One of the most interesting and truly educational sake tastings I’ve been to this season was the amazing Nanbu Bijin event at the wonderful Sake Hana (265 E. 78th St, 212-327-0582).
The Nanbu Bijin was a brewery little know to me thus far – but no more. I’m now a big fan! This evening was special in many ways.
First, The Nanbu Bijin Brewery representative at the event, Company Vice President Mr. Kosuke Kuji, was perhaps one of the most passionate and enthusiastic speakers on sake I’ve ever seen! Kuji-san’s eagerness to preach the gospel of sake was not just talk either… He has a degree in Fermentation Science and is the fifth generation in his family at the brewery. He knows his stuff.
Secondly, our friend KC was the translator for the evening and did an amazing job of helping all the English speakers in the crowd to understand Kuji-san’s lecture. I was really, really impressed with (and a little jealous of) KC’s ability to so quickly and accurately translate.
Over the course of the evening we tasted 5 sakes and it was quite a ride. From delicious to sublime to curious, there was something there for everyone.
The evening started with a healthy serving of the Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai (ALC 15.5%, SMV +7, Acidity 1.5) Make with “ginotome” rice, this sake is the entry level brew of the evening. With a +7 SMV, this sake is quite dry indeed. Despite being the “low end of the high end”, the Tokubetsu junmai is not treated any differently at Nabu Bijin. Mr. Kuji unformed us that this sake is refrigerated the entire way on it’s journey from Japan to NYC.
The evening quickly picked up speed as we headed to sake number 2. This was the delicious Nanbu Bijin Junmai Daiginjo (ALC 17.5%, SMV +5, Acidity 1.3) The smart folks over at JAL Japan Airlines selected this very delicate yet fruity sake to be served in First Class. Needless to say, I felt like a first class passenger but, as Mr. Kuji pointed out, I saved myself the $8,000 ticket price to get into first class.
The third sake of the night was the Nanbu Bijin Competition Trickle Sake (ALC 17.78%, SMV +4, 1.2 Acidity). This sake is made strictly for competition and isn’t available for sale anywhere in the world. This amazing brew is made using the Shizuku “trickle” method that simply uses the force of gravity for 4 hours that allows the clear sake to drip from the mash. As you can imagine, this only produces a fraction of the volume you could get from a forceful pressing, but the quality is utterly amazing. “cream of the crop!”
The fourth sake of the evening was almost beyond words… The Nanbu Bijin 10-year-aged “Reserve” sake. Everyone got just a few sips of this magic elixir – it was amazing. the best way to describe it was it felt like drinking a cloud. Soft, supple and heavenly.
All the aged sake I had ever seen was dark amber – but this sake was crystal clear – how could this be? I thought aged turned sake dark. As it turns out, Kuji-san explained that keeping the sake constantly refrigerated for those 10 years kept the sake from darkening. It was just something very special.
The final sake of the night was a bit of a mystery. It was an all koji-rice sake that was very sweet (SMV -20). Served in a champagne flute with a strawberry slice, it wasn’t anything if not unique.
What a night! I’m so grateful to Toshi at Sake Hana for arranging such evenings as this. such fun! I read in the Nanbu Bihin Brewery literature that their aim “is to make cheerful sake that makes people smile when the taste it.” Now that is a genuine “Mission Accomplished”!