Tuesday, August 28, 2007

8/27/07: Joto Tasting at Sakagura

I have very few rules in my life. One of them is: when a manager of one of your favorite saké bar personally extends invitation to an exclusive tasting event, you must attend. Such was a case for August 27th event at Sakagura, featuring 20 of Henry Sidel’s Joto Saké selections.

Here are the selections:
Shichi Hon Yari Junmai
Shichi Hon Yari Junmai Ginjo
Shichi Hon Yari Shizuku Junmai Daiginjo
Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry
Kasumi Tsuru Yamahai Junmai
Kasumi Tsuru Yamahai Ginjo
Chikurin Fukamari Junmai
Chikurin Karoyaka Junmai Ginjo
Chikurin Taoyaka Junmai Daiginjo
HouHouShu Sparkling Sake
Hana HouHouShu Rose Sparkling Saké
Watari Bune Junmai Ginjo 55
Watari Bune Junmai Daiginjo
Taiheikai Tokubetsu Junmai
Yuri Masamune Futsushu
Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo
Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo Nigori
Yuki No Bosha Daiginjo
Yuki No Bosha Akita Komachi Daginjo
Kattchou Gesseki Daiginjo

I showed up, and came across Timothy and James (my colleague and saké enthusiast). On the other side of the counter, I greeted Henry and Katie from Joto Saké, as well as meeting Joto representatives from Chicago and West Coast.

Having tried many of the selections before, my focus was to try the new ones, and also use the opportunity to learn more about differences in production styles.

My focus was on Shich Hon Yari Junmai Daiginjo made in Shizuku style (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Tamazakae, Seimaibuai: 45%, Yeast: Assocociation #14), as Shichi Hon Yari is one of my favortie producers, and this was going to be their flagship bottle. And my, what a nice looking bottle, looking like the drip (shizuku). The saké was noticeable from other shizuku by its solid expression, while I found many to be very soft and milder in style. Katie was nice enough for me to get very used to this saké.

I thought the most interesting tasting was trying the three Kasumi Tsuru styles. Surprisingly, I found the Kimoto Extra Dry (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.1, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 65%, Yeast: N/A) to be mildest of the three, with subtle nose and more yeast and umami-driven flavor. By comparison, Yamahai Junmai (SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Kitanishiki, Seimaibuai: 65%, Yeast: N/A) had far more aromatic nose of fresh mushrooms, which translated to a gamier flavorbalanced with umami. The Yamahai Ginjo (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 55%, Yeast: N/A) was very tame on the nose, but still showed mushroom characteristics underneath flavors of fruit.

Saiya Brewery's lineup was the most comprehensive from top to bottom, ranging from rare (by US standards) Yuri Masamune "Futsuu Shu" all the way to Yuri Masamune "Kacho Gesseki" Daiginjo made using Fukurotori (Shizuku) style, with Yuki No Bosha series in between. Surprisingly, Futsuu- Shu was better than quite a few of Junmai or Honjozo I have tried. The flavor was bit gamy, with minerals and umami without fruity elements. Kacho Gesseki (SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.2, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 35%, Yeast: Saiya), with brewer's alcohol added, was the polar opposite with flavors bursting of intense pineapple.

There were two other standouts. I've always liked Wataribune, and their Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Wataribune, Seimaibuai: 35%, Yeast: N/A) was a pleasure to try again. With its gentle fruitiness and long finish of balanced sweetness and tartness, it has the prototypical Junmai Daiginjo profile. The unconventional choice for the second standout was the Hana Hou Hou Shu Rosé Sparkling Saké. Made by Marumoto Brewery, producer of Chikurin, Hana Hou Hou Shu is a sparkling rosé saké that takes the meaning of rosé literally; the saké infused in rose petals and hibiscus. Although the flavor profile wasn't rose-like per se, it was balanced and delicious.

No comments: