Top sake brands – how many? I have already written about (an arbitrary) list of current top 5 sake in Japan. I say arbitrary because there are hundreds of stellar sake brands. Sake brewers pour so much effort, precision, and love into their craft, more often than not, they end up making something delicious. There are about 1250 active breweries in Japan, and John Gauntner, the father of modern-day sake appreciation, recommends about 400 sake brands. That means one in three breweries produce something worth seeking out. In the presence of so much great sake, how do particular brands become super-popular and end up in various “top 10” lists? There is, of course, marketing. More importantly, much sake is still brewed using very traditional and labour-intensive methods, and its production cannot be easily increased. Owners might simply be unwilling to move the brewery into a bigger building. They might not want to move away from the source of water, or might be worried that the change of ambience will effect the quality of sake. They might not want to invest millions into very expensive equipment. Limited supply creates cult following. Most of the time, though, their reputation is well deserved. Slava’s top 5 sake Last month, I tried over a hundred sake. Most of that epic effort happened while I was studying with John Gauntner. As you can imagine, attempting such a concentrated tasting over a short period of time has a potential to tire out one’s palate. The brands I am including below are the ones that cut through the noise instantly and powerfully. So, I give you: 1. Isojiman Junmai Ginjō. I have already included it in my “Top 5 sake in Japan” list. The reputation is well deserved indeed. The brew had the clarity of cold mountain air. I am not making these descriptions up, these were my actual notes from the evening! I might or might not have imbibed enough of great sake to feel more lyrical than usual that night. It began with the delicate fragrance of white peaches. On the palate, it was fragrant, sweet, elegant, and smoothly resolved with a somewhat dry finish. Brewed with precision. Superb. 2. Sugata Junmai Ginjō I wondered if I should include Sugata in my top 5. Most likely, this sake will never make it to Australia, or anywhere else. The sake we drank was also a shinshu (new sake, not yet matured for the obligatory 6 months) muroka nama genshu. Unfiltered, unpasteurised, undiluted. What are the chances of seeing it in Australia? Probably slim to none. Unless we ask the Black Market Sake guys nicely. That brew, however, was pure joy...Read More
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