Vintage sake is not all that common, but they do exist and serve to showcase the differences in rice harvest years. Kuheiji is a cult brewery from Aichi prefecture spearheading the “next generation” of toji (brewmasters). This is an intense sake with vibrant aromas of ripe citrus fruit, herbs and fennel. There’s a delicate sweetness balanced by lively acidity and solid core of citrus/tropical fruit. Quite complex, and a great companion to the pan-seared Wagu beef and sea salt.
And now for something completely (and deliciously) different: flavoured sake. Infused with yuzu (an Asian citrus) juice and coming in at a modest 8% ABV, this is really refreshing stuff. Fresh tropical fruit and citrus (grapefruit/lemon) aromas lead to crisp and pleasantly tart flavours suggesting pink grapefruit and mango.
Brewed with Hitogotchi rice polished to 70%, it shows distinct banana and pineapple aromas, with more subtle melon/almond/nougat. At +5 SMV (sake meter value), it’s dry and crisp, mildly fruity and elegant. Great with lighter dishes (and worked well with asparagus/lemon/basil risotto).
This is a blended sake with the component parts being Gorin Junmai Daiginjo (45% rice polish with no additional alcohol added) and Gorin Junmai (60% rice polish with no additional alcohol) and with a label designed by Junko Koshino. Slightly earthy on the nose with a trace of mushroom and wet slate, but also with a nice fruity component, thereby showing elements of both sake styles. Quite rich and viscous in the mouth with fruity/nutty notes. A nice match with the pan-seared jumbo scallop with truffle cream sauce.
Couple things here: Yamahai and Tokubetsu. The first being a brewing method that uses a unique yeast starter (look it up), the latter meaning “special” (though what is “special” is rather undefined — typically a higher rice-polish ratio than the category usually employs). On the nose, toasted nuts, melon, cucumber, mild banana and some creamy/lactic “funk” (thanks, Yamahai). Quite dry in the mouth, with herbal, savoury, steamed rice, cocoa and vanilla flavours.
The “grades” of sake have to do with the polishing ratio of the rice, but not necessarily the taste. Case in point: this honjozo. Some might think that honjozo — with its added alcohol — is an “inferior” classification. Well, think again. This has lovely hazelnut, cocoa, white pepper and spring flower aromas combined with creamy/minty notes. On the palate, cream of wheat cereal, cooked rice and herbal flavours finish with a satisfying touch of bitterness.