Friday, October 05, 2007

9/27/07: The Joy of Saké

It's safe to say that all the recent saké activities are the result of Joy of Saké tasting. My role for this year’s JOS event was different from last year, as I was asked to assist in the event by Kitahara-san on behalf of Pacific International Liquor, Inc. In this job, I am to work two out of three hours, and I have free time during the first and last 1/2 hour of the event. This meant that there were significant changes to the game plan from the past.

First stage was to taste the items at the booth. PIL is a small organizations, but handles some very good sakés including Shichiken, Kubota, and Okunomatsu. Here is the list from our booth:
* Shichiken Junmai Ginjo, Yamanashi. Tasting notes available here, here, and here.
* Shichiken "Bigin Bigin" Junmai Koshu. Tasting notes are here and here.
* Hatsumago Junmai Kimoto, Yamagata. (SMV: +2). Full flavor of melon, yet very balanced.
* Kurosawa Yamahai Junmai, Nagano. (SMV: 0). Balance of yeast, cedar, minerals, rice. Complex, with very distinct signature flavor.
* Yaegaki Nigori. Rich, dense Nigori that is mildly sweet and very approachable.
* Yaegaki "Mu- Royal Blue" Junmai Daiginjo, Hyogo. Sharp, intensely fruity style that feels more like Daiginjo (sans Junmai).
* Okunomatsu Sparkling Nigori. Sharper flavor with nice depth and structure.
* Okunomatsu Tokubetsu. Fukushima. (SMV: 0) Interestingly, fruitier than Ginjo. Mild fruits, well-balanced.
* Okunomatsu Ginjo (+4). Dried fruits, earthier style with flavors of melon underneath and chocolate on the finish.
* Okunomatsu "Juhachidai Ihei" Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: , Seimaibuai: 35%, Yeast: Okunomatsu). Very fruity, balanced, lush, with a lasting finish. Quintessential Daiginjo.

After tasting the booth, I went to the Japan-only floor, where they had a nice display of Yamagata selections featuring sakés based on their idigenous Dewa-san-san rice, which tends to have soft approach with understated core flavor of mild fruit and rice. The most interesting saké I tried was Imai-san's Kudoki Jouzu "Shiro" Ginjo, a saké made using wine yeast. The result was a full approach with richness and viscosity, but with a pronounced depth and mild fruitiness and hints of vanilla. "Shiro" means "white" as in white wine, and it is among the recent trend of creating dry and low alcohol sakés that appeal to wine drinkers (e.g., Miyasaka brand.)

The most interesting selection of the evening was the Negoshian ("寝越庵" pronouced like "Negocian"). Made for Kamei Saké Store in Shinbashi, the research reveal that Nanbu Bijin is predonminantly involved. This came to our booth with the rumor that one bottle sells for a hefty some of ¥200,000, making it the most expensive beverage I have ever tried. The tasting notes, I am sure, does not do justice: nose of burnt caramel, deep prune, soy sauce followed by full and lush flavors of prune, caramelized orange peel, leading to a long finish of dark chocolate and prunes. For more on this unique saké, check these Japanese websites here and here.

What I didn't really realize is that while the event lasts until 9:00 pm, most of the booth close early. Japan-only floor was closed by 8:30 pm. I spent most of the last 1/2 hour talking with friends in the industry: Tim Sullivan (Urban Saké, Kadoi-san, Toshi (Saké Hana), Okada-san (EN), Tomoko (Chopsticks Magazine), Lefty (Saké Collective), Chad Beverlin (Vine Connections), Mr. Hishinuma and Tejima (Oval One, shochu marketers), Keith Norum and Mr. Miyasaka (Miyasaka Brewery/Masumi), Mr. Aizawa (Take No Tsuyu), among others. All in all, very busy but a fun filled and enlightening evening, as always.

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