Aumont Shuzo: A thrilling "royal" brewery in the rice capital of Japan

Aumont Shuzo: A thrilling "royal" brewery in the rice capital of Japan

Aumont Shuzo

Situated in the history-packed city of Shibata, surrounded by temples, castles and gardens is a landmark of the Japanese sake scene- Aumont Shuzo. A brewery overflowing with history and traditions, permeated by a comfortable familiar feel that captures the hearts of everyone who passes by it. 

Recognised for the quality of its sakes through multiple awards (e.g., the Gold Medal Yume Yamahai Junmai and; the Gold Medal Aumont Gin no Yorokobi Daiginjo), it is one of the most exciting breweries out there. This comes as no surprise as the Toji of Aumont - Tanaka Takeshi- is one of only eight Zengiren Sake Meister in the whole of Japan and the 5 time consecutive Gold Medal winner of the most prestigious competition in the world, the Japanese National Sake Tasting CompetitionIt is now your turn to let this brewery amaze you!

The brewery, established in 1790, has a long history of more than 200 years, and an even bigger expertise and passion for sake-making. 

Named initially "Suwanomori" brewery, as it was located in the forest around the "Suwa" Jinja, it later changed its name in the mid 1950s, becoming a "royal" brewery. The fourth successor in line, in fact, decided to call it Aumont (Oumon), following a visit to Europe, where he was left speechless by the insignia of the Old Continent's royal families, to the point where he decided to name his brewery after those. And here began the brewery's recent and amazing journey, one that has allowed it to go beyond the borders of Japan, transforming into a globally beloved brand. 

Let's have a journey through this fantastic brewery!

The location  

At the arrival to the city of Shibata, visitors are welcomed by a fascinating scenery, one that makes them believe for a moment that they have taken the wrong train and arrived in Kyoto instead. The city is like a beautiful quiet version of Kyoto, with its characteristic black tiled roofs, shining red torii and its captivatingly blue sky. 

At the exit of the station await an array of temples, an imperial garden and a short walk away even a castle, all symbols of the past and unforgotten glory of this magnificent gem. The city becomes even more beautiful in Autumn with its characteristic bright leaves, that transform it into a romantic - in the literary term - place. 

An unmissable spot for anyone who is looking to combine history with nature, as well as a perfect option for those who are looking to escape the crowds of Kyoto while still breathing the history of Japan!

The brewery itself offers experiences unseen in any other brewery. Simply outlined, it is not just about observing the production process but, about discovering the different sides of it through an immersive experience through all the five senses!

At the entrance of the brewery awaits a project mapping installation that provides all the information needed, setting visitors up for a tour at Aumont. Sounds and images flow everywhere, transporting it to a different dimension. Located in the large old fermentation hall it is also used as a venue for live music events, this is an unmissable spot for sake lovers and tourists!

There it is then, the possibility to open the sake barrel, a traditional event performed on important occasions, where the sake that is opened is then enjoyed with family and friends. Without any doubts, a memorable experience on a special day!

Surpassed the entrance, awaits the brewery itself, with its magnificent surprises. Among these, the interior. 

Aumont is organized on four levels, all of which are used in the different processes. From the first floor, it is possible to reach directly the fourth floor. And there it is, a huge hole in the floor with a large 800 kg tank stretching down from the 4th floor to the 3rd floor! 

What is it for you ask? It is used by the brewers to bring the washed and steamed rice from the fourth floor to the third!

The advantage? They can make use of gravity to let the 800 kg of rice fall down from the washing and steaming room on the 4th floor directly into the rice cooling machine on the 3rd floor. Here the rice is prepared for the Koji Room or the fermentation.

Just one of the many fun facts that captures the visitors' heart, making this a one-of-a-kind brewery. 

The sakes 

If I had to describe Aumont's sake in a few words, I would use, without any doubt “mellow”, “delicate” and “gentle sweet”. A sweetness that is rare among Niigata’s typical "tanrei karakuchi" crisp dry sakes and, that is deeply rooted in the brewery’s fascinating history.

