We have written about the wonderful world that is Kusatsu, a town containing one of Japan’s most famous hot springs. Visitors to this place will soon notice the scent of sulfur that permeates the air and is a major component of the silky salubrious waters bubbling up from the bowels of the earth. The name “Kusatsu” is not associated with sake production: Kusatsu is mostly about bathing and skiing. Recently, the Kusatsu PLUS Project was launched with the participation of Asama brewery, a significant sake producer whose complex (shop, pizzeria, ice-cream stand, etc.) is located on the road to Kusatsu Town.
We purchased their namazake (featured above) and tasted it in Kusatsu, shortly after emerging from the bath. One of us was immediately taken aback by what assailed his nose: the unmistakable odor of brimstone, also known more prosaically as “sulfur.” Puzzled, nonplussed, confused, you name it, this was inexplicable, if only for a few seconds. However, this writer soon realized that what he had believed was the bouquet arising from the beverage under his nose was actually the odor of sulfur emanating from his own hand, a residue of the bath he had just exited.
The real nose here can be described as follows: hints of vanilla with a sweetness that we felt was a harbinger of spring. This is a Junmaishu with a seimaibuai of 60% and an abv of 15% that is sweet on the palate with a medium finish. The rice is 100% Shinkou from Agatsuma, Gunma Prefecture. Drink it cold, of course.
The Kusatsu PLUS Project was started with the intention of enhancing the Kusatsu experience for visitors. We think they have succeeded!