Tengumai Now Available in Canada

Sought-after among sake geeks, Tengumai, the revered brand by Shata Shuzo from Ishikawa prefecture, is finally available in Canada.

Tengumai is famous because the majority of this line’s sake utilizes the Yamahai method of yeast starter (or moto/shubo, as it’s called in Japan).

The Yamahai method (discovered in 1909) is based on the original principles of creating a moto–yeasts and lactic acid are formed naturally in a starter batch. The modern day, Sokujo method, does away with the guesswork of rogue yeasts. Nowadays these are added along with a small amount of lactic acid to allow said yeasts to happily do their work without other microbes getting in the way.

The Tengumai line follows tradition, which produces a full bodied, nicely rounded sake with umami umph! Yamahai sake generally has an interesting depth, good acidity and pairs nicely with heavier foods such as meats and even cheese.

To commemorate the launch of Tengumai in Vancouver, there will be a dinner with 6 courses each paired with Tengumai sakes at Zest Restaurant on April 24th. Kazunari Shata, Director of Operations at Shata Shuzo, will be in attendance.

Exciting times here in Canada as we’re seeing more interesting sake come into our market.



15 Replies to “Tengumai Now Available in Canada”

  1. Tengumai sounds intriguing! Sadly, I missed the tasting at Zest. Is this sake available for retail sale or only at the restaurant?

    Keep up the great work on this blog!

    1. Hi Zoe,
      If you’re referring to the photo, that is a 1.8L bottle, which normally you wouldn’t see available at liquor stores, unfortunately! It’s my preferred bottle size! 😉

      That’s Life Gourmet, the importer, is bringing in the 720mL version as well, so you might see this size at a specialty liquor store sometime soon. I would check private stores like Liberty or Legacy. The government stores have a limited selection, which is supremely frustrating!

      Hope you get a chance to try it soon!

  2. I am a big fan of ishobin as well!

    As luck would have it, I managed to snap up 2 ishobins of Tengumai Umajun at the 39th/Cambie Liquor Store a couple of weeks ago and have been on the hunt for other Tengumai releases, preferably also in the large format, ever since. Not having much success, I finally emailed That’s Life and was told that my best chance would be to special-order it, which, as you probably are aware, requires a minimum order of 1 case (or 6 ishobins).

    Before going through with my order, may I ask for your opinion on whether I should go with the Yamahai Junmai or the Daiginjo 50? Which one do you think is more food-friendly?

    1. awesome! that is rare to find at the ldb!
      in terms of which case to get, it all depends on what kind of food you’ll be pairing with the sake.

      if you’re thinking meats, fattier foods, i would suggest the tengumai yamahai junmai which complements those food profiles. yamahai’s tend to have higher acidity as well. try it at different temperatures–you’ll be amazed at how versatile this bottle can be.

      if lighter foods like seafood is on the agenda, then i’d say the tengumai junmai daiginjo 50 would fit perfectly with those culinary plans. more aromatic and lighter acidity means an easy to drink, stellar sipper.

      good luck on choosing! too bad they can’t do half and half for a case–or maybe they can?! let me know how it goes!

  3. Oh my! Such a difficult choice!

    I wish they would allow mixed cases too — finishing 12 ishobins (or 21.6 litres!) before they lose their freshness is just too taxing, albeit lovely, a task! As such, a case of each is simply out of the question.

    I suppose ShuRaku has all the Tengumai’s on its menu? I probably should just go down there and taste them before going all-in.

    Thanks for the insight, btw!

    1. hi brian!
      i think a case for isshobins come in 6’s, not 12’s. i’m not sure which ones shuraku is carrying, but definitely a good place to start!

      there are 3 types of tengumai available here, according to that’s life gourmet’s product list. also, i did notice the tengumai yamahai junmai at dan restaurant in kits the other night.


      1. My wife and I went down to ShuRaku last evening, without realizing that there was a special dinner-and-tasting being held. Not part of that party, we had to go through a bit of a hassle, although the staff tried very hard to accommodate us.

