Ippin – Junmai Daiginjō

Ippin – Junmai Daiginjō

Ippin – Junmai Daiginjō     Summary: A rich experience. Delicious. Seimaibuai: 50%,  SMV +4, Acidity 1.5, Acohol: 16% Rice: Yamada Nishiki Prefecture Ibaraki Price:  a steal at $35.00 online for a 720 ml bottle. Buy it now. Score – 9/10 grains Details:   Are you kidding me? Where has this sake been hiding all this time? Ippin Junmai Daiginjō has won a Double Gold award at the San Francisco International Wine Competition 2014, the largest and most prestigious wine competition in the USA. Still, this sake has lived relatively undercover. This might change soon, as Satoshi Yoshikubo, a member of the family that brews Ippin, moved to Sydney to promote Ippin across Australia and NZ. Just as well, as the drinking public deserves to know about this daiginjō. It is a tale of dramatic richness and fruitiness, tempered by savoury, chewy notes, and good acidity thrown in for balance. Sticky, viscous, with aromas of ripe grapes and apples. Earthiness and dryness all present to keep it grounded. To be honest, in a blind tasting I would have thought this was from Hiroshima, where full aromas and flavours are characteristic of local sake (the style I am quite partial to). Enjoy it on its own, after dinner, or pair with cured ham, winter stews, and anything sky-high in umami. For more details about the Yoshikubo brewery, go...

Read More

Dassai – “50” – Junmai Daiginjō

Dassai  – “50” – Junmai Daiginjō

Dassai –  “50” –  Junmai Daiginjō      Summary: No better introduction to the seductive world of aromatic daiginjō sake. Explosive fragrance and sweet palate. Beauty in a glass. Seimaibuai: 50%,  Acidity 1.4, SMV +3, Acohol: 15.5%,  Rice: Yamada Nishiki Prefecture: Yamaguchi Price:  At Masuya, about $35 for a 300 ml bottle, $35  for 720 ml bottle at Tokyo Mart. Score – 10/10 grains Details: 20 years ago, the maker of Dassai sake, Asahi Shuzō, was on the brink of going under. The small 200 year old brewery, deep in the mountains of rural Yamaguchi, was mostly pumping out cheap table sake. Sales were dropping 10% a year. The new president, Sakurai Hiroshi, took a bold step of  developing a new line of daiginjō sake called Dassai (“otter festival”, also a nickname of the local haiku poet).  When he had success with it, he decided to radically push the envelope, and develop a product finer than anything else that existed on the market. He had heard that the lowest rice milling rate anyone had achieved was 24%, so he set out to go lower. In 1992, the brewery developed “Dassai 23” – sake with seimaibuai of just 23%.  It means that outer 77% of rice used in making the sake has been milled away. It became their flagship product, and brought them world-wide fame.  Asahi Shuzō, still, only brews junmai daiginjō, and its products appear on sake lists of finest restaurants in Japan and overseas. “Dassai 50”, hence, is junmai daiginjō with seimaibuai of 50%. Don’t think for a moment, however, that it is inferior to “Dassai 23”. It is a fine, fine sake, and happens to be my favourite in the Dassai line-up. “Dassai 50” has a full, almost overripe fragrance of green apples. On the palate, the apple flavour continues to inject acidity, but it is tempered with strawberries and cream, and sweet peaches. Smooth and delicious. Barely-there dryness in the finish. Such a drinkable sake, the 300 ml bottle I shared over lunch with a friend disappeared in an instance. Buy the full-sized bottle!      ...

Read More

Masumi “Sanka” Junmai Daiginjō

Masumi “Sanka” Junmai Daiginjō

Masumi –  “Sanka” –  Junmai Daiginjō    Summary: Pretty, fresh, sweet and delicate. Seimaibuai: 45%,  Acidity 1.9, SMV +1, Amino A 1.1, Acohol: 16%, Yeasts: #9 and #18, Rice: Yamada Nishiki Price:  At Sydney Toko, around $120. Score – 8/10 grains Details: Masumi brewery has a long and illustrious history. Established more than 350 years ago, its sake is said to have been the favourite of many a samurai, including Otaka Gengo, one of the famous 47 ronin. In the 20th century, Masumi brewery was first to discover sake yeast # 7.  Yeast # 7  went on to become a big deal in the sake world. It is the most widely used yeast, due to its strength during fermentation, and the resulting slightly sweet, mellow fragrance. The brewery’s home, the alpine Nagano prefecture, offers ideal sake brewing conditions: clear water, fresh mountain air, long, cold winters and cool summers. Nagano sake, in general, has a reputation for being delicate, gentle and easy to drink, giving the neighbour Niigata a run for its money.  Out of numerous Nagano breweries, Masumi is one of the most respected. “Sanka” means mountain flower. True to its name, this sake is so, so pretty. Sweet fragrance of pineapple and a hint of freshly cut grass. On the palate, it is candid pineapple and green apple, and a crisp dry finish. Very drinkable. Playful and delicious.  ...

