Two very well known sake brands were represented at the September ’06 Sake tasting at Astor Wines: Ichinokura and Wakatake. Astor has continued to impress me with their growing selection and impressive offering. Their efforts to bring in Sake importers and brewery reps just underscores their commitment to sake in NYC. yeah!
I must admit, I was approaching this tasting with a touch of trepidation. I knew Ichinokura was going to be on hand. Several times, I’ve sampled their low alcohol “himenzen” junmai. It’s really sweet and mostly used as an aperitif. well, let’s just say, If I were stranded on a desert island and could only pick one sake to drink for the rest of my life, Himenzen wouldn’t be it. that was diplomatic, right? well, Himenzen aside, I didn’t know what else awaited me.
Here is the rundown of the sakes presented (click on bottle to see a larger image):
Ichinokura Nama. (pictured left) Mr. Asami poured me the Nama “draft” sake. I learned that this is a unique nama that produced year round and not just a seasonal offering. cool! Nice to know there are some namas you can get whenever you want! you don’t have to wait for summer. I love instant gratification. For me this was the big surprise of the tasting. This is a fresh tasting Nama (unpasteurized) sake. Crisp and alive with that nama spark. I ended up buying this one.
Ichinokura Himenzen. (pictured right. â€Princess Foodâ€, Junmai, ALC 8%, SMV -65, Acidity 5.0, Miyagi Prefecture) Funny, but during the tasting, they didn’t offer me this sake, and I didn’t ask to try it. hmm. Maybe they knew? Again, not your best bet in the ‘stranded on a desert island’ scenario, but a very well known aperitif sake. Call on Himenzen when something light and sweet is in order!
Ichinokura Daiginjo. (pictured left) Ms. Yamazaki then poured the Daiginjo for me. The Ichinokura daiginjo was everything a Daiginjo should be: refreshing and clear as a bell with a fresh aroma. Very solid Daiginjo option. The color on this sake, as far as I could tell, was crystal clear – about as clear as I’ve seen. that’s always impressive.
It is really a lot of fun to taste different sakes from the same brewery side by side. can you taste the family resemblance?
Wakatake Ginjo. (pictured right. “demon slayer” SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.5 Shizouka Prefecture.) I made my way over to the Wakatake side of the tasting and was delighted to meet the very friendly Mr. Matsunaga. He showed me pictures of his offices in Shinzouka. There was a huge red figure of a demon over the front entrance t the building. The idea is the sake is soooo good, it would kill a demon. I guess you could say, it’s ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ for Japan?
In any case, The Wakatake brand is very, very well known as is this ginjo. Lucky for us, this is a brand you can find widely distributed in this country. The Ginjo is a smooth-rich type. I find it to be really enjoyable if less complex.
Wakatake Daiginjo. (pictured left) If a sake were to be elected Most popular, Homecoming King AND most likely to succeed, this would be it. Wakatake Daiginjo (Let’s call it “Ãœber-Demon-Slayer”) is extremely popular and well regarded. It’s often recommended as a ‘starter’ sake for people who don’t know where to begin, and understandably so. It’s accessible and delicious. Take a sip of this and you may well be on your way down a slippery slope of life long sake cravings. I’m not naming names, but it’s happened before!
In the end I went home with two sakes from the tasting. The Ichinokura Nama, which indulged my current passion for all things nama-y, and the Wakatake Daiginjo which I think should be a staple in everyone’s refrigerator – like milk.
The cool thing was, both bottles netted me a cool gift-with-purchase Masu! Check out the picture. that was such a great suprise! you can never have enough sake glasses! Each masu was inscribed with the name of the brewery in Kanji. Kinda like getting a beer mug with the Sam Adams logo when you buy a case. only, this was MUCH MUCH cooler!
This tasting at Astor was a blast. It’s a great opportunity to try some new sakes and get to know some old favorites all over again. And, who wouldn’t want to get in touch with their inner demon slayer?