When you think olives, you might picture the Mediterranean – Italy, Greece or Spain. But lo and behold, there is also a part of Japan that is well known for olives – Kagawa Prefecture, which is located on Shikoku, Japan’s fourth major island.
Olive yeast was co-discovered by the Kagawa Prefectural Sake Brewer’s Association and the Fermented Food Research Institute of the Kagawa Industrial Technology Center. The research began in 2016. It took over two years to find olive yeast that could ferment to the desired level. The yeast simply did not produce enough alcohol. However, through “training” in an alcoholic environment and a rigorous selection process, the researchers were able to develop a cadre of yeast that could accomplish the mission. Please see the Kagawa Prefectural Product Promotion Organization for more details.
In 2020, the first sake using the olive yeast hit the market, including the nihonshu from Nishino Kinryo, which is the brewery that made the sake we tasted.
Kinryo Sanuki Olive Yeast (金陵 オリーブ酵母 純米吟醸), surprisingly (or not), actually has a faint scent of green olives. The color is a pale yellow. On the palate, there is again some green olives and also grape notes, but we could not find any evidence of the muscat grapes as described on the back label. This is a sake with a light flavor, which is dry with strong acidity and some bitterness at the end.