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Ice cool: Special sub-zero sake to go on sale in July

The yukidoke sake is seen here on display with a cooler bag, front, that keeps it at a temperature of minus 2 C, in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, on March 28, 2017. (Mainichi)

SATTE, Saitama -- A long-established sake brewing company here will launch a new "junmai ginjoshu" choice-draft sake this summer that is served at sub-zero temperatures, it has been learned.

    The brewing firm, Ishii Shuzo Co., will sell the super cool sake with a special cooler bag, which keeps the sake at a temperature of minus 2 degrees Celsius. The brewer collaborated with electronics giant Sharp Corp. to develop the bag.

    Makoto Ishii, 29, who is the eighth president of the Ishii Shuzo sake brewery that is behind the "sub-zero" beverage, says, "We are hoping that this new version of an old classic will be enjoyed during the summer, which is traditionally a season when demand for sake goes down."

    The new drink is called "yukidoke-sake fuyuhitoe." Until now, Japanese people have traditionally enjoyed the taste of cold sake at either the "yukihie" temperature of about 5 C, or the "hanahie" temperature of 10 C. With regard to this new "sub-zero" temperature sake, the sensation is said to be similar to snow melting in one's mouth, which is why Ishii has described it as "yukidoke" (melting snow).

    According to Ishii, a common image of sake is that of hot sake (atsukan), which is why demand for sake in summer drops to less than one-tenth of the level in winter. Therefore, in order to tackle this problem, Ishii set about looking for possible solutions, and was introduced to 48-year-old Masako Nishihashi, who works in a research laboratory at Sharp, through a university friend in August 2016.

    Sharp used technology that can control the temperature of liquid crystal panels to develop a coolant that can keep its temperature between minus 24 C and plus 28 C. Making use of this technology, Nishihashi set up a project within Sharp, and eventually developed a coolant that can keep the temperature of sake below minus 2 C. The coolant freezes after being placed in a freezer for about six hours. However, because sake contains alcohol, it does not freeze solid, and if the surrounding temperature is 23 C, it is said that the temperature can be maintained for two hours or more.

    President Ishii is keen to change the sake brewing season from winter, which is the country's traditional sake-brewing period, to summer. With this in mind, Ishii has placed water-cooled tubes around the sake fermentation tanks, so that the temperature does not become too high during fermentation. Currently, Ishii is brewing "yukidoke" sake, which has a sharp, cold taste and which releases a sweet taste sensation in one's mouth.

    A 720-milliliter bottle of "yukidoke-sake fuyuhitoe," together with a cooler bag, costs 6,600 yen. People who have taken part in recent tasting events comment that, "It causes one to re-evaluate the value of sake." The company is currently accepting orders, and it is planning to sell the product in its stores from July onward. For inquiries, contact Ishii Shuzo on 0480-42-1120 (in Japanese).

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