Monday, February 12, 2007

2/8/07: Tasting Notes on Namazakés

January and February is a very slow time of the year for saké-related activities, as brewers are busy making sakés back home, and there aren't (m)any tasting events on this side of the big pond we call the Pacific. As a result, we often have to invent our own fun at this time of the year.

But, like an early blooming plant, we see signs of new life in the form of spring-release namazakés. As a part of my job, I was able to try three namazakés just released on the U.S. market. Here are my tasting notes (some coverage of 2006 are available in the first entry here):

* I was very pleased to discover that Shutendouji "Oo-oni" Nama Genshu (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.8, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 60%, Yeast: N/A) from Hakurei Brewery located in the ancienty city of Kyoto, is now widely available in the U.S. It's full of ripe tropical fruits and underlying flavors of rice, with a long dry finish. Of the three, this seemed to be the driest saké thanks to it being undiluted, despite its relatively low SMV.

* Harushika Harushika "Shiboribana" Junmai Ginjo Namazaké (SMV: +5, Acidity: N/A, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 60%, Yeast: N/A) from Nara Prefecture was fruitier and riper with hints of sugar than Shutendouji, but not surprising considering it is a Junmai Ginjo grade. Although the finish was firm and dry, it did taste a tad less dry than the +5 rating would indicate. Overall, it is a very well balanced saké, and for $24 a bottle, it is a bargain.

* Kamikokoro Toukagen Tokubetsu Junmai Namazak (SMV: -10, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Nihonbare, Seimaibuai: 58%, Yeast: from Peach). For some reasons that continue to mystify this author for two years running, Kamikokoro Brewery (Japanese-only site) decided that it is a wonderful idea to make a sweet namazaké as indicated by the whopping -10 on SMV. (Note: the U.S. release has a shocking pink lettering, you can't miss it!) The nose sart with cotton candy, and deep initial sweetness slowly evolves to flavors of ripe peach with a long sweet finish. However, with each suceeding sip, the sweetness seems to overtake the flavors of the fruit. Although this is not the ideal flavor profile I seek in a saké, I can see how this could be popular. Perhaps the blame, ahem, credit for this continuation of sweetness goes to the successful sales...

This is just the beginning, as we expect the usual suspects (Masumi, Kaika, Otokoyama, Gokyo, among others) are sure to hit the market. Like wines, sakés are affected by vintages (see KAmikokoro from 2005 vs 2006), so I look forward to see how this year's batch compares from the years past.


Paul said...

Great info. From what I can tell our selection of Sake is nowhere near to that of NY. I have a few more shops to try out in this area but my planning has already lead me to book a trip to NY in March to see what all the fuss is about :).

Paul said...

KC -

I am planning on going to Philadelphia to partake the wonderful cuisine of Iron Chef Morimoto. I was wondering if you knew of any good stores in the area where I could purchase Sake. I am not at all familiar with the area and any guidance would be much appreciated.


KCinNYC said...

I don't know about the retail situation in PA, aside from the fact that they are state controlled, and you're less likely to see as much diversity as you would in NYC. So, if I go to Philly, I usually bring my own.

I have been to Morimoto's, it's a fantastic place. I was fortunate enough to meet the Chef himself, I hope you have the same kind of luck!

I heard from Tim about your NYC visit, and we're working on some sort of a plan for you!

Paul said...

Hi KC -

I think you are right about Phili, from what I could find out it's most def BYOS. Morimoto's is a great place though. Ultra modern set up with great food. Rare treat.

Thanks for all of your help. I am very much looking forward to NY. :)