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Fukucho is made at Imada Shuzo, in the town of Akitsu in Hiroshima Prefecture, on the shores of Japan's Inland Sea, a body of water separating the islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Notably, Imada Shuzo is run by a woman, Miho Imada, who holds the title of both Brewery President and Toji Master, positions she inherited after over a decade of training in the family business. In the years since, she's put her own mark on the brewery, most notably with the Forgotten Fortune bottling. Imada-san revived an heirloom variety of Hiroshima rice called Hattanso, previously only conserved in seed banks, and replanted it for the first time in over a century. After years of experimentation, she's dialed in the exact brewing specifications and crafts this wonderfully clean, vibrant sake with a undercurrent of salinity and umami. The nose is delicate with notes of melon, cucumber peel and steamed rice, and the palate shows great acidity and crisp dry finish. Hiroshima is famous for its oysters, and this sake is a perfect pairing. Delicious with all types of shellfish and seafood, this sake also pairs wonderfully with salads and other light vegetarian fare. Oskar Kostecki
Hakkaisan produces sake in Niigata Prefecture, and they are a benchmark for the clean and elegant style of the region. Niigata is known as snow country, and in this particular case Hakkaisan is using the tradition and natural bounty of Niigata to create a unique and interesting new addition to their line-up. A yukimoro is a structure filled with snow all year around that allows for the storage of perishable goods without using electricity. Hakkaisan have loaded theirs with hundreds of tons of snow and age their wonderful junmai ginjo for an additional three years. The massive amounts of snow keep the yukimoro at a constant temperature of three degrees Celcius. Notes of orange, orange blossom, pear, white flowers and lychee on the nose, the palate is broad and rich but direct, with great acidity. Long and complex finish. Unlike most aged sake I have tried, this is very fresh and balanced, without the typical notes of umami or oxidation that usually develop. A few other producers in Niigata are experimenting with snow aging, and we are excited to see where this method goes in the future. 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
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
This honjozo (sake with brewer's alcohol added during the fermentation process, NOT after) is our ultimate summer session sake! Clean and refreshing, with a crisp aromatic profile, this is an everyday sipper of the highest caliber. Notes of melon, banana, cucumber water and white flowers drive the nose and the palate is bright, with good acidity and a graceful finish. Oskar Kostecki