Aumont brewery is a forerunner in the sake world, being known as a haven for female brewers. It has been so from the past and, will continue to show its excellence through these magnificent figures, that still today make up half of the staff.

The first female Toji in the whole of Japan (and in the world- for what matters-) was appointed exactly in this place in 1975, marking a new beginning for this male-dominated sector fully rooted in traditions. This fact was so spectacular that Aumont became the inspiration for stories such as Kura by Miyao Tomiko and mangas such as Natsuko's sake by Oze Akira.  A true inspiration for the next generations!

And it is exactly this high presence of women in the brewery that has made it possible, with all probabilities, to create easy-to-drink and soft-on-the-palate drinks, that represent Aumont now. And that has dictated the path of the brewery today. One that is not restricted by strict costumes but explores different paths. One where the brewers are like a family and work feels like an enjoyable experience.

This family-like environment is exactly what makes visitors feel at ease from the first moment, something that makes them want to come back over and over again.

But this is not all. In the creation of the sakes, the talent of the master Toji and, the exquisite feminine and light touch is then complemented by extraordinary ingredients (water and rice) and a deep knowledge and respect for them, that creates together the formula for perfect sakes. 

The area surrounding the brewery has long been known for its excellent water,  reason why many tea masters set up tearooms around Aumont Brewery. This water is unfortunately not used anymore but has been replaced by an even more excellent source, coming from under a river in the vicinity that provides the brewery with fresh and soft water, behind the mellow flavours of their sakes.

The rice as well is of the highest standards, being all cultivated in the Niigata prefecture. And what better place! The region itself is known, in fact, all around the country as the home to the best rice grains, the most flavourful and impactful ones.

These are then treated to perfection by the brewery to create soft and unforgettable flavours, that caress the palate with notes of fruits, spices and autumn, which compliment any dish deliciously enhancing its flavours while adding intricate notes of depth.

This is made possible by the brewery’s understanding of its ingredients. One that allows them to create the highest quality products every year, despite the inherent differences in the rice. Making these changes accordingly to the material at hand and, experimenting different methods to achieve the same highest quality results each year is what shows in full the passion, the knowledge and the expertise of every single brewer at Aumont. 


The Pairings 

Aumont Tatsu Year of the Dragon Junmai Daiginjo: a unique sake, Tatsu Year of the Dragon is an anunmissable gem of this brewery! Made using a proprietary yeast discovered in the old Aumont brewery, this sake offers an unparalleled experience. With its notes of acidity and sweetness, it is the perfect pairing for a variety of foods. So, if you are looking for a creative pairing experience, there is nothing better out there for you than this. Try it out to believe!

Aumont 5 Years Old: planning a simple and “earthy” meal? This might be the right choice for you! With its earthy aromas and flavours like nuts, coffee and mushroom this is the perfect match for white meat and vegetables. The golden colour of the sake, together with these flavours will bring you back to autumn. And let me tell you, it is a memorable experience.

Yume Junmai Ginjo: with a light fragrance and a mild taste, it is an incredibly easy-to-drink sake. The light and mellow flavours compliment perfectly the rich yet light Japanese tempura, creating an explosion of flavours and textures in your mouth. For a greater contrast and a creative experience, pair with steak and other grilled meats. The light and mellow flavours of this sake will balance out the  stronger flavours of read meats, creating an exquisite balance on your palate!

Karen Yuzu: a combination of yuzu and rice pudding, this is a surprisingly delicate and easy-to-drink sake. This well-balanced sweetness pairs perfectly with softer and lighter flavours creating a comforting and exciting symphony in your palate. Try it out with a plate of mussels, cheesecake or meringues to believe!

Karen Plum: a perfectly balanced symphony of sweet amaretti, slightly sour umeboshi, lemon and black tea, this sake will take your palate on an unforgettable journey. Try it chilled on its own to let these flavours surround you!

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