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Jinmyo

For God's Sake! Is There a Sake Sommelier out There?

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Junmai

Brewed only with rice, water, koji, and yeast. Regarded as the height of the brewer's craft.

Taste: Full body and may be slightly acidic.

Ginjo

Saké made with rice polished to the extent that 40% of each grain has been ground away.

Taste: Smooth, fragrant, and complex.

Daiginjo

Saké made with rice ground to at least 50% of its original size.

Taste: Even lighter and more fragrant that Ginjo.

Honjozo

Saké to which brewer's alcohol has been added.

Generally lighter than Junmai and can sometimes be very nice at room temperature or warmed. However, brewer's alcohol can also be used to hide cheap saké and mask the impurities associated with a low quality manufacturing process.

Taste: I'd rather not comment.

Nigori

Often called "antique" or cloudy saké, Nigori is saké that has been roughly filtred so that some of the rice and koji rice in the fermenting tank make it into the bottle. Prior to modern filtering technology, all sakés were Nigori. Home made.

Taste: Very sweet and often served as dessert sake. These bottles need to be shaken to blend the rice lees that have settled to the bottom.

Taruzake

A saké that is aged in a cypress barrel.

The wood imparts a spicy flavor that is similar to the familiar wooden box, the masu. Taste: The taste is not unpleasant but can hide the true flavour.

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Great post!

Do you know if it is possible in most American Japanese restaraunts to order anything besides the Honjozo?   Is there a diplomatic way to ask the restauranteer about the type of Saké, or do you just have to recognize it by taste and keep it in mind the next time you dine there?

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I don't know. Some restaurants even use a saké machine that dispenses heated saké, usually Gekeikan.

On the other hand, there is an American company called Momokawa that is making some nice junmai.

So I would just ask for junmai.

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In NY wine shops, Japanese restaurants, sushi bars and sake bars, you can find an overshelming selection from which to learn. Places like Honamura An and Blue Ribbon Sushi have some very interesting sakes.

It's my understanding that only the better sakes are drunk cool.

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My husband will be visiting Japan soon, and would like to bring home some sake.

We are both somewhat unfamiliar with sake, but willing to experiment.

He will not have an opportunity to taste before purchasing, so can anyone recommend

good brands/labels commonly found?

Thanks and any and all input welcome!

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I personally like Onikoroshi as it is very mild and smooth.

Also, why do you say he won't have the opportunity of tasting before purchase? I was offered samples of seasonal sake in several department stores, and small producers (brewers?) sometimes have samples at a small charge. You can even get small bottles in vending machines on the streets (along with beer, wine and whisky).

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If you haven't already check out

www.sake-world.com

There are various lists, most popular, etc and there are also flavor descriptions, it is a great place to start.

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Recently joined the website after lurking for awhile. Really enjoy artisanal sakes. Question to the community: what is your favorite sake, and why? Also, any thoughts on food pairing?

To get started: Otokoyama. Wonderful, not complex, light fruit and clean expression of the mountain water and fresh koji-taste.

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I'm afraid that in Ottawa it is very difficult to obtain artisinal sake. I haven't seen Otokoyama since a friend brought a bottle a few years ago. Usually we can can find the American Momokawa sakes.

Some longed-for favourites are: Rihaku which is a junmai ginjo with a kind of fruitiness in the middle of the profile. Suigei, which is similar. And Urakasumi, which is wonderfully balanced and bright.

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"Hawk in Heavens" Junmai from the Sendai area if you can get it. Beautiful stuff.

As far as a food pairing one must consider most good sake is produced from high quality rice..........

Soak some nishiki in water with pine needles or evergreen needles overnight in the refrigerator and retain the water.

Boil the nishiki rice in normal tap water and form into 1/8 inch X 4 inch X 4inch cakes.

Caramelize the cakes in grapeseed oil until totally dehydrated and golden brown on low heat. This takes about an hour.

Puree with water that is extracted from soaked nishiki for about 5 to 6 minutes in a high powered blender like a vita mix or any 2hp blender.

Add as much of the "pine liquid" as it takes to balance the toasted flavor vs the starchy texture. Season with fleur de sel and a touch of yuzu or lemon juice.

Strain through a chinoise

This mixture can be used as a soup or spread out onto a silpat and dried out in the oven to produce toasted rice and pine paper to subtitute store bought rice paper. You can also with a little engineering put it into a spuma form but it takes practice due to the high density of rice starch.


Edited by inventolux (log)

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Jinmyo -

It's hard in the States, too - I had the Otokoyama alot when my wife worked for Sushi Doraku (a Benihana concern). Also enjoyed onakuroshi (sp.?). But buying same via retail has been more difficult. Two of our emporiums, Sam's and Binny's, are moving into carrying very high-end sake, but on a regular basis beyond our budget. I did have a tarusake I enjoyed a great deal, sorry to say I've forgotten the name. Ah, Kikusakari, I think.

We get the momokawa line here, too. One of my former iterations was as a brewer - worked for a regional craft brewery here in Chicago, and not a big stretch to make a not bad nigori; I called Momokawa and the brewers there were very kind, very available, and very helpful - I enjoy their filtered sake, and their "Pearl" nigori is nice, too.

Will keep my eye out for the others you mentioned. Thanks!

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Paul, yes Momokawa Pearl is very nice. Momokawa Silver uses handcrafted koji.

