About Tamagawa

Tamagawa’s roots.

Our brewery was founded in Kumihama township in the Kyotango region of Kyoto Prefecture in 1842, where we have made sake ever since.
Our brand name, Tamagawa, can be translated as “Jewel River”, and is thought to derive from the Kawakamidani River which flows by the brewery.
The character 川 (kawa or gawa in compound words) is an ideogram showing the flow of a river, which is what it means.
Tama (玉) means an orb or a jewel, and by extension expresses the idea of precious beauty.
It is thought that the name reflects the reverence in which our ancestors held rivers and water in the Shinto tradition.
Tamagawa’s roots.

Characteristics of Tamagawa sake

Tamagawa, the chameleon

We find the shifts of flavour with time and temperature to be amongst sake drinking’s greatest pleasures. Tamagawa sake shows startling changes in expression at different temperatures, allowing for enjoyment over a huge range – over ice, chilled, at room temperature, and all the way up to the piping extremes of heated sake. Nothing is more fun than enjoying the chameleon-like variations as Tamagawa responds to temperature - and good food.
Tamagawa, the chameleon

Tamagawa, the indestructible

It is often said that sake is delicate, but this isn’t true of our selection. Tamagawa is durable; that means it rewards ageing, does not deteriorate, and there is no need to rush to finish the bottle. Our restaurant customers agree that the last glass from a bottle of Tamagawa is always better than the first. We have had open bottles on the go over months and years at the brewery too many times to count, and have always enjoyed the sake to the last drop. Durable sake makes for low stress and a wider range of fun.
Tamagawa, the indestructible

Tamagawa: food-friendly

Umami flavour is the crux of Tamagawa balance, and many of our products have bold, robust profiles, making them popular in bar settings where the sake must perform on its own. On the other hand, our sake’s affinity with a vast range of dishes also makes it a favourite in restaurants, izakaya, and as a companion to home cooking. Tamagawa brings out the best in food; food brings out the best in Tamagawa.
Tamagawa: food-friendly

Tamagawa, the sake that grows on you

Here at the Kinoshita Brewery, we take our time, and have lots of irons in the ageing fire. However, even the hoariest of aged sakes begins its life as unfiltered, undiluted, unpasteurized (“3U”) sake straight from the press, and we express this in the form of 3U limited editions of each product as it is pressed through the winter season.
From this 3U starting point, we can then employ pasteurization, dilution and so on to create a tremendously broad variety of styles in the pasteurized products which form the majority of our year-round offerings. We let our sake take its time, too, and ageing is a key feature of our work.
From that starting point of freshly-pressed sake, we aim to express as broad a range of flavour potential as possible, and the fascinating developments only time can bring are a key ingredient in the Tamagawa mix.
Tamagawa, the sake that grows on you

Tamagawa and serving temperatures:a new temperature means a new sake.

Many Tamagawa products perform fine over a wide temperature range, and drink radically differently with just a small change in serving temperature. Enjoy the flavour shifts as heated sake cools, but don’t miss out on the sensations that evolve as sake from the fridge warms up towards room temperature, either. Drinking full-bodied Tamagawa sake over ice allows you to enjoy those temperature-driven changes as well as the added variations which follow shifts in the level of alcohol.

Tamagawa; a notch above.

Some sakes work better at some temperatures than others, and of course personal tastes play a large part. Some like it hot, some like it chilled, and that is all fine. However, we find that Tamagawa sake really starts to show its true colours away from the lower ranges. We recommend you try your Tamagawa at higher temperatures than you might consider ideal for other sake.
Tamagawa; a notch above.

Heating sake; the standard rulebook and the Tamagawa version.

Here are some things I often hear said about heating sake.
  1. Sake loses its flavour balance if heated too much.
  2. Sake that has once been heated doesn’t taste good after it has cooled down again.
  3. You shouldn’t heat unpasteurized sake.
  4. Ginjo (and particularly daiginjo) class sake should never be heated.

As regards the first two items, it is a fact that there is a lot of sake for which they are true. However, they don’t apply to pretty much any Tamagawa sake. Many sake drinkers seem to have the impression that making sake hot causes the flavours to roughen, giving a fierce, harsh drink. Again, there is sake for which this is true, but we find that, for Tamagawa sake, the opposite applies. When lightly warmed, much of our sake passes through a zone where it takes on a stiff, astringent character, which melts into softness only when it gets clearly hot.
Sake textbooks list 55℃(about 130F)as the upper range of desirable heating temperatures, but in the Tamagawa manual, this is only the entry level for heating sake. (Our sake, that is.) If you are going to warm Tamagawa sake, we recommend heating it way up, then enjoying the kaleidoscopic changes in flavour as it cools. So when we are heating Tamagawa up, we mainly avoid the orthodox ranges (30-50℃), and spend most of our time having fun above 70℃. Tamagawa kanzamashi (sake which has cooled back down after heating) offers a different set of flavours than that of the original, room-temperature sake, and we love them, too.
Temperatures for sake are a matter of personal preference, so there are no right or wrong answers, but it is worth knowing that the people who make Tamagawa drink it at all kinds of temperatures – on the rocks, cold, room temperature and very hot – but almost never just lightly warmed.

