing rate of 90%. Black koji is added, and it is then carefully fermented for approximately one month using a kimoto brewing method to achieve a complex and deep flavor. The slow fermentation process brings out a profound taste, and the 90% polishing rate maximizes the umami flavor of the rice.

Gold Award:

OHANA: This is a pure rice sake with a beautiful rose-pink color made using the rare Tsurubara (rambling rose) flower yeast and pesticide-free cultivated ancient rice which is also rich in polyphenols and minerals. It has a gentle and smooth taste, making it suitable even for sake beginners. While it has a sweet and floral aroma, it also offers a clear aftertaste.

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From left: Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery chief brewer Masanori Mizuno, president Norimichi Goto and managing director Shinsuke Ninomiya Image: Yohko Yamamoto, Japanese sake and food journalist

All three brands have a polishing rate of 90%. This reflects the challenge undertaken by Kikkawa Brewery. Generally, it is said that the more the rice used as the raw material is polished (refined), the sake will have a "clean" taste without any off-flavors. In the "Daiginjo" classification, the rice is polished to 50% or more, and there are even sakes with rice that is polished to more than 90%. This is because the rice's outer layer contains a significant amount of amino acids, proteins and lipids, which can easily produce "off-flavors" during the sake-making process. While Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery aims to restrain unnecessary "off-flavors," their passion is to express the best taste using all the elements of the rice. They continue to challenge themselves by producing sake with low polishing rates (around 10%) that has a clear and refined quality.

Furthermore, water plays a crucial role in this challenge. Kikkawa Brewery uses water with a rare hardness of 150-160, which is considered hard water, in Japan. This high-quality water, which abundantly springs from wells that have been refined over a long period at the foot of Mount Tanzawa Oyama, is utilized in all stages from washing the rice to brewing. Traditionally, it is believed that soft water is more suitable for sake production. However, hard water promotes yeast fermentation and allows brewing even at low temperatures, resulting in a sake with a crisp and elegant quality. It is highly valued overseas as a sake with high minerality.

The theme of Kikkawa Brewery is "Sake for Life's Sake." It is inspired by "Art for Life's Sake" and represents its wish for sake to be a companion in people's lives around the world and to enrich their daily lives.

About Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery:

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Image: Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery

Founded in 1912, Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery is a sake brewery located at the foot of Mount Tanzawa Oyama (formerly known as Mount Afuri) in Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. In recent years, the stable production of sake has been challenging due to a decrease in demand for sake and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in October 2020, it became a member of the Shimada Group and embarked on a new start, including the establishment of the new brand "Afuri."

Follow Kikkawa’s journey to the international stage on Instagram in English and Japanese and Facebook.

For sake fans who want to try some of their innovative brews, visit here.

(They currently do not offer brewery tours, but have a shop on site).

Source: Kikkawa Jozo Sake Brewery

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4 Comments
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A really great brand hailing from Kanagawa! Their shop in Isehara (at the brewery) is also really cool.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

An industry sponsored event with an industry sponsored award.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

An exciting time, making their mark on the world stage.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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