Updated: Aug 14, 2021
Revisiting an article published in 2016. Back in 2016, the Tokyo American Club member magazine, INTOUCH was looking for a story for its "DRINKS" featured segment. Seeing this space has been reserved for some prestigious wine makers of the world and the likes of Chris Pellegrini from Japan Distilled, I jumped at the chance. I've put a lot of time into the industry since Tim and I sat down at the club to chat about how I became more interested in sake in the later half of my time in Japan.
Since the article, I have certainly invested more time on the sake trail and have discovered a few recommendations to enjoy so I'll take a moment to highlight a couple since 2016.
Raising a Glass
I've come to be quite fond of the rise and maturity of great sparkling releases found within the AWA SAKE Association. The standards crafted by the originating sparkling concept producer, Nagai Shuzo ( Mizubasho ), has led to some beautifully crafted sparking sake
releases by a wide range of craft makers ( Takizawa-Shuzo ) and top brands ( Hakkaisan ). These aren't your little sister's cloying Mio sparkling alcopop's fighting for a seat at the sparkling wine cooler table. The releases produced by association members are mature, complex in structure, character and perform wonderfully in a flute glass for a posh event toast. I'm just waiting for the one with a bit more acidity to be the global contender. If you're toasting in Japan, be sure to give a sparkling sake a try.
For the Sips.
More recently, I've come to find plenty of Ginjo, Daiginjo styles to enjoy. Two of my personal favorites are from the pilgrim island regions of Tosa ( Keigetsu by Tosa-Shuzo ) and Ehime ( Yamatan by Yagi-Shuzo ).
Anything Keigetsu produces is worth a tasting exploration. Keigetsu 45, has been in my top 3 favorites for a while now. The yeast utilized within the fermentation have delivered a light anise, green apple, white grape mashup of aromas and flavors making it a pleasure to sip in a wine glass over conversation and reminiscing to great music by the The Little River Band.
Rice selection and mastery of rice-koji making goes along way in a sake flavor profile / character and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not fond of sake that tastes of rice porridge as some often do.
I do however, like to explore small production sake rice releases for their uniqueness. One rice profile I've come to enjoy is Shizuku Hime out of Ehime. Yamatan Shizuku Hime Junmai Ginjo leverages this first rice developed in the region for sake production to craft a lightly fruity, subtle sake perfect for accompanying a charcuterie board with salty meats and cheeses.
These, although a little more rich in profile than Harushika, have come to be as palate pleasing as some of the best releases I've tasted at dozens and dozens of live events.
Over a Hearty Meal
I'll go in for a local from Kanagawa-ken when pairing up something for the western dinner table, a great one is Hakone-yama Junmai ( Inoue-Shuzo ).
This is a goes well with meat and potatoes kind of sake, preferably with some buttery gravy laden mash and some meat meat-loaf coated in a hearty ~WUUS-TA-SHA~ sauce. Also lovely with a classic soft ( runny ) scotch egg or these speciality craft Kanagawa-ken sausages and a side of skin on chips too.
As we bring Craft Instinct Japan into a more focused mission to offer select and quality products, I look forward to sharing some recommendations and opportunities to enjoy some of my favorites that I continue to discover along the path.
Give them a try and let us know what you think.