The Blogosphere has been abuzz lately wondering about the winners of the 2007 UrbanSake.com Golden Masu Awards. I know people were concerned that 2007 would draw to a close without the sake blogging world’s highest honors being bestowed this year. Fear Not! Just in the nick of time, the 2007 Golden Masu Awards are here. This allows us to take a look back over the year and acknowledge some of the sake high points we’ve seen this year.
Forgive us if we skip the fashion, fluff and fake tans on the red carpet and get right to the good stuff. Without further ado, drumroll please…
And the Masu goes to: Yuki no Bosha Junmai Ginjo Nigori
It’s not every day that a fantastic Nigori enters your life. If the truth be told, I’m actually not the biggest Nigori fan on the planet… however, I can appreciate the stuff.
One thing that makes a nigori really shine in my eyes is subtlety and Yuki no Bosha Nigori has that in spades. The nigori here is whisper-light and elegant with just a hint of texture.
Made by a small artisanal brewery in the Northern prefecture of Akita, the taste is smooth and soothing – a real winner in my book. If you’ve never had a nigori, start here and you can’t go wrong.
“Best Spring Nama”
And the Masu goes to: Kamikokoro Toukagen Shiboritate Tokubetsu Junmai Nama Genshu
Namas in April and May really do herald the coming of Springtime. The best nama I had in 2007 was only available in the spring and I have no trouble thinking back to the taste of this memorable elixir. It was fruity with a strong strawberry-peachy bend. Yeah, just kinda yummy that way. The sneaky secret is the use of peach yeast in the making of this Okayama Prefecture brew.
In addition to the big flavor, the name can be a mouthful, too. Let’s break it down: Kamikokoro (brewery name), Shiboritate (first run), Tokubetsu (special), Junmai Nama (unpasteurized/draft junmai), Genshu (undiluted/cask strength). hmmm. Maybe we should just enjoy the flavors. can’t wait for spring ’08!
“Best Fall Nama”
And the Masu goes to: Urakasumi Hiyaoroshi Tokubestsu Junmai Nama
Fall Namas are a different beast from the springtime ones. However, they do have their own particular charms. They have that nama freshness, but taste more of the end of harvest than the buds of spring.I was able to try Urakasumi Fall Nama several times in 2007 and grew to appreciate it’s mild fruit, subtle flavors and balance. Miyagi Prefecture’s Urakasumi Brewery goes to the trouble to produce a fall nama and their efforts are rewarded.
One of the key points of this sake is it’s tie to the changing of the seasons. They have captured the essence of Japanese Autumn in a bottle. we’re very lucky to be able to get it here in the states.
“Best Sake for Warming”
And the Masu goes to: Shichi Hon Yari Junmai
Shichi Hon Yari or “The Seven Spearsmen” is a sake that keeps alive the Samurai Spirit. Anyone who has seen a PBS special on Feudal Japan knows that the samurai way of life was simply about honor, but also fierce and intense. Shichi Hon Yari is also an intense and honorable sake when chilled, but gentle warming brings out the intensity in this Shiga Prefecture brew.
If you warm this sake, I guarantee you a sensory experience. You can almost feel it running through your veins. On a cold night the gentle warming of the alcohol is just what the Dr. ordered. The perfect thing to sip before any Samurai battle… or even for a quiet night in.
And the Masu goes to: Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku Tokubetsu Junmai
They say you can’t tell a book by it’s cover… but sometimes you can. This is the case for the delicious, and deliciously designed, bottle of Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku.Being the only sake label I know of that screams out in neon safety-orange kanji, it immediately caught my attention. A cover like this better house an interesting book – and Tsukasabotan delivers.
The flavor is rich and full, the nose hints and mild fruits, while maintaining an overall dry character. Yeah, it’s kinda punk rock. I might even brave a mosh pit to get my hands on Senchu Hassaku.
“Best Sake Bang for Your Buck”
And the Masu goes to: Dassai 50 Junmai Ginjo
I’ve fallen hard for the allure of Dassai 50. I was really lucky to visit this Yamaguchi perfecture brewery in Oct. 2007 and saw up close how they lavish attention on every detail. It’s really hand crafted.
The reason I think this sake in particular is a great value is that it’s sold as a Junmai Ginjo, yet is milled to 50% which would allow it to legally qualify to be sold as a Daiginjo. Given the fantastic taste, attention to quality and a current retail price of around $25.00, you really can’t go wrong. While it’s no “2 buck Chuck”, This is a fantastic sake to introduce beginning sake drinkers to the joys of Nihon-shu.
“Best in Show”
And the Masu goes to: Hakkaisan Ginjo
For me, 2007 was the year of Hakkaisan Ginjo. Simply put, I love this stuff. How do I love thee? let me count the ways! 1) Smooth and oh oh so drinkable. 2) Just enough richness and depth to keep the tastebuds activated. 3) That fantastic Niigata water doing it’s thing. 4)The crystal clear color of this brew sparkles in the glass. 5) A nose that any greek statue would envy. 6) Yum-o!
Have you not tried Hakkaisan Ginjo yet? Well, get thee some, pronto. If you like smooth, clear and clean drinking sakes like I do, this brew may just enchant you, too.
Well, there you have it. Congratulations to all the winners and I’ll be on the look out in ’08 for any new sake stars on the horizon… Kanpai and Happy New Year!