I'm not so sure about their "flavoured" sakes like Asian pear, raspberry, hazelnut and so on. Though I enjoyed their yuzu.

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Jinmyo, with you on the flavored sakes. I generally don't like flavored beers of any kind - with the exception of belgian lambics, but I stay away from things like pumpkin ale, etc. What is the yuzu?

Inventolux, I have heard of the "Hawk in the Heavens," though never had (much to my misfortune, from what I have heard). I will have to re-read your post on the food aspect...very interesting. What is spuma?

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Paul O' ,

Spuma is when a body of liquid of certain consistecy is placed inside a NOS cream container in place of cream and whipped. Whipped rice. You mentioned Chicago, go to mitsuwa - 100e algonquin rd arlington hts. A great place for sake. Or go to Murai Sushi on division, they carry a 60 year old SHOCHIKUBAI KUKON JUNMAI DAI GINJYO , if they still have it on hand. I ordered it off the list for 210.00 and worth every cent.


Edited by inventolux (log)

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Paul, yuzu is Japanese citrus.

The idea of flavoured sakes is to move sake forward as an accompaniment to a wider range of meals. :blink:

invento, that sounds to be an extraordinary sake.

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I tried playing around with the cedar boxes used in consumption and I found if you soak the new box in sake and drain, then bake it in your oven for a few hours at 275f you create a smoky beverage vessel that not only enhances the flavor of the sake, but now the sake is able to stand up to red wine food preparations. Try it out, let me know what you think.

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You know, invento, that's interesting. I'll try that with a spare masu and get back to you on it. Does one still use salt on the edge? I'll try it with and without.

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So difficult to pick a favorite, but I've always enjoyed junmai over ginjyo types, which are often too fruity and light and mild.

That said, I like anything by the Ume Nishiki brewery from Eihime, as well as sakes made by the Kimoto brewing process, which lends a richer, more pronounced flavor. Daishichi Kimoto is a nice one, very easy to drink but with a complex profile. Rihaku that was mentioned below is also nice, and always seemed to me to have a very pronounced rice flavor.

I've always been wary of the Momokawa line.

Pearl is nigori, then?

For other nigori, I would also recommend Hitori Musume, which isn't overwhelmingly sweet or thick.

I wonder why you use salt on the edge of a masu, Jinmyo. There are many traditional reasons for the custom, but I can't imagine why one would need salt with a quality sake today. I worked at a sake bar for several years, and often customers would ask for salt, but I never could understand why - if it's to stimulate the appetite, I would just as soon eat some salty dried fish or other snack.

Truth be told, however, I don't like drinking sake out of wooden masu at all.

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Margaret, would like to try the nigori you mentioned; the thickness/sweetness meant one was probably enough, and I would like to try a more "drinkable" version.

Also would like to try more by the kimoto process. When I made mine, I used the yamahai-moto method, again, interested to see more in what nature provides (aided by the brewer's process design) than by additives (such as added lactic acid). Thanks for the heads up on the other sakes. There is a California sake, name escapes me, which my former roshi loves very much - and as I know he has a demanding palate for sake, I imagine it to be fairly good. And it's very reasonable. I will try to remember.

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Margaret, I rarely use masu but when I have I've used salt. I like salt. The contrast between the bright flare and crunch of the salt and the mellow roundness of the sake is very interesting both in flavour and texture. I wouldn't use a great sake though.

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Paul o' and Jimmyo,

I am in Chicago, algae salt is a nice addition or other forms work nicely such as red hawaiian salt, or homemade salt using the following technique:

Soak forbidden black rice in a heavily salted water bath for 12 hours. Bring to a boil and drain the water off. Dry rice really well. Place into a popcorn popper to dehydrate and toast. Remove and place into a blender dry. Blend into a powder. You now have created Forbidden Black Rice Salt. Very useful in a number of seasonings, especially sake "rim crustings." Although the problem with crusting rims is you may run out of salt or the balance becomes imperfect as you sip. I like to use the technique described earlier above to create a salted black rice "cappucino" to place on top of the sake so you dont have to fiddle around with salt dissolving on your lips on an inconsistent level.


Edited by inventolux (log)

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It was my understanding, which doesn't necessarily mean it's correct, that junmai refers to the fact that the sake is not diluted with extra alchohol. Ginjo and diaginjo refer to the level of polish on the rice, diagingo is better, i.e. more polished. You can get ginjo that is either junmai, or not; same with diaginjo. The best possible combination is junmai-diaginjo. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

I don't drink sake enough to know brand names, but I always look for junmai-daiginjo, which should be served cold. To answer jhulrie's question, it is available in the US. I had some last night.

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My beverage service instructor at JWU said sake is mistakenly called wine, and that it is actually beer. But the description at all restaurants I've been to that have it call it rice wine. So what is it, technically?

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Strictly speaking, any beverage fermented from grain is "beer"; anything fermented from fruit is "wine." So technically, yes, sake is a beer.

However, it behaves more like wine. Rice ferments more completely than barley or wheat, so that sake generally has an alcohol content similar to wines, rather than beers. Also, because less starch is left unfermented, sake has a lighter body and mouthfeel than most beers. (It's no accident that the big American brewers use rice as an adjunct to their brews -- it ups the alcohol without adding body or much flavor.)

Finally, although sake really has its own taste, it's closer to the flavor of some wines (dry or off-dry Reisling, for example) than to the taste of beer. No hops are added, so you don't get that characteristic bitter, astringent element.

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