To return to the 3rd and 4th orthodoxies given above, well, they too are useful in handling some sakes in these styles, many of which drink fine when cold, but lose definition and balance towards room temperature. But Tamagawa sake in these groups, too, is widely enjoyed heated (as well as chilled in the conventional way). We urge you not to worry, try heating some stuff up, and have fun.

Heating sake; the standard rulebook and the Tamagawa version.

Greetings from the CEO

11th generation ownerYoshito Kinoshita

Welcome to the homepage of the Kinoshita Brewery.

We have been making sake since 1842. The brewery was founded by the 5th generation head of the Kinoshita family, Zenbee, reportedly using the harvest from almost 30 hectares of rice fields and the copious spring water gushing from the mountain behind the brewery. The hereditary name Zenbee was passed down to the 6th and 7th generations, then the company was led by the 8th, 9th and 10th generations (called respectively Sentaro, Zenichiro and Juichi) before being handed on to myself, Kinoshita Yoshito, the 11th in line. The brand name Tamagawa can be translated as Jewel River. It is thought that the name refers to the Kawakamidani River which flows by the brewery. The character 玉 (tama) means a jewel, and has sacred implications in the context of Japan’s native Shinto. 川 (kawa or gawa in compound words) means river, and the name expresses the veneration in which our ancestors held water.

After taking over the company, I worked for many years in partnership with Toji (Master Brewer) Nakai Akio, who was brewing here before I was born. His characteristic conscientiousness ensured the consistent quality of Tamagawa sake, and his contribution to our brewery was enormous. He worked at our brewery from the age of sixteen until he passed away in 2007, forty-eight years later. From then on, our Master Brewer has been Briton Philip Harper. With more than twenty-five years of sake brewing experience, he has created a whole new group of Tamagawa fans with radical techniques such as the Spontaneous Fermentation range (made without using pure yeast cultures) and a 300-year-old recipe.

On welcoming a new Toji, I also renewed the company logo, changing it from the traditional calligraphy style to the current original design. It was created by my brother-in-law, Sakane Katsusuke, who is an eminent artist and a member of the judging panel for the illustrious Nitten (Japan Fine Arts Exhibition). It has become fondly known to customers as the marutama (maru indicating the round shape).

Our mission is to make delicious sake with the rice painstakingly grown by our farmer partners. That mission is completed by the smiles of our customers when they drink the sake to enrich their lives. When I consider that it is our aim to make people happy, I think there can be no better profession than sake brewing.

Our motto is to brew great sake wholeheartedly, and we will continue to strive to delight our customers by making authentic sake with soul.

11th generation ownerYoshito Kinoshita

Tamagawa’s history.

Fifth generation family head, Kinoshita Zenbee, buys a sake brewing license and begins production.
Nakai Akio joins the company.
1965 - 2007
Nakai Akio serves as Master Brewer.
Philip Harper joins the company as Master Brewer.
“Spontaneous Fermentation” (brewing without using pure yeast cultures) begins.
Production of “Time Machine” begins.
New label design commissioned from Sakane Katsusuke (Japan Fine Arts Exhibition judge).
Export begins.
Production of “Ice Breaker” begins.
Construction of storage warehouse “Ue no Yamagura”.
Expansion of brewing and storage facilities, and construction of refrigerated storage facility “Ue no Yama Reizoko”.
175th Anniversary celebrations.

Introduction to Master Brewer

Introduction to Master Brewer, Philip Harper

Master Brewer: Philip Harper

1966 Born UK.
1988 Comes to Japan as a participant in the JET Programme.
1991 Joins Ume no Yado Shuzo brewery.
2001 Passes the Master Brewer’s qualification of the Nanbu Brewer’s Guild.
2001-2007 Works as brewer and Master Brewer in breweries in Osaka and Ibaraki Prefectures.
2007 Becomes Master Brewer at Tamagawa. Wins first Gold Medal in National Sake Awards in first season.

With the Spontaneous Fermentation series, and products such as Ice Breaker and Time Machine, he has challenged industry preconceptions. He continues to “brew great sake wholeheartedly” according to the company motto, and manages our sake at every stage from brewing through ageing.

Introduction to Master Brewer, Philip Harper