Sunday, January 30, 2011

1990 Daishichi Ginjo Koshu

1990 Daishichi Ginjo Koshu
A junmai daiginjo from this Fukushima outfit, cold-aged in tank, bottled in October of 2006. Semaibuai 40%, 15% abv. Fascinating, elegant sake. The colour, first of all, is simply not tinged with age, clearly suggestive of cold storage. But aromatically and flavourwise, it is anything but. Rich, tangy, strong wood spice notes, wet bark, mushroom, yet light and fresh, creamy and round yet ethereal. Simply a tremendous sake experience.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Matsumoto Junmai

I've long been enamoured of Matsumoto Shuzo's old wooden buildings, with it's red-bricked octogonal chimney, located at the boundary of Kyoto's Fushimi district, but had never tried their sake before picking up a bottle on my most recent visit.

Oddly, this does not appear on their website, and does not belong to either of their Momo no Shizuku or Hinodezakari brands, but the proprietor of the store assured me that it was indeed Matsumoto sake. And, a sake that tasted more like bananas I have yet to come across. Soft and round without being particularly sweet, a pretty dancing partner for sure, but bananas.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Inspired by Ichibay's post about warming sake, I decided that I too wanted a kandouko. I also determined, yet again, that I could make it myself at home, for nothing. As usual, I failed at the "for nothing" part, but compared to the prices I saw in Japan (well north of $1,000), my $50 and a couple of harrowing afternoons spent wandering through the local IKEA were well spent.

The materials I used were a large glass bowl, a wooden plant stand for the top, some cork coasters, a stainless steel measuring pitcher to function as the brazier, a small grill I picked up at the Vietnamese store, and two Greek ibrik, long-stemmed coffee pots, for warming the sake. First, I used a router to create a channel for the glass to seat into, for security - didn't want everything sliding around. Next, I needed to drill the holes. Not having a bunch of giant hole saws laying about, I tried using an adjustable hole cutter... not pretty, rather a hack job, unfortunately. But, the holes were created, and the cork coasters (plus some wood glue) covered up the mess quite nicely. Anyways, I was just trying to warm up sake, not win awards for carpentry.

The test run was very successful. Since I was using this outside, in winter, and not really knowing anything much about the glass, I was a little concerned about thermal shock. Fortunately, it all worked out just fine, the water getting hot, but not anywhere near boiling, the sake quite quickly getting up to desired temperatures. Having two warming vessels is the key to providing a constant supply, but that means you need to call your friends over. Can't complain about that! And the grill worked swimmingly too - I quickly grilled samosas, cutlets, edamame. I'm sure some sausages, little fishies, and onigiri will all work out fine too.

Trials completed, so last night was time for the first public unveiling. After dinner at our favorite local Ethiopian restaurant, we retired to the balcony to enjoy the cold night air (thanks to a couple of outdoor space heaters, and this, "inside space" heater.) Over the next three hours, 6 of us polished off this isshobin of Daishichi Honjozo Kimoto, and also an isshobin of Shichifukujin Tokubetsu Junmai. Both are nice sake for warming, I think, because they both have a bit more substantial savouriness and complexity to begin with, and both took on a delightfully smooth and rounded expression. Our friends, who've to date only had bad "hot sake" experiences, were very pleasantly surprised, and I've now got requests to build more.

I don't know the exact temperatures we drank at, it probably varied a little bit over the course of the evening, depending on how quickly we were consuming. I'd estimate that we started out somewhere around hito-hada-kan, i.e. "body temperature", but as the charcoals settled themselves and we started grilling, it was generally jo-kan, "upper hot", with occasional, welcome forays into atsu-kan, "hot hot"! It was a bit chilly out!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rashomon Junmai Ginjo

From Wakayama Prefecture's Tabata Shuzo. Brewed from Yamada Nishiki, a proprietary house yeast, and the waters of the Kinokawa... big river sake? SMV +4, acidity 1.4, and 14.5% abv, almost no nose. A-fragrant. But, solidly sweet and fruity entry, fast transition to a moderately bitter mid-palate, and a soft but dry mineral water finish. Pleasant and easy to drink.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Yamahoshi Junmai

From the "6 Great Poets" brewery of Yamagata, Rokkasen is a young brewery, formed, and re-formed, variously, between 1972 and 1992, by 6 young toji from local breweries in and about the spa town of Higashine. Not much I could glean about this bottling, certainly not which rice variety was milled to 60% here. It tasted like Dewa San San, but the telltale sticker was not there. Still, highly perfumed and fruity, with slightly exaggerated sweetness stacked on top of layers of mineral, starch, and clean acidity. With the sweetness, it might be a bit much to drink a lot of, even at a modest 14.5% abv, but made for a nice after-dinner sup.