Early morning at the end of January, the smell of koji (steamed rice/barley injected with mold spores and fermented) fills a sake warehouse, while Mozart plays in the background.
The process of koji making. Barley koji which had mold sprinkled on it at 2PM the previous day. The trick is in getting as much hazekomi (barley-koji proliferation) within 36 hours of it. To ensure even fermentation, you even it out using a special tool, and the mold grows in a warm environment that is on average 35 degrees.
Mr. Taniguchi tells us that making shochu is like an ascetic practice. Your physical condition that day and mood affects the final product. Managing the health of your physical and emotional being therefore is part of the job.
Mr. Taniguchi was formerly a literary professional. He now engages in shochu making on his own. There is only so much he can do on his own, but tells us that that way he can really focus on the creative process. He works silently in the tense quietness of the warehouse.
The bottle labels designed by Mr. Taniguchi’s wife, formerly a graphic designer, are all refined and tasteful. The Gojinka newsletter, published time to time and handwritten by Mr. Taniguchi himself, have a sense of warmth that draws you to pick it up and read it.
The draw of the Taniguchi Sake Brewing company is likely in the way the brewer keeps challenging himself to create something new, coming up with all sorts of creative ideas, and making it happen in the ‘Tsubaki castle’. And what about the flavor of the shochu? There’s almost no need to say. For example, in the book ‘Shochu is interesting – 45 stories about people and sake’ by Hiroharu Wada, Mr. Noda of the Taikai Sake Brewing Tokyo Branch comments that ‘this is a warehouse that produces sake so excellent that you can say there is no equivalent’.
13 years since he took over the family business (at time of writing in 2011). He has gone through many trial and errors . He’s not trying to earn a lot of money, nor is he worked up over the fact that he is the only sake brewer on the island. He just continues working on his craft everyday with the determination to make something tasty and well made that can only be made locally on the island.