Different Daiginjos at Sakaya

rick.jpgOur friend Rick Smith of New York’s only all sake Shop, Sakaya, recently held a tasting devoted to Daiginjo. I found this tasting to be interesting on many levels. Instead of opting for a “vertical” tastings where one might compare three grades of sake from the same brewer, Rick-san chose to taste three Daiginjo sakes from different brewers! And what better treats to taste than daiginjo!

Now, Daiginjo, in some quarters, has a rap sheet of being expensive and elegant to the point of being vacant! However, Rick’s “Different Daiginjo” tasting shows us this is anything but the truth.    

   Kirinzan.jpg The first sake I tried was the Kirinzan Junmai Ginjo. I have to confess out the gate that I kinda of have a ‘sake crush’ on this brew. I mean, just look at that bottle. The guys up in Niigata know what they are doing when it comes to the packaging design! This fantastic Kirinzan sake is made using the largely Niigata-identified rice strain Gohyakumangoku. However, Gohyakumangoku is a rice with a little secret. It tends to crack when ground down to smaller and smaller sizes – which is exactly what is needed for daiginjos. So why go to the trouble to use a troublesome rice? for the same reason you’d climb Mount Fuji – because it’s there! The Brewers love a challenge. How is the taste? Bracingly clean and laced with a mild nuance of citrus-y goodness. A classic Niigata sake made with the signature soft & pillowy Niigata water. A beautiful bottle for a very beautiful product.

tamanohikari.jpgNext up was Tamanohikari Junmai Daiginjo.  The big story with Tamanohikari is the rice.  It’s made using an ancient strain of rice known as Omachi.  Omachi rice is sometimes called the ‘Grandfather’ of rice because it is so old (perhaps the oldest surviving rice strain?) and has not been cross-bred with any other rice varities which is so common with sake rice. Omachi rice is not known particularly for it’s fragrance, and that seems to me to lend the Tamanohikari a down to earth vibe that makes this a very like-able and quite approachable Junmai Daiginjo. The taste is quite delicious and this rice gives Tamonohikari a nice viscosity. Lovely to look at in the glass and lovely on the palate.

kuheiji_Daiginjo.jpgLast but not least was the Kamishibito Kuheiji Daiginjo Muroka.  Now this Daiginjo uses the most popular of any sake rice by far, Yamadanishiki. This Kuheiji is a “Muroka” sake. That means that this sake was not charcoal filtered at the end of the production process. This fine charcoal filtering can really clean the color of sake to a crystal clear color, and some argue, strip away some personality, too. I’ll just let that debate rage on and let you know that Muroka sake can have a unique richness you won’t find as easily in micro-filtered sake. In this case, Kuheiji a distinctly rich daiginjo! It is a wonderful rich and luxurious sake with the rice milled down to an amazing 40%. Nice clean finish with superior balance.

 All this in depth Daiginjo study has got me thinking… I have to get out there and taste more, more, more daiginjo grade sake!! Far from being vacant, Daiginjo is alive with nuance! This is not something to drink just because it’s there, but rather because it has such an expressive taste.

Oh, and if I ever really do climb Mount Fuji, note to self… Daiginjo in the fannypack.

4 replies
  1. Timothy Sullivan avatar
    Timothy says:

    Hi Rick-san! my pleasure! thanks for making these diaginjos available for tasting! after these treats, i can assure you, my fannypack will never be empty again. kanpai!

  2. Rick
    Rick says:

    Thanks Tim-san! I’m a little late in getting to this, but am so happy that you felt the DDD tasting to be post-worthy! I was wondering why you recently began sporting that fanny pack!

  3. Timothy Sullivan avatar
    Timothy says:

    Hi Mel!
    I’m man enough to admit i’m a daiginjo guy. But it’s true at home I tend to drink sake more on it’s own while unwinding after work vs drinking sake with food. Daiginjo is easier to enjoy on it’s own. now where is that fannypack?

  4. Melinda
    Melinda says:

    And I know you are a Daigin guy! How perfect for you!

    I remember that you are quite the fan of that Tamanohikari, but wasn’t the Kuheiji a mouthful? They really run with that flamboyant style and do it well.

    The thing is that I can’t drink a lot of Daiginjo myself. It can be overwhelming at times, and I’m generally looking for something I can sit down to a meal with. Having said that, though, I’m all for busting out the Daigin on special occasions – like climbing Mt.Fuji.

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