Read More

Eikun – Ichigin – Junmai Daiginjō

Eikun – Ichigin – Junmai Daiginjō

Eikun –  Ichigin – Junmai Daiginjō   Summary: Quintessential Kyoto elegance and softness in this multi gold-winning bottle.  Expensive but worth it. Seimaibuai: 35%,  Acidity 1.1, SMV +3.5, Acohol: 15.3% Price: $188 online for 720 ml bottle. Score – 10/10 grains Details: Saito Shuzō brewery (known as Eikun) has been brewing premium Kyoto sake since 1905.  It is located in the Fushimi district, which is one of the most important brewing areas in Japan. Historic, scenic Fushimi area is blessed with the soft daiginjō-friendly water, and has a high concentration of esteemed breweries.  Fushimi area brews “feminine” sake, which is soft, elegant, and mildly fragrant and sweet. Ichigin sake is the pinnacle of Eikun’s craft. It has won eleven consecutive gold medals at the annual Japanese New Sake competition.  It is made with the king of sake rice, Yamada Nishiki, which is polished to the luxurious 35%. I pour Ichigin into a champaign flute, to mark the momentous occasion. It is absolutely transparent and clear. I swirl the liquid in the glass and inhale the ripe fragrance of honeydew melon. Ichigin is a mellow, soft, creamy sensation at first. But the sake I drink is young, and its quintessential Kyoto elegance overflows with brashness, too. Like a fruit picked off the tree a few days early, juicy and sweet but bursting with tartness. It is still a little bit green. I can, however, imagine the sake it is meant to become after maturation – all uninterrupted smoothness and balance, sweet fruity notes promptly resolved with a crisp dry finish.  I need another sip and then another, it is beautiful. This delicate daiginjō should be enjoyed chilled....

Read More

Hayashi Honten – “Hyakujuro 110 Black” – Junmai Daiginjō

Hayashi Honten – “Hyakujuro 110 Black” – Junmai Daiginjō

Hayashi Honten –  Hyakujuro “110 Black” – Junmai Daiginjō   Summary: Delicate floral nose, fruity palate of banana and rockmelon, clean finish. Has potential to become my favourite. Seimaibuai: 50%, Acohol: 15.5% SMV +3, Acidity 1.7, Amino acids 0.7 Price: $46.60 online for 720 ml bottle. Score – 7/10 grains Details: Hayashi Honten brewery is hidden in the Japanese alps in Gifu prefecture, which is some of my favourite spots in Japan. Cooler climate and clear waters of mountain rivers seem to have inspired the brewers to produce this refined, clean-tasting daiginjō. Hayashi Honten has several sake brands to its name, and Chef’s Armoury import two of them – Hyakujuro and Eichi. Hyakujuro 110 Black is one special sake. The nose is quite delicate, floral, but upon close inspection begins to open up with some notes of sweet fruit. In the mouth, it boldly asserts its sweetness – I was fumbling for association until I realised that I was tasting banana. Not just banana, but perhaps banana lollies with an addition of rockmelon. There is plenty of spice at the back, and the finish is bitey but clean. The flavour feels quite modern, and seems to have been brewed to be enjoyed with food. A great match for modern Australian cuisine. I have no doubt this brew will become a major hit! Delicious cold, but the sweet, creamy sensation increases as the sake warms up. Food pairing ideas: This sake is sweeter than the parameters suggest, and strikes a good balance between delicateness and full, creamy body . For an unusual, but effective, pairing, enjoy it with a salad, something with tomato and avocado. The avocado seems to enhance the creaminess of the sake, and bring out its sweetness. The tartness of a tomato accentuates the clean finish. It is quite an interesting, modern brew, and will go well with simple modern food. Chicken, white fish, salads, or even fruit....

Read More