All about Taka sake – the OTHER beauty from Yamaguchi (it is not just about Dassai!)

Posted by on August 11, 2015 in People of sake world, Uncategorized | Comments Off on All about Taka sake – the OTHER beauty from Yamaguchi (it is not just about Dassai!)

All about Taka sake – the OTHER beauty from Yamaguchi (it is not just about Dassai!)

Yamaguchi prefecture – not just about Dassai

 

Yamaguchi prefecture is tucked away in the south-western tip of Japan’s main island Honshu. Among the sake-uninitiated, is best known for the pleasant tourist town Iwakuni.

When it comes to sake, Yamaguchi prefecture is known as the home of Dassai. Gorgeously scented, delicate, delicious, super-premium Dassai.

What sake drinkers need to know – urgently! – is that Yamaguchi sake scene is not limited to Dassai. In the city of Ube, another brewer is making headily aromatic, but a touch more complex, and dare I say exciting, sake. The brewery is Nagayama Honke. It was established in 1888. The fourth generation owner/master brewer Takahiro Nagayama has taken over the brewery in the 2001. Under his direction, sake brewing at Nagayama Honke took a radical new turn. He committed to only brewing junmai sake, made with local rice. The result of the new approach  is Taka, a namesake brand of sake. (“Taka”, which means “noble”, is the first character of Takahiro’s name – 貴).

Taka sake review

 

Like many brewers in Sakenet portfolio, Nagayama Honke is also a rice farmer, growing Yamada Nishiki in the fields surrounding it.

Since 2001, Taka brand has become very well-known for its opulent tropical fruit fragrance, balanced by robust flavours and acidity. It is a sake for the modern palate, crafted using traditional techniques.

Not so long ago, Mr and Mrs Nagayama visited Sydney, and I was very fortunate to meet them and talk about their sake.

Mr and Mrs Nagayama

 

Nagayama-san told me that his careful, slow brewing ensures that sake has enough time to develop robust flavours that would last long after the bottle has been opened. “A lot of modern aromatic sakes are big on fragrance and low of flavour. Once opened, they very quickly lose their appeal. It is not a problem in Japan, where izakayas move sake fast. However, in Australia, an izakaya or bar might have to keep the open bottle for weeks, and high fragrance/low flavour sake would get a little worse each day. My sake keeps its flavour very well, so is very well suited to the Australian market”.

We also talked sake yeasts. Nagayama-san uses sake yeast #9 throughout the entire range, as he believes it is the best yeast to do justice to the high-quality Yamada Nishiki and Omachi sake rice he uses. He said that it is becoming fashionable to experiment with new mega-aromatic yeasts, like #16 and #18. He, however, sticks to the traditional #9, to avoid the unfortunate “all fragrance no flavour” scenario he mentioned earlier.

Taka sake – what to drink

In a nutshell, everything. I tasted five varieties, and I have to review all of them. Each offered something great.

 Taka Junmai Ginjō Omachi

  • Rice: Omachi
  • Alcohol: 16.5%
  • Seimai-buai 50%
  • SMV: +3
  • Acidity: 1.5
  • Sake yeast #9

In two words, opulent and complex. Fragrance and upfront flavour is a full-on fruity experience, dominated by melon and green apples, but fruitiness is supported by a strong umami backbone. Umami in this sake comes from the rice it is made with, Omachi. It has a short, smooth finish, and a quick hit of spiciness at the end.

This rich and delicious ginjō will go well with wagyu and other meat dishes. This was probably my favourite in the range.

Taka Junmai Ginjo Omachi

Taka Junmai Ginjō Yamadanishiki

  • Rice: Yamadanishiki grown in Yamaguchi
  • Seimai-buai 50%
  • SMV:
  • Sake yeast #9

This sake has settled, light, sweet, fruity flavour. Candy-like sweetness is tempered by a gentle dose of acidity, although at the end, the sake is resolved with dryness and spiciness. Yamadanishiki Ginjō has some fruity parallels with Omachi Ginjō, but it is much lighter-bodied.

It will go well with sashimi and other fish. Would do great as an aperitif.

Taka Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki

Taka Junmai Yamahai Omachi (23 BY vintage)

  • Rice: Omachi
  • Alcohol:15.8%
  • Seimai-buai 60%
  • SMV: +2
  • Acidity: 2.1
  • Sake yeast #9

A very full nose combining leather, yogurt and honey. Acidity-laden, but sweet notes are there, too. Very heavy and full flavour with a proper yamahai gaminess and punch. This sake is ageing, too, and some of the fullness could be explained by age, rather than type.

Even though it is designated as “junmai”, the rice has been milled to ginjō level.

Taka yamahai junmai

Taka Tokubetsu Junmai

  • Rice: Yamada Nishiki/Hattan Nishiki
  • Alcohol:15.5%
  • Seimai-buai 60%
  • Sake yeast #9

This sake is Nagayama Honke’s bestseller. Gentle aroma with a barely-there presence of apples. Settled, clean, with a citrus-like acidity and a dry finish. Easy- drinking, well-executed, elegant sake. A sure bet if you are after sake that will compliment a variety of food.

 

taka tokubetsu junmai

Taka Junmai Nōjun Karakuchi 80%

  • Rice: Yamada Nishiki
  • Alcohol:15.5%
  • Seimai-buai 80
  • SMV: +8
  • Sake yeast #9

An elegant, but very dry, junmai. Overflowing with acidity, but also featuring fruity sweet notes. It is more herbaceous, than fruity, however. Coriander, liquorice and fennel notes dance together in this dry, food-friendly drop.

Taka nojun karakuchi junmai

 

Kampai!