Sake made from soft water tends to pick up subtle flavor nuances that are not detectable in the crisp, dry sakes made from mineral-rich hard water. At the ginjo level they are multi-layered and complex, and It is not always easy to describe their qualities in words.
Among the soft-water breweries of Japan Kokuryu is perhaps the most famous. Its water is drawn from the subterranean flow of Kuzuryugawa (Nine-Headed Dragon River), famed since ancient times for its delicious taste. Kokuryu’s founder, Nizaemon Ishidaya, built the original brewery in 1804 in the vicinity of Eihei-ji, the main temple of the Soto Zen sect. Nizaemon’s descendants have been making sake there ever since.
Kokuryu labels resound with deep flavor, but what makes them unique is their overall finesse. Often sakes with a big taste profile become muddied by amino acids and other fermentation byproducts and lack clarity. Somehow Kokuryu manages to avoid this, bringing rich flavor and delicate balance together in a unique expression of the sake-maker’s art.