Japanese Sake

Long-aged sake, Yamabuki Gold

Brewers who are attuned to the variations in each individual vintage are known to create blends of matured sake, in the pursuit of an exquisite balance – just as those in fortified wine and various spirits production also do. Yamabuki Gold consists of blended sake vintages between 10 and 20 years-of-age, giving it the complexion of polished amber, an aroma that reflects the cask maturation, and a resounding, layered sweetness. Its refreshing aftertaste prevents it from being cloying, however, making it a good match with crustaceans, such as shrimp or crab, and rich or fatty cuisine. A medal-winning sake for five consecutive years, including a gold, at the International Wine Challenge.

Hokko Masamune, 59jo (Gokujo), Junmai Ginjo

Gokujo – rendered 59jo on the label – was inaugurated in 2014 to denote five peers all born in Shinshu, Nagano Prefecture in 1984, including the Head Brewer. A collaborative project, each brewer crafts a sake according to a different theme each time. This particular entry, deriving from the second year, used the rice variety Hitogokochi – polished at precisely 59% – and expresses the theme of Gokuraku – hence 59raku – or an enduring sense of fun and frivolity. Doubling-down on the word-play, hitogokochi can also be interpreted as meaning relieved or relaxed, which is reflected in the sake through its gentle but fresh first impression, before progressing into a sharp character that finally races off the palate, making it perfect for refreshing summer quaffing. Gokujo can also be interpreted as meaning superb or par excellence, as another apt reflection of the bottle contents. If there is one thing Head Brewer Muramatsu loves as much as sake, it's word-play...

Hokkomasamune, Junmai Ginjo, Kinmon Nishiki

Cultivated exclusively in Nagano Prefecture, the Kinmon Nishiki rice variety is rare in sake production, due to its scarcity and the resulting premium price. This particular incarnation uses rice from Kijimadiara – the homeland of the variety – and expresses its qualities through the lens of the distinctive Hokkomasamune approach. A delicate pineapple aroma leads into a subtle but rich, savory backbone – in which the Kinmon Nishiki asserts the complex body and flavorsome character – before a clean and graceful denouement.

Aki Tora, Junmai Ginjo, Hiyaoroshi, Senbon Nishiki

This limited release, matured from winter to the following autumn, exhibits the sharper edge and robustness of the Senbon Nishiki rice strain, married with the gentler traits of its siblings, such as the Akitora. An aroma of banana rouses the appetite, with savory elements contributing to a moderately fuller but still balanced body. The robust nature of this sake allows for a wide range of drinking temperatures, from lightly chilled through to warm, so adjust to taste.

Akiora, Junmai Ginjo, Shiboritate

This first-pressed sake, using first-harvest rice each year, is a celebration of the new vintage. With a gentle sweetness and clean acidity, it makes for perfect table sake. A fresh, youthful aroma of melon, followed by an underlying savory element provides balance, while the remaining rice lees drift like the early springtime snow in the glass.

Akitora, Junmai, Yamada Nishiki 80%

This new breed of food-centric sake uses Awa Yamada Nishiki rice polished a mere 20%, but shows none of the harsh texture normally expected from such a low rate. A smooth body, aroma of banana and grain, savory palate, and refreshing aftertaste are all intended to enhance food pairings without becoming overbearing. A lesson in careful selection of ingredients and expert brewing craftsmanship.

Akitora, Junmai, Yamada Nishiki 60%

With a flavor slightly evocative of banana, giving way to clean savory elements and a refreshing aftertaste, each mouthful of this sake becomes a captivating voyage. Use of a traditional fune-style press shows the level of meticulous care in brewing this sake compared to mainstream brands. Best enjoyed when chilled to 10℃, served in broad, shallow vessels, and sipped as the temperature gradually rises, in order to experience the full spectrum of flavors.

Akitora, Natsu Jungin, Nama

Using a traditional fune-style press, before going to bottle without pasteurization, this sake is matured at near-freezing point for limited release in the following summer. A scent of banana, with cantaloupe on the palate, plush mouthfeel, and round savory elements contribute to a long and satisfying aftertaste.

Shichihon Yari, Junmai 80% of polished rice

Produced under contract and in collaboration with a local farmer, this junmai-style sake makes use of rice polished a mere 20% from their original size. As such, the end result is similarly rugged, with a heavy, rustic body and pronounced savory component, but clean acidity in the aftertaste. A sake that thrillingly reflects the strong core of the rice from which it was crafted.

Shichihon Yari, Pesticide-free Junmai, Mu-U

This sake is limited edition named “Mu-U”. It means “Not exist” and ”Exist” in Japanese. It comes from the thoughts that “Newly valuable sake was born embracing ideas of both of farmer and brewer by getting rid of pesticide. Tamasakae grew with no pesticide by Takakazu Yagura, practical farmer, was polished to 60%. Through 1-and-a-half-year ferment, it engenders aroma like rich & savory nuts and brilliant & well-rounded body. You’ll feel core strength of rice fostered through struggling with weed and coexistence with nature.