Kumejima’s Kumesen

Brand: Kumejima’s Kumesen

Distillery: Kumejima’s Kumesen Co, Ltd.

Location: Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

grain: 100% aged Thai (indica) rice

koji: Okinawa black

distillation: atmospheric

alcohol: 24% (48 proof)

price: $$


Tasting Notes

Kumesen was our first Awamori. We’d read about these unique Okinawan spirits and were drawn to the artfully drawn lion-god on the stout bottle. As our first, it still stands up as what we expect from the style, though we’ve come to learn that Awamori can be as diverse and complex as single malt scotch. There is no one flavor that captures the essence of these full bodied, traditionally distilled spirits.

Kumesen hits the senses as something different from shochu at first sniff. The smell is unfamiliar to westerners. It’s earthy, herbal, fungal – the sweet odor of overripe fruit. If that doesn’t sound appealing, don’t worry. It’s not, though that’s only because it’s such an unfamiliar scent. That comes from the high fatty acid content, which is captured in the glass bottle. Awamori is traditionally stored and sold in clay pots – the clay helps release the fatty acids and mellows the scent and flavor. Bottling doesn’t allow that to happen so we end up with these exotic

The initial mouth is almost exactly as it smells, but this quickly dissipates into a pleasant sweet and umami blend. Mushrooms come to mind, which would explain the fungal nose. The finish lingers with a warm, oily sensation – the fatty acids in play again – that begs for another sip.


The Verdict: Recommended 

As with every Awamori we’ve reviewed, Kumesen isn’t for everyone, but given repeated tastings I find this one of the most enjoyable, interesting examples of the style available in the U.S. The rich, full bodied flavor full of sweet and savory provides a unique experience. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could do much worse than Kumesen.



3 Responses to “Kumejima’s Kumesen”
  1. Richard Kimball says:

    I’m presently writing my memoir . . . and was fortunate to work on Kume Jima as a civilian contractor on the Air Force radar site . . . December 1961 thru December 1963. I have wonderful memories of my time spent on the island. We became friends with some of the Okinawa fishermen who I believe lived on ToriShima. Another civilian and I bought a wooden fishing boat, sans engine, which was similiar to a Louisiana pirouge. We installed a Waukesha engine on it, rigget it for fishing and went out with the Okinawan fishermen. We went out as a fleet of four to five boats, primarily for safety reasons as there were no cellphones in those days. This was one of the most satisfying experiences in my world travels, and the Kume people were wonderful. Our fishing friends also introduced us to the local Geisha house, where we drank Kumesen Awamori with them. Kampai! Kampai This was a potent sake and we learned to drink it in moderation. Sill writing. Richard Kimball 6408 153rd Ave E, Sumner, Wa 98390 (253)826-1249

    • Stephen says:

      Richard, I hope to be able to read your memoirs when you’re finished. Please reach out if that’s possible.

      • Richard & Judy says:

        Stephen: I was surprised that Wikipedia published my comments on “Kume Sake”. My memoir, which is classed as creative nonfiction, is now being edited. This memoir covers not only my time on Kume but other locations as well which includes three tours of Vietnam during the war. I may e-publish thru Amazon or Wings as memoirs are a hard sell to have a publishing house pick this genre up unless you’re “Rich & Famous”. I’d like to note that Wikipedia, of which I’m a contributor, has been a godsend for writing my memoir. If you’re still out there, let me know. Richard (Dick) Kimball – July 2019

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