Like other breweries, Sugii Sake Brewery closely monitors the quality of their koji, starter and total production process. However, unlike some breweries, each of the processes has a quantitative target.
Koji produces two major enzymes related to saccharification: glucoamylase (exo-type) and αamylase (endo-type). Sugii believes that the ideal ratio of glucoamylase to αamylase is 34% and that volume is also important. He therefore pursues the ideal ratio and volume by making “extreme-tsukihaze” koji.
The title “extreme-tsukihaze” koji is somewhat of a misnomer: it doesn’t produce extreme amounts of enzymes. In fact, standard tsukihaze can overproduce enzymes, often making the volume of up to 200 units of glucoamylase and 1,000 units of αamylase. This is not ideal for the glucoamylase /αamylase ratio due to the excessive volume of αamylase. Once αamylase exceeds 700 units, it makes the sake lose the aroma and proceeds dissolving the steamed rice, bringing a too-heavy taste. In addition, overpropagation means an increase of fatty acid extruded from the koji cell membrane, preventing good esters.
“Extreme-tsukihaze”koji,on the other hand,produces the appropriate amount: 170 units of amylase and 500 units of αamylase: exactly what he requires. To do this, Sugii needs meticulous care for water control. He washes a small portion of rice, rinses the rice bran and controls the water absorption during soaking. Each year, he amends the water absorption ratio according to the condition of rice.
Despite constant efforts, Mr Sugii feels he can still further improve his koji making. He has experimented with steaming rice which holds less water and drying it gradually. He has tried steaming rice which holds more water and drying it as quickly as possible. His is a constant pursuit of perfection.
In an interview with Sake Experience Japan, Mr Sugii said that his method is to follow his own instincts, rather than following the exact methods of other breweries or make changes for change’s sake. Each of his steps may have slight differences from other sake breweries. In fact, even within one brewery, a difference of geography changes the taste. Sugii respects the power of nature as well as building up each brewer’s ability.
Sugii sake has a positive wild flavor attractive to connoisseurs of natural, rich taste sake. Sugii Ginjo sake has a transparent character and pleasant, dry taste. It is not like more popular, sweet driven sake, but retains a hint of tender sweetness, making it of interest to both afficionados and those new to the sake experience.
In 2017, Sugii Sake Brewery won first place in Shizuoka New Sake Competition for both Jyunmai Ginjo and Ginjo categories., demonstrating that both Sugii’s techniques and taste have met the approval of sake professionals. Mr Sugii hopes that he can increase the ratio of exports to 25% within 20 years. We believe that this is entirely feasible, and that not only his Ginjo style sake, but also his sake using “Yamahai-moto” and “Ki-moto” will soon attract global attention.