Tuesday, June 24, 2008

6/17/08: Tasting Notes - Juyondai Koshu at Sakagura

Few days ago, I received an email from Sakagura inviting me to try a truly unique saké: Juyondai “Omachi” Junmai Ginjo Namazaké from 2004. This particular bottle was aged in a refrigerated state by Sakagura for four years.

Juyondai is one of the most highly regarded saké in Japan, riding a wave of popularity along side brands such as Hiroki, Isojiman, and Dassai.

Aside from the brand name, the point of interest came from the selection of the rice and unpasteurized nature of the saké after four years’ aging.

If I am asked to choose my favorite rice, Omachi might slightly edge out Gohyakumangoku (I also like Yamadaho, but my tasting sample is too small to make a generalized statement.) My simplified description of Omachi would be “Yamadanishiki with edge.” While Yamadanishiki is known for refined fruitiness, Omachi tend to have earthy, spicy, and brawny characters that give it more of a masculine edge.

After four years, the saké gained light straw hue. The aroma had clean and fresh qualities of nama, and deep fruitiness that one would expect from a Daiginjo grade saké. The approach was smooth and mild, and lacked the vibrancy that one would expect from nama. Upon entry, the first thing I noticed was the depth and acidity that resonated in the area by the jaw. Flavor matched the aroma, was mild and rounded without the “Omachi edge.” Finish was rich with umami, allowing the flavor to resonate.

Verdict: this was a successful experiment carried out by Sakagura. There was a significant risk in aging unpasteurized saké, especially of such rare item, but those worries were unfounded. I did hear that they do have Yamadanishiki version ready in the wings, so I am very eager to see how that bottle turns out...