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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
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% 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. This is the first time that Chikurin namazake (unpasteurized sake) is available in the US, and it is beautiful. Made from 100% Yamadanishiki rice, and milled to 50%, so could technically qualify as a junmai daiginjo. It opens with notes of honeydew melon, white peach, peach blossom, green apple skin, cucumber, cucumber water, lemon zest, fresh cut grass, and a hint of some rice savoriness. Complex flavors on both the nose and the palate, with good acidity, and a soft, almost velvety mouthcoating texture. Very expressive, this sake feels slightly tingly on the palate when you first open the bottle. Juicy, yet elegant, and very fun to drink! Oskar Kostecki
Very floral, forward, easy to drink, dry but not too dry and very versatile.
For those who like to have some dryness with their drink, and are also looking into trying sake, Kokken Yume no Kaori Tokubetsu Junmai is a great starter. Made from the locally grown rice of Yume no Kaori, found in Southern Aizu in Fukushima, Japan, this tokubetsu junmai will please drinkers with both its aroma and taste. On the nose, you'll get a gentle smell of fruit. But on the tongue, you'll be pleased by the mellow and dry fruit flavor while having freshness throughout from front to back on the tongue. At the back, you'll get a pleasant pop on the finish to remind you what you're tasting. Louis Jones
Arabashiri means“first run” and is the quintessential Spring sake. It is only around for a short while each year and is the bottling of the free run juice before it has been pressed in the vat, and consequently has bright flavors, high acidity and a pleasant yeasty quality. It is packed with vivid flavor and plenty of verve and pairs well with various foods. The 2018 bottling from Masumi is brighter and more elegant than previous years, with notes of lemon, tangerine, apple, pear, and fresh cut grass. We're super excited to finally have this back. Don't miss out before it sells out. Oskar Kostecki
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.
Rihaku is located in the sparsely-populated Shimane Prefecture, north of Hiroshima. Made with 100% Yamadanishiki rice, this Junmai Ginjo is a classic of the style, aromatic but with depth and texture on the palate. Notes of banana, honeydew melon and meyer lemon are complimented by more savory undertones of steamed rice and a slight herbal quality, especially on the finish. Bright acidity adds to the framework of this sake, making this a wonderful pairing with a wide range of foods, both Japanese and occidental. Loved this sake with a crab cake roll and french fries. Oskar Kostecki
"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
Tomita brewery was established in the 1540s in Shiga Prefecture, close to the city of Kyoto. They are working intensively with local farmers and use only organically grown, pesticide-free rice in their production. For this bottling, they use Tamazakae rice, indigenous to Shiga. Tomita is a very small, old school operation, and I've always found their sake to be quite rustic. This namazake is no exception, and though there are the wonderful lively qualities associated with unpasteurized sake, there is also an undercurrent of a more savory quality, slightly earthy, slightly mushroomy, with a faint aroma of dried leaves. This is coupled with grapefruit zest, orange blossom, and a yogurty, lactic quality on the palate. A very fascinating and complex sake, and incredibly food friendly. Oskar Kostecki