Sakes and daughters

“The sakes I make are like daughters to me,” notes Masato Mizuno, Kokuryu's seventh-generation owner and current chairman. “Just as parents of a bride want to dress their daughter in beautiful kimonos, we try to dress our sakes in beautiful labels and packaging.”

We've talked about our passion and dedication for making fine sake. But the pride we take in the quality of our sake is equaled by the effort we put into the design of our bottles, labels and packaging. Here, we'd like to tell you a bit about our labels.

When our daiginjo Ryu was released in 1975, its labels were made from the canvas bags we used to press the moromi. Persimmon tannins, used for strengthening and antibacterial purposes, dyed the bags a dark brown and gave them a charming, folksy quality. The bags were cut into label-sized pieces, the Chinese character for Ryu was stamped on in gold foil and the labels were applied to the bottles.

Upon release Ryu drew nationwide attention as the most expensive sake of its time, and you can discern the brewer's fatherly pride in the quality of the label dressing this sake. Those canvas bags, though, have become relics no longer used in sake making, and Echizen ori, woven labels from Fukui, have replaced them on bottles of Ryu.

Fukui prefecture is also known for Echizen washi, or Japanese handmade paper. It is among the highest grades of paper used for brush painting and woodblock prints and is favored by eminent Japanese calligraphers and artists. Echizen washi craftsmen have been designated as Living National Treasures. The first sake to use this handcrafted paper on its label was Kokuryu's “Shizuku.” Written by world-famous calligraphy master Juichi Yoshikawa, Shizuku's simple characters become true art. Ishidaya, Nizaemon and other flagship Kokuryu sakes also carry labels made of Echizen washi, each one carefully affixed to the bottles by hand.

Our attention to labels assures there will be no mistaking the character of the sake inside — just as there's no mistaking the fatherly sentiments of Masato Mizuno.