Hokkaido is the northern most island of Japan, a huge place with lots of agriculture, open spaces and cold winters. It’s capital is Sapporo which calls to mind another certain alcoholic beverage more so than sake in the minds of most folks. However, one man is working to change all that.
His name is Mr. Shunsuke Kohiyama and he travels the world teaching about the special sake that comes from his brewery, the beautiful Takasago Sake Brewery in snowy Hokkaido. Kohiyama-san started his latest New York City tour at Sake Hana, where Manager Toshi-san hosted a fantastic pairing dinner and lecture evening. Kohiyama-san regaled the assembled sake disciples with stories about sake production, some history of Takasago brewery and lots of insider information on the workings of a brewery. Also, he answered lot of questions from the crowd and never lost his excitement for talking about sake! One of the biggest treats of the evening was the special competition sake from Takasago that we each got to sample. Fantastic! suuuuper smooth and just the right touch of richness.
I caught up with Kohiyama-san later in the weekend at a fun tasting event at Sakaya. This allowed for an in depth study of the two main sakes created by Takasago. First, I tried the Taisetsu “Big Snow” Junmai Ginjo. What makes this sake so interesting is that the brewery takes full advantage of the cold winter and actually builds an ice dome igloo where they age the sake at a stable temperature and protected from the elements. The taste is smooth and fragrant and you just can’t help but feel a delicious chill when you think of that ice igloo!
The next sake was a real stand out! We tasted the famous Takasago Ginga Shizuku “Divine Droplets” Junmai Daiginjo. Divine, indeed! This is a very well known and well respected Shizuku sake… that means instead of pressing the sake mash with a machine, they hang up bags and collect the free run sake that drips down by the force of gravity alone… all of course in the ice dome igloo! This “trickle sake” is highly prized as the creme de la creme of the sake world. It has a smoothness and wonderful complex fruitiness that must be experienced to be believed. Try it!
Reflecting now on Kohiyama-san’s lecture, I feel like I learned so much about Takasago! and I for one won’t be thinking about that “other brewed beverage” when I think about snowy Hokkaido! Ice dome sake all the way! Kanpai!