Kiyomori Heian nigori
This sake is intriguing just by looking at the label. It’s a scroll-like white label with a thousand mysterious kanji written all over, and they tell you the story of Kiyomori and how it all started.
Enoki Shuzo, the brewery that makes this nigori kijoshu, was founded in 1899 and it’s located in Ondo-cho, Kure in Hiroshima. In the 1970’ this brewery brought back to life a very traditional method of brewing sake that dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185). The proof of the existence of this sake, called Kijoshu, is also found in the Engi Shiki (927), a book about Japanese customs and laws.
This brewery is responsible for reviving this style of sake and nowadays only around 30 other breweries make it, so it can be rare to find. The main difference between “regular” sake and kijoshu is that for this particular type of sake, part of the brewing water is replaced by sake. To be precise, during the 3rd stage of the sandanjikomi, or 3 stage-brewing, called tomezoe, water is replaced by sake. By doing so, the fermentation becomes slower and the sake becomes creamier and sweeter.
As part of their project to revive this type of sake, now the brewery makes several kinds of kijoshu, like this nigori version.
To be honest, I was surprised to find out about this sake as I’ve never seen a nigori kijoshu before. I didn’t really know what to expect from it, and that made me eager to try it.
Kiyomori is thick and creamy with a gorgeous pearl-like colour. On the nose it’s elegant with a hint of steamed rice and honey. Being a kijoshu, which is famous for being sweet, I was expecting it to be way too bold for my taste. But this sake is way more complex than that. There is a generous sweetness to this sake, but it’s accompanied by an acidity that awakens the palate and the senses. The umami that comes after is delicious and makes you crave for a second taste.
This sake is perfect with some soft gorgonzola, with seafood like garlic butter sauteed clams and grilled oysters. It is also good as a dessert sake with a chocolate cake or chocolate chip cookies. I baked some cookies, dipped them in the sake while they were still warm and I have no regrets.
I enjoyed experimenting with Kiyomori a lot and, even though I know that not everyone likes to warm up nigori, I did it. And I’m not coming back.
I warmed it up at around 45° and it was divine. The sweetness gets less evident but the acidity holds up brilliantly and makes it just perfect, at least for me.
If you want to make yourself the perfect dessert, warm Kiyomori up and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top for a cheesecake-like experience.
The night I first tried this sake, I was listening to Howlin’ Wolf and thought of how good of a pairing that was. So here I am, drinking and writing about Kiyomori while listening to Howlin’ Wolf “Goin' Down Slow” and I think that I don’t need anything else right now.