Day 2 of the Sake Samurai events had me up early to head off to a very large sake tasting connected to the Sake Samurai Association. I felt pretty good after last night but was in for a long day of tasting… and we were starting early – 10AM! When I arrived at the tasting, the attending brewers gave me the low down on this tasting.
The sakes were broken up by grade… Junmai and Ginjo grades in the main auditorium and Daiginjo grade and specialty sakes in a near by building. Sakes were further broken down by price. I was handed the tasting sheet and told to start tasting. I quickly surmised there were 511 sakes at this tasting. That is much larger than the largest tasting in NYC – the Joy of Sake. Even so, how does one navigate a tasting of 511 sakes? any way you can.
The only way I knew I was going to make it thru was by mastering the fine art of spitting. Funky ashtray-like spittoons were provided and I quickly got the hang of it. Since I was starting early, the spittoons had a hollow ring to them when I spit. I was just feeling lucky that I wouldn’t have to clean them out.
I started the tasting in the larger Junmai/Ginjo grade room which had 2/3 of the sakes offered. I took a stroll and around and was pleased to see several sakes that I had seen before in the States.
The first sake I tried was a delicious Takenotsuyu Junmai Ginjo from our friend Mr. Aisawa in Yamagata prefecture (SMV: +1.5, Seimaibuai: 55%, ALC: 17.5 %). This brew is made with full on Yamagata grown Dewasansan rice. The Sake has a light touch on the palate, but has a strong backbone with 17.5% Alcohol. With a nice balance and a touch of sweetness, this sake is terrific.
Next I tried the Katafune Junmai (SMV: -2, Seimaibuai: 65%, ALC 15.6%). This sake was awarded ‘best in show’ at the press and industry tasting the day before, and I can see why. The smooth flavor profile had a great arch of flavor on the palate and a good acidity providing excellent balance. I think this sake is only available in Japan.
After I finished my rounds in the Junmai/Ginjo room, I was anxious to find the Daiginjos and Ichishima Sake Brewery President Mr. Kenji Ichishima was very kind indeed to help me find my way to the second half of this tasting in a nearby building that was formerly a Gekkeikan administration office. It was a beautiful walk on a sunny day in very stark contrast to the downpour we has at the temple yesterday.
In the Daiginjo room, I honed in on some real gems. Right away i spotted a great sake that is impossible to find in the US. It’s Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 39 (SMV: +4, Seimaibuai: 39%, ALC: 15.8%). This stuff is really one of my all time faves. It’s a superb junmai daiginjo, but, believe it or not, it’s not their most refined sake (That would be the Ã¼ber-elegant Dassai 23). It has all the sophistication but with a firm foothold in flavor, so it’s not too lacey or floral. Great stuff.
Next I tried Ginrei Gassan Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Seimaibuai: 40%, ALC: 16.5%) from Yamagata Prefecture. I met Junichi Suzuki, 9th Generation Brewer and he recommended his Daiginjo – I’m glad he did. This sake was delicious. Smooth and round with a long finish.
One final note on this tasting was the observation that they know how to do it right here. The execution of the tasting event itself was spot-on. It was well organized with plenty of documentation on each sake for geeks like me who love to review the stats and percentages. Each sake was labeled with a number for easy identification. A great selection and easy access to all samples. Bravo! but beyond that, every taster got a special keepsake with the price of admission – their own Sake Samurai tasting cup. Now what could be better than that?
As the tasting wound to a close, I felt real appreciation for the opportunity to be here and experience this. Once more look around to take it all in and a hearty thank you to my hosts, the members of the Japan Brewer’s Association Jr. Council.
My morning and early afternoon were filled with sake tasting – but my watch was telling me it was time to rush off to another event for the evening… a sake pairing dinner at Chion-in Temple. Can this Samurai keep up…?