The Story Behind Prince Nagaya Sake

Bringing Back a 1,300-Year-Old Recipe

In 1988, excavations at the site of Japan's ancient capital of Heijo-kyo unearthed 35,000 mokkan--wooden tablets used in ancient times to write with ink--some of which were found to include descriptions of a long-lost method of brewing Japanese sake. The texts were written in the 8th century, around 1,300 years ago, at a time when the dominant powers in Europe were the Kingdom of the Franks and the Byzantine Empire. Using the descriptions recorded on these mokkan, we have succeeded in recreating the sake from 1,300 years ago, revealing a flavor and appeal utterly unlike those of modern-day sakes. In sharing this sake with the world, we named it after the man who once lived in the mansion where the mokkan were discovered. This man was the great statesman and member of the Imperial Family, Prince Nagaya.

Born of a Unique Production Process, A Taste Experience Utterly Unlike Modern-Day Sakes

Prince Nagaya is characterized by a sweetness so fruity and umami so rich that it is hard to believe it is made with nothing but rice. Those who taste it may feel that it has more in common with a botrytized wine or dessert wine than sake. The secret lies in the unique production process that dates back 1,300 years.

Rice Polishing

Modern-day methods of brewing sake call for the use of particular strains of rice that are especially well-suited for sake. The rice is polished as much as possible to remove the proteins that would otherwise introduce the unwanted off-flavors known as zatsumi, resulting in the clear beverage we are all familiar with. However, when the recipe for Prince Nagaya was created 1,300 years ago, neither the specialized rice strains nor the technology to polish the rice existed. In order to more accurately recreate the taste from those days, we have used a type of rice normally used for food, removing just the outer one tenth of the grains. Compared to modern-day brewing methods, the rice polishing ratio is at a level so high that one would normally expect it to increase the zatsumi, producing a "noisy" flavor profile and making it impossible to make good sake. However, with Prince Nagaya, we have succeeded in harnessing these zatsumi flavors, expressing them as umami instead.

The Brewing Process

Modern methods of making sake call for a brewing process in which koji (fermented rice), steamed rice, and water are introduced in three separate stages. Doing so makes it possible to stabilize the acidity level and the progress of fermentation in the container. Prince Nagaya, on the other hand, is made in a single-stage brewing process in which the koji, steamed rice and water are all added at once. As a brewer following this method, you only get one shot, and quality control is extremely difficult. 1,300 years ago, the success rate would have been low, and every cup of successfully brewed sake must have been treated as a precious miracle. Modern technology has allowed us to consistently recreate this miracle.


After filtration and other processes, sake is left to mature in the brewery for another 3 to 4 months before delivery to consumers.

*For reference: Standard method for brewing sake (junmai)