Koshi no Kanbai
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Country of Origin: Japan
Location: Niigata Prefecture, Chubu
People: Tatsumori Ishimoto, President
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Koshi no Kanbai is Japan’s most famous and sought-after sake. Its "winter plum" label is familiar to enthusiasts everywhere, conjuring up the image of a sake so perfect that every single molecule seems immaculately in place.
Going back to the early postwar years, Shogo Ishimoto’s knack for making exceptional sakes was apparent. In 1946, focused on a vision of sake excellence, he produced a ginjo sake! This was an incredible extravagance at a time when both rice and sake were being rationed. Earning the respect of the sake mandarins in the Tax Ministry, the Ishimoto brewery was among 200 selected for special technical assistance by the National Research Institute of Brewing in 1950, which led to further improvements in equipment and technique.
In the 1960s, the sake trade was completely dominated by big breweries in Kobe and Kyoto, and regional breweries had almost no distribution outside their home prefectures. This changed after years of effort by Ishimoto’s agent and friend Eiji Maeda. Occasional mentions of the astonishing sake from Niigata began to appear in the Tokyo newspapers. A prominent national politician discovered it. The Ginza clubs began to place orders. Before long, demand was so great that dozens of other regional labels were able to enter the Tokyo market, and the "sake boom" of the early 1970s got well and truly underway.