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.
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.
From Nagano’s Miyasaka Brewery. Intense Asian pear and spring blossom aromatics with traces of vanilla and cocoa. Quite rich and round on the palate, this exquisitely-balanced brew sports flavours that echo the nose — ripe pear, vanilla and cocoa, with some zesty acidity. Ripe and refreshing.
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).
Okay, the label might not make it past every conservative liquor board’s moral righteous screening panel, but personally I find that a touch of nudity is the proper ending to a nice bottle. And I’ll just stop there. Brewed from Nishiki rice polished to 70%, this is a blended sake that’s loaded with umami, cocoa, earth, mushroom and subtle fruit. Serve it chilled warmed and with/without nudity.
Brewed in the coldest months of the year to optimize acidity, weight and balance, this full-bodied sake from Kanazawa, the capital of the Ishikawa prefecture, was served chilled and warmed, once again displaying the versatility of sake. Complex, with cocoa, toasted nuts and a slight earthy/mushroom funkiness (sorry, but how else?), the crisp acidity becomes more apparent (and perhaps more integrated) when warmed. Served with a foie gras/minced chicken crispy wonton in a clear truffle consommé (yes, it was as good as it sounds).
Another vintage-dated sake, this number, crafted from a small brewery in Yamagata, is named after a famous sword forged in the region to reflect its sharp, clean finish. 10 tanks of the sake are brewed, but only the single best one is bottled as vintage. With a polish ratio of 50%, it’s squarely in the daijinjo classification. Rich, silky, off-dry and complex, and a super match with a classic braised pork belly in a dark vinegar reduction.