Wakayama is known as “The Fruit Kingdom” because it produces the finest fruit in all of Japan. People come from all over the country to see the arrival of the blossoms in spring. And that’s where Gekkeikan have handpicked the Nanko Ume (Japanese plums) at “kanjuku” (the moment of perfect ripeness) for making this rich, sweet delight. Those plums are then steeped in shochu (a distilled beverage usually made from rice) and sugar. With no bitterness whatsoever, Kanjuku Umeshu Genshu oozes ripe peach, juicy pear, red apple, marzipan and honey. Sip this nectar over ice with desserts or spicy food; or topped up with soda or tonic water on a summer’s day. It also makes a wonderful basis for marinades in barbeque season.
Kanjuku Umeshu Genshu is made by Gekkeikan Sake, founded in 1637 it’s one of the world’s oldest companies. You’ll find them, and their sake museum, in the Fushimi ward of Kyoto, which is also home to famous Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousands of orange torii gates. This area is Japan’s second biggest sake producer, in no small part because of the quality of its soft and mineral-rich spring water. Gekkeikan means “laurel wreath”, a fitting honour for the world’s number one selling sake brand. Gekkeikan was also one of the sake houses highly recommended by James Bond creator Ian Fleming in his travel guide written for The Sunday Times in the late-1950s, and recently re-released under the title Thrilling Cities.