The Joy of Sake event is the highlight of New York’s annual Sake week. It’s the largest sake tasting event outside of Japan and a definite “Don’t Miss” on the sake circuit.
At Last year’s Joy of Sake, I was an innocent newbie, untrained in the ways of mega sake tastings. This year however, I arrived at the the Puck Building a battle-tested veteran with my trusty tasting cup locked and loaded. Bring it, J.o.S.!
Well, I think a 300 bottle sake tasting would overwhelm even the most well trained palate, so I used guerrilla tactics to cover the most territory. Whenever I saw an opening at one of the tasting tables, I would swoop in and taste whatever caught my eye. This methodology produced some surprising results. I feel I got a broad overview of sakes in all the categories and fought the urge to be obsessed with sampling only the top award winners.
The first sake of note that I tasted at Joy of Sake really stuck out like a sore thumb. This brew is the color of an reddish over-steeped Lipton Tea. It’s a junmai called “Gin no Kurenai” from Amabuki Brewery in Saga Prefecture. Naturally, this sake stands out against all the rest due to it’s dark color. I saw more than one taster stare puzzled into the tasting cup!
As I learned from further research, the color comes from the use of an organically grown heirloom strain of black rice. How does it taste? well, I expected something either heavy, funky or sweet. It was none of these. Gin no Kurenai, billed as a “rosÃ© sake”, was light, smooth and tasty. Quite a surprise from a very interesting sake. I’d love to learn more about Amabuki Brewery and see what else they have to offer. They seem like a brewery that doesn’t shy way from the unique.
Moving on from the exotic brew to something more well known to me, I found my way to the Kamoizumi table and Keiko-san of World Sake Imports introduced me to Mr Watanabe. He poured me a healthy serving of Kamoizumi Shusen a junmai also known as “three dots”. This sake is well distributed in the states, but funky in it’s own right. It’s strong and mushroomy and great for drinking warm on a chilly day. If you like a sake that may strong arm you a little bit, this brew is for you!
After two Junmais I was ready for something a bit more delicate, and this time packaging caught my eye. At one daiginjo table I saw a fancy-pants daiginjo bottle dressed up in all it’s finery. The bottle reminded me a bit of Scarlett O’Hara dressed up in green velvet curtains to impress Rhett. (right?!)
I had found Saito Sake Brewery’s Eikun “Koto Sennen” Junmai Daiginjo from Kyoto Prefecture. Despite my not seeking out gold winners, I had found one! This sake is a winner of the highest gold award rating at the 2007 U.S. National Sake Appraisal. As you may expect, the aroma, taste and finish were all exceptional. I found it refined, smooth and complex… I’d say those judges were right on track. Kidding aside, this was one righteous smooth sake! As we say in the sake world, “yum!”
The rest of the evening at the Joy of Sake was a swirl of great tastes, good friends and delightful conversations that ended way to early. You know, one of the things I love about the Sake World is the really amazing people you meet. One of the thing I love about the Joy of Sake is being able to see them all in one place! Kanpai!