Kawatsuru: the Urashima Legend of Sanuki (Sanuki Olive Yeast) | Saké Review

Kawatsuru's olive yeast sake is an excellent companion with food.

Kawatsuru: the Urashima Legend of Sanuki (Sanuki Olive Yeast) | Saké Review

Cup sakes as a souvenir

Cup sake was invented by Ōzeki. The fashionable drinking style attracted young people when it was released in the 1960s. It soon replaced the casual sake-drinking scenes in homes and outdoors[1]. In recent years, breweries have started to pack their high-quality sake, such as ginjo and other popular sakes representing the brewery. Now you find a variety of cup sakes with traditional or fancy labels in souvenir shops. It is the newly given role for the cup sakes to represent the brewery and the region.

I found this cup sake in a souvenir shop in Ritsurin Kōen Park in Takamatsu. I chose it because of the picture printed on the cup, as might be expected. Kawatsuru Brewery brewed this junmai ginjo with yeast isolated from olive fruits, which means sakes with the yeast are now the symbolic sake of the brewery.

Sanuki Olive Yeast

Why olive yeast? Kagawa Prefercutre's Shōdoshima Island is known for its olive cultivation. The island has been growing olives for over a century, producing more than elsewhere in Japan. As Kagawa Prefecture didn't have proprietary sake yeasts, albeit many other prefectures did, it started the project in 2016. After two years of endeavor, it discovered yeasts from the olive fruits grown in Shōdoshima Island. In the early stage of development, the researchers had to overcome the yeasts' trait with low-alcohol production. However, they trained the yeasts in environments with high alcohol and finally selected yeasts capable of high alcohol production[1].

Warming sake while joining the TWTT online sake event

Excellent Food Companion

Chilled, I first noticed the mellow texture and soon intense acidity reminiscent of Kagawa's local citrus, sudachi. Then, the brew showed lively flavors of acidity, sweetness, and pleasant bitterness, followed by a relaxing finish. The brew was more well-balanced at room temperature. The striking acidity is now wrapped with the mellow texture. Every flavor is well-arranged. Slightly warmed, the sake became even more gentle, which made it easy to drink. Eventually, I noticed the hint of olive fruit, more precisely, the flavor of a pickled olive fruit at the nearest of its seed.

Japanese-style pickled young olive, shin-zuke, is the local specialty of the island. The local people not only adopted the cultivation of olives but also embraced it in the local culinary culture.

I would pair this brew with fried tofu in dashi broth (Agedashi Tōfu), steamed white meat fish, yakitori, miso-dengaku (tōfu with thick sauce with miso and shoyu), or Marinara sauce (tomato, garlic, olive, and spices).

Tasted at Kyoto in November 2023.

On the Label

Brewer: Kawatsuru Sake Brewing Co., Ltd. at Kan'onji, Kagawa
Type: Junmai Ginjo (brewed with Sanuki Olive Yeast), ABV: 14%
Rice: Ōseto (55% polishing ratio)


[1] Kawaga Prefecture Sake Brewery Association. (2023, December 5). Sanuki Olive Yeast. https://sanuki-olive-yeast.jp/en/

[2] 大関株式会社 [Ozeki Corporation]. (2014). 大関三百年正史 [The Three-Hundred-Year Official History of Ozeki]. 大関三百年史史編纂委員会 [The Compilation Committee of the Three-Hundred-Year History of Ozeki].