This is a guest post by Nicolas Soergel, the Managing Director of Chinriu Honten Limited, a company that has been producing and retailing traditional Japanese food since 1871.
Nicolas explains some interesting information about Umeshu in “The truth about Japanese plumwine!”
Umeshu is widely known as a sweet and fruity Japanese plumwine and many people associate it with the green cylindrical bottles from Choya – the leading maker of industrial Umeshu.
So what is new about Umeshu? In fact it probably is the most misunderstood Japanese alcoholic drink. Let me explain why!
Umeshu is made by extracting the flavor of the ume fruit in alcohol. Ume is not a plum but close to apricot. If you have ever seen ripe ume, you will remember its orange color and apricot-like shape. Since no fermentation happens it also is not a wine but a liqueur. I therefore prefer using the word Umeshu instead of plumwine.
Did you know that there are more than 300 private Umeshu labels in Japan offering a large variety of very different flavors? Its manufacturing process allows countless variations that effect color, scent and taste.
- Base alcohols:
Four alcohols are most common for production of Umeshu:
- White liqueur
This already implies a lot of varieties since you can use a sour, dry or smooth sake, shochu based on potato, rice or wheat, etc.
Most commonly green and unripe ume is used to make Umeshu. But it also is possible to prepare nice Umeshu with ripe – so called – kanjuku ume. The different Umeshu also vary in the type of ume-fruit. Shirakaga ume is said to be the best for Umeshu since it easily extracts ume flavor to alcohol. The most commonly used is nanko ume since it is available in large qualities.
The ume-apricot has a lot of acid. This is why you need additional sweetness to make a tasty Umeshu. The most common way to sweeten Umeshu is to add rock-sugar, but you can also use brown sugar or honey or a combination.
- Other ingredients
Last but now least Umeshu liqueur also allows adding other flavors. There are Umeshu with shiso, yuzu, ginger, green tea, passion fruit, banana, lemon grass, etc.
Think of the possible number of combinations and you immediately understand the reason for the large variety in different Umeshu flavors.
If you want to try some of these Umeshu keep on eye on the drink menus of bars and izakaya in Japan. Private Umeshu labels start becoming popular and in increasing number of places offer more that the standard product.
More detailed information is available on the Japanese Umeshu Portal – the community site of Umeshu connoisseurs
Nicolas is managing director of Chinriu Honten Limited, a company that produces and retails traditional Japanese food since 1871. He also is the Webmaster of Japanese-Umeshu – a portal dedicated to Umeshu liqueur.