Golden Masu Award!

Golden Masu Award!

Before we leave 2010 behind us forever, I wanted to take a look back at this year and highlight some master brews we encountered over the last 12 months.

It’s been an awesome year – so many sakes and so many adventures! I got to travel to Japan twice this year which is a dream come true. The Golden Masu Awards are my way of having a little fun at the end of the year and highlighting those sakes that made me smile, savor or simply sit up and take notice.

Without further ado, I give you the 2010 UrbanSake.com Golden Masu Awards!


“Best Junmai for Sushi”

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Sougen Junmai

And the Masu goes to:
Sougen Junmai

Sake meet sushi. Sushi meet sake. The pairing is so classic and time-honored that some folks still think sushi is the ONLY food that pairs with sake. Nothing could be further from the truth; with untold numbers of scrumptious food and sake pairings working wonderfully together. But what if you are in the mood from some good old fashioned sushi – what sake goes best? There are lots of sushi friendly brews out there, but one of my personal favorites is this Sougen Junmai from Ishikawa Prefecture. The taste is super clean and balanced and it just – in the most delicious way possible – wipes your palate clean between each morsel of fish. A good food and beverage pairing is a true case of 1+1=3. The two together are more then they are apart. If my calculations are correct, Sougen + Sushi = Yum.


“Most Tokubestu Tokubetsu Junmai”

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Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai

And the Masu goes to: Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai

Quick and simple Japanese vocabulary lesson: Tokubetsu means “special”. When applied to sake, what do they mean by “special” anyway? Well, in most cases they mean that the sake rice has been milled more than required for a given classification. In the case of this Hakkaisan junmai, they’ve milled down to 60% remaining which would legally classify it as a junmai ginjo, but Hakkaisan sells this beauty as their Special Junmai. The taste is lightly dry, incredibly balanced and immensely food friendly. What else is special? Well, for one, this sake is not for sale in Japan! Hakkaisan makes this sake for export and it’s available only to us here in the good old USA. A sake just for us? That makes me feel pretty darn tokubetsu right now!


“Most Ginormous Ginjo”

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Narutotai

And the Masu goes to:
Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu

Let’s see now – first you’ve got your hearty ginjos… then next you’ve got your big ginjos… and then, well, then you’ve got Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu, the ginormous ginjo. And please believe me when I say, I mean ginormous in the most flattering light. This sake is rich and rewarding with some real meat on it’s bones and a finish that just goes on and on. Sometimes a light and airy brew just won’t cut it. There is a lot going on in this sake so let’s break it down: this sake is a ginjo (slightly fortified) Nama (unpasteurized) Genshu (undiluted cask strength). Lush and full, this sake says with every sip: “go ginormous or go home!”


“Best Sake Sipping Value”

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Dassai 50

And the Masu goes to:
Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo

Longtime fans of the Golden Masu Awards will remember that Dassai 50 won the coveted “Best Sake Bang for Your Buck” award in 2007. Well, Dassai 50 is back this year with “Best Sake Sipping Value” award. When it comes to cost-conscious sake consumption, dang it, Dassai 50 is hard to beat. It’s an affordable, balanced, easy-drinking and delicious. You can bring Dassai 50 to any party, event or soiree and watch the sake lovers and sake newbies alike devour this brew. It’s a winner all around but especially in the much scrutinized cost-per-sip-enjoyment ratio. Given the low cost and high enjoyment – sip away!


“Coolest Label”

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Denshin Rin

And the Masu goes to:

Denshin Rin

There are a lot of cool sake labels out there, but this one pushed to the top of the list when I talked this year in New York with Mr. Kubo, VP of Fukui’s Ippongi Brewery – the makers of Denshin. I learned that that they collect the trimmings from their labels (the negative space on the Denshin Rin labels) and meticulously place them on the bottles for their namazake, or unpasteurized sake. You can see a picture of this “reverse engineering” magic here.

Not only is this good for the environment, but it looks, and above all tastes amazing, too. For this reason, Denshin wins out as the coolest label of the year. A delicious packaging for a delicious brew!


“Best in Show”

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Tenju Chokaisan

And the Masu goes to:
Tenju Chokaisan Junmai Daiginjo

Chokaisan is a dreamy sake that pleases all the senses. I had the honor of visiting the brewery this year and saw for myself the care, detail, attention …and flower yeast, that goes into making this winner a true artisanal gem. To seal the deal, this Junmai Daiginjo also benefits from the pristine brewing water that trickles down from nearby Mount Chokai.

Chokaisan comes at you with an enchanting aroma and smooth body that will shamelessly charm you. Sake Beginners and Sake Connoisseurs can both agree on the appeal of this brew – and that is one of it’s distinct strengths. It’s a crowd pleaser, but a crowd pleaser with a touch of star quality. If you want a sake with charisma, this is it.

Well, there you have it. Congratulations to all the winners, and as we say goodbye to the last ten years that were “the Aughts” or “the Naughts” or “the Naughties”, let’s raise a glass of sake to the coming decade! That would be the 21st Century’s “Tween & Teen” years… I think it will be a rambunctious time of growth for sake! Personally, I can’t wait. Kanpai and Happy New Year to everyone!


One comment:

  1. Mazda Haruto

    March 3, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Sake of CHANEL born in the Kanazawa
    I wrote it.
    http://madeinjap.com/?p=392

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