        We were a little disappointed that the only Tengumai at ShuRaku was also the Yamahai. Although I have had other yamahai shikomi sakes before, Tengumai’s really stands out, demonstrating quite fully the style, which I would liken to the lambic style if we were talking about beer. I find it almost too robust and complex to pair with food; one might just appreciate it better by itself.

        Although I am leaning toward getting the Daiginjo 50 by the case, I still hope that I can find it somewhere to get a taste first. That mission is further burdened by our discovery of Kuheji’s Junmai Daiginjo, which was the last sake that came up after 2 tasting flights, 3 carafes, and — well, something like that, for I lost count. Definitely the most pleasing sake of the evening, it simply must be tracked down, again preferably in ishobins!

      2. i was there at the shuraku sake dinner! there were some pretty interesting sakes last night. kikumasamune (kobe) and kamotsuru (hiroshima) sake dinner.

        kuheiji is also brought into our market by that’s life gourmet, fyi.

    2. Hi Brian,
      Just an FYI, I was at Cambie & 39th today and they had a case of Kuheji ‘Eau du Desir’ Junmai Daiginjo in isshobin form for the taking. I bought one, so there’s five left! Hope you get out there to pick a few up.


      1. Thanks for the tip!

        I went over there first thing this morning and carted away three of the five. I would have taken them all, however, I decided it might be nice for others to have the chance to discover the pleasure of sake in large-format bottles.

        One thing that is interesting to me is that these bottles are “vintage-dated,” which I didn’t seem to notice on the regular bottling. I checked out Kuheji’s site and found that, indeed, they have posted tasting notes of both the 2011 and 2012 Eau du Desir vintages. Perhaps from now on every year I will lay one down alongside my Bordeaux, Ports and what not as an educational exercise.

        What food will you be pairing with the Kuheji? I think I might serve it a little chilled.

        Oh, did you notice the Hiroki Tokusen Junmai Ginjo too? What do you think?

      2. Way to go, Brian!
        We could start our own izakaya with our collective stashes!

        Most sake should be drunk fresh, meaning within a year of purchase. They’re typically not intended to age, but of course there is the ‘koshu’ or aged sake (constitutes under 1% of sake made).

        Some breweries do put down a sake a year or two –most let sakes settle for about 6 months before it’s ready to be bottled and sold. If they do allow it to sit for longer, some will indicate this on the bottle, as Kuheiji has proudly done.

        I would serve it slightly chilled to room temp.
        I had this not too long ago and loved it. Beautiful yet subtle depth with the ageing. Since it’s still a junmai daiginjo, I’d stick to lighter foods (seafood, chicken) with this sake.

        Was the Tokusen at the Camibe store? I didn’t see it there!

        I absolutely loved this sake when That’s Life did their portfolio tasting a few months back. This was a big fave and I kept going back for more. It has a lovely mouthfeel, very gentle and luscious.

        If you see that kicking around, let me know where you find it!


      3. The Hiroki is at the Cambie store, which is why I asked. If you stand in front of where you found the half case of Kuheji and make a 90-degree turn clockwise, you will see them (about 6 to 8 bottles in gift boxes) on the bottom shelf.

        As for our very own izakaya, what a good idea — if only we can figure out who will turn out the sakana!

        The idea of even trying to age the Kuheji is because there is a “late release” bottling from 2008. So, it might be fun to see how our 2011 will turn out in 4 or 5 years!

        When I had the Kuheji at ShuRaku, I think it was served slightly-chilled too. I think it will go well with pretty much anything!

    3. Wow! I will have to go back tomorrow and check it out.
      Did you pick up any?

      I think we will drink and talk to people about sake whilst someone else deals with the food! Lol–that’s the dream! 🙂


      1. Ooops…! I was actually referring to the Kuheiji, rather than the Hiroki, in the previous post. The Hiroki is not in ishobin, so I did not buy any.

        With a whole ishobin to drink, there was plenty of opportunity to taste the Kuheiji at different temperatures and with different food. Even though it was not bad at all chilled, its taste and fragrance really blossomed at room temperature. Yet it never became too overwhelming, thus pairing very well with just about anything: sashimi, grilled ayu, tai in soy sauce, steak teriyaki, sushi…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s