Master brewer Naohiko Noguchi is a living legend in the sake world. A native of the town of Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture, he hails from a family of brewers, and began learning the trade when he was only 16.

He rose to fame during his tenure as head brewer at Ishikawa’s Kikuhime Brewing Company, where he became known for making elegant yet robust brews that helped propel a boom in ginjō (premium grade) sake in the 1980s. The popularity of his trademark style also led to the revival of the time-consuming “yamahai” method — a traditional brewing technique that typically results in earthy, umami-rich flavors — which had practically disappeared following World War II.

After retiring from Kikuhime at 65, Noguchi went on to make sake at two more breweries for more than a decade before becoming the tōji (master brewer) of the company that bears his name, Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute. Established in 2017, the brewery is a stunning piece of modern architecture set in the mountains of Komatsu, on the western coast of Ishikawa. There, he leads a team of young brewers in their 20s and 30s to foster the next generation of sake makers.