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Kubota Tokubetsu Honjozo is made with a combination of Gohyajumangoku rice and local Niigata rice milled more than is required to earn the classification of honjozo, hence the "tokubetsu" or special distinction. A light and dry sake, it exemplifies the Niigata style. Muted aromatics make it a sake that is easy to pair with a variety of dishes and a pleasant green bell pepper note gives it a dry and lightly spicy finish. This is a versatile sake that can be served lightly chilled or warmed up. Oskar Kostecki
Brooklyn Kura's Junmai Nama is made with rice polished to 70% as opposed to the 60% polishing ratio of the Junmai Ginjo, though the koji rice (what is used to start the saccharification and fermentation process) is polished to 60% for both styles. The Junmai Nama shows notes of honeydew melon, lemon, grapefruit, green apple, cucumber peel, lemon curd, yellow flowers and steamed rice. It is slightly earthier than the Junmai Ginjo, with less intense aromatics and a slightly more savory profile. Oskar Kostecki
I met Niichiro Marumoto at a sake tasting hosted by Brooklyn Kura in June, and was immediately drawn to what he is doing at Marumoto Shuzo. Unlike about 99.9% of the industry, Niichiro-san farms all the rice that is used in the production of his sake. Since World War II, Japan has had a system where all rice production was controlled and distributed by the government. Only in the last few decades have sake producers been able to buy directly from rice farmers; but the rice market is still dominated by large regional co-ops with immense buying power. When Niichiro-san took over the family business at a young age, he quickly realized that a way for a small company like his to be not only sustainable going forward, but also to guarantee the best quality of raw material for their product was simply to grow everything himself. Thus far he has converted about 10% of his production to organic farming, and has a team at the brewery that does comparative analysis on each rice paddy to see how various agricultural practices have an impact on the finished product. I spent over 45 minutes chatting with Niichiro-san about rice farming, and feel like I left with more questions than I had at the start! This sake is wonderfully complex, effortlessly mixing the more fruit-forward elements of the classic Junmai Ginjo style with a savory undercurrent that resolves into a long and crisp finish. Notes of cucumber peel and melon rind, citrus, yellow flowers, acacia, nettles, and steamed rice dance across the palate, building in depth and intricacy. A sake I want to drink all the time. Oskar Kostecki
Very floral, forward, easy to drink, dry but not too dry and very versatile.
A unique find, this is a sweet potato and white rice kohi Shochu aged in Sherry casks for a rich, nutty flavor. The name 'Tenshi No Yuwako' translates to 'Angels Temptation' and refers to the angel's share which lost from evaporation and reduces down the spirit giving it a thicker, creamier texture.
"Koshu", or aged sake is a very niche category, and quite polarizing. Yoram, one of the folks involved in Yoigokochi Sake Imports owns a bar in Kyoto which specializes in serving aged sake, some that is even long-aged after the bottle has been opened. I've never had the opportunity to experience Yoram's bar, but the friends who have gone have either raved about it, or found it very weird. Most sake professionals will tell you that sake should be consumed fresh, and there is no point aging it (sake has no tannins, no sulfur, and lower acidity than wine, the things commonly accepted as allowing wine to age). Undoubtedly aged sake is different, and the flavor profile changes so much, it's almost difficult to guess what the sake was when it was fresh. A lot of it can be very intense, something you would maybe have a glass of, but would find it difficult sharing a bottle between two people. This example by Terada Honke shows all the hallmarks of aged sake, yet also has a drinkability that (for me) belies its years. Made from organic Miyamanishiki & Koshihikari rice, this sake is then aged for 15 years at the brewery before release, and shows notes of caramel, cheese, smoke, cured meat, resin, oolong tea, chestnut honey, and a hint of bitterness, almost wormwood. Quite sherry-like on the nose, the palate also has a lushness and softness to it, with the textural quality of the sake melding beautifully with its flavors. Enjoy with cheese after a meal, or pair with robust foods, perhaps a dry-aged steak. Oskar Kostecki