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Asamai Shuzo is located deep in Akita Prefecture, in the northern part of Honshu, Japan's largest island. Akita is known as snow country, with very cold winters due to to winds blowing off the Sea of Japan- perfect for sake brewing. Asamai Shuzo uses only Akita-grown rice, which is quite rare; many breweries will source rice from all over Japan. Each year they produce quite a small amount of sake, but it's very well regarded both locally and nationally, and we're very happy to find some here in New York. The Amanoto Tokubetsu Junmai is a blend of Ginnosei and Miyamanishiki rice polished to 55%. On the attack it is soft and rich, with notes of white flowers, peach skin and marzipan, followed by a bright spark of tropical fruit before it eases into a long and savory finish. As it warms up to room temperature it gains in complexity, exhibiting a slight saline character, and increasing in richness, with the palate becoming thicker and more unctuous. The whole experience is framed by a bright and persistent acidity, making this a very food friendly sake. We shared a bottle in the bowels of New York's Decibel Sake Bar with some okonomiyaki and edamame gyoza, but I wouldn't hesitate to pair this with a wide range of foods. Oskar Kostecki
Isojiman Shuzo is located in Szikuoka Prefecture, on the coast of Suruga Bay, with Mount Fuji rising towards the east and the foothills of the Southern Japanese Alps to the north. Relatively young for such a heralded brewery, Isojiman was established in 1830. It wasn't until the 1970's that its fame became cemented, when Isojiman led the push towards what is considered high end sake today: a drier, cleaner, and more refined style. It is one of the only breweries in Japan that uses an almost completely stainless steel facility, apart from the koji room, which is still the traditional cedar interior. This Tobubetsu Junmai, made from heirloom Omachi rice, is a pearl of the category, and we are very happy to have a few bottles to offer. Deceptively rice and fruit-forward on the initial taste, the longer one spends with this bottle, to more layers emerge, revealing a savory core with a distinct saline, almost seaweed, character. It has the richness and broadness associated with a Tokubetsu Junmai, but there is also a depth and linearity running through it, like a shaft of sunlight striking through an underwater forest of kelp. The finish is long and engaging. This is a beautiful sake to savor with a wide range of foods, but I feel it would do best in a setting with seafood. Isojiman continues to push the boundaries of sake brewing, recently bottling three sake from three separately designated rice fields, one of the first trials in "terroir." Though not available in the United States at the moment, we commend Isojiman for continuously exploring the potential of sake and hope to one day taste the fruits of their labor. Oskar Kostecki
Ryujin Shuzo creates the Oze no Yukidoke line of sake in Gunma Prefecture, just to the north of Tokyo. This small brewery has a long history, going all the way back to 1597, and creates very crisp and mellow sake, mostly due to the very soft water coming from underground sources close to the brewery. With notes of steamed rice, anise, melon, banana, pineapple, and a super dry finish, this is a classic junmai to be enjoyed in any occasion. Oskar Kostecki