The pink and red dots on the label of this sake represent the two different yeast strains used in production (yeast being a major flavour component of sake). Brewed by the Huchu Homare Yamagauchi Brewery, which was founded in 1854, this sake leads with a nose of honeydew melon and spring flower which reappear in the mouth, along with flavours suggesting toasted nuts and a distinct “umami” component.
Yum. Certainly a departure from “typical” sake, this little drop of heaven blends sake with juice from Japan’s famous Yuzu fruit. The aroma combines Meyer Lemon, Key Lime, and orange zest. Explosive sweet/tart citrus flavours trail in to a long, zesty finish. Enjoy chilled on its own, mixed with soda, or experiment as a base or ingredient in an exotic cocktail.
One person who doesn’t seem all that convinced by Japan’s embracing of “regional” sake styles is Henry Sidel, President of Joto Sake. In Toronto to introduce his company’s range of traditional and more modern sakes, Sidel appeared sceptical when asked about the new trend, even though his firm owns a brewery in Nagata — the epicentre of the regional movement. In any case, his Joto line offers a perfect introduction to sake styles, packaged in a way to be less intimidating to those new to the drink. Floral on the nose, with a hint of steamed rice, marzipan and vanilla, it’s medium-full in the mouth with mildly earthy, stone fruit flavours and a nutty finish.
From the Fukyoka Prefecture on the island of Kyushu on Japan’s southwestern tip comes this elegant, sophisticated Junmai. Crafted from Yamadanishiki rice polished to 60 per cent, it offers up aromas of Asian pear, mineral, pumpkin, nougat, and apple. Medium-dry, with a round, silky mouth feel and flavours suggesting candied almond and pear.
With a Sake Meter Value (SMV) of +20 (plus being drier; minus being sweeter), this is without question the driest sake I’ve tasted. Brewed from Miyagi rice with a 65 per cent polish, this is a versatile sake that, while showing nice banana, melon, almond and flower blossom and a crisp, fresh palate when chilled, is actually becomes more balanced and complex when heated. Serve chilled with sushi and cold dishes; then try warmed with braised pork belly. Try to find a table wine that’s as adaptable.
Let's start with the lingo. This is a Junmai (no added alcohol), Ginjo (top 4 premium sake grades) Genshu (undiluted with water) sake. From Oregon, no less, with Calrose sake rice grown in the Sacramento Valley of California. Being undiluted, this is at the upper scales for sake alcohol content at 18%. And you can feel it: a punchy, bold, smooth and full-bodied sake with lush melons, perfumed Anjou, Asian pear crispness and a sweet cereals note on the weighted, glycerol palate. There's a riff of grip on the sides and an aptness for oily fish and ramen.