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Jinmyo

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

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Can the sommelier please explain which sakes are suitable for serving warm, and if there's a trusted method for heating them, and what temp is proper? Maybe it's just a matter of personal taste, but it's never been clear to me why some are served warm, others chilled.

 

Thanks!

 

 

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The trusted method for heating sake is in a water bath. Fill a sink or container with warm water. Park your container of sake in said sink or container. Walk away for a while.

 

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Here's another unfiltered sake: Hakutsuru's Sayuri junmai nigori. Appetising off-milk hue. Sweet. Clean rice booze finish despite the slightly gritty texture. Maybe unfiltered sake just isn't my thing but this is unremarkable. Not wonderful. Not bad. Not particularly interesting.

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Sawanotsuru Akane Iro. This one is, er, interesting. On the nose: red wine vin, sherry. Fino. Oloroso. Fucking shaoxing rice wine. You get the idea. Palate is sweet. Not sticky but ... oloroso again. Colour's close enough too, I guess. Not my favourite sake thus far--far from it, even--but compelling enough that I might partake again at some point. I don't know why it's that colour, incidentally. Nothing in the ingredients list--distilled alcohol, rice, rice koji--seems different from your run-of-the-mill sake.

 

EDIT
 

If anyone's interested in 'red sake', here's a blog post on that very topic:

 

http://sakeworld.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/red-sake/

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Perfect snow? We'll see about that. This is Kikushi's 'excellent refined Japanese sake'. Refined but, er, not refined. Or not filtered, anyway. Refined but unfiltered. This brings back flashbacks of this cherry-flavoured cough medicine I had as a child. Fucking hated the stuff. Hatest hate. The flavour profile is nothing like the cough medicine but the appearance and texture is. Mmm ... gritty liquid. A bit like a yoghurt drink. A bit sour. A funky finish. Got to love hints of bile and notes of kale. Even at its most 'excellent' and 'refined', unfiltered sake still tastes unmistakably of what it is. And that's grand, I guess, if unfiltered sake is your thing. Not that I'm drawing on a large sample but I feel this is not at all an 'excellent' or 'perfect' unfiltered sake. It's not overtly bad and it has more character than the last one but ... too much marketing pish, not enough serious sake brewing. Five chalky bits of grit out of ten.

 

EDIT

 

Actually, I'm pushing it down to a three. This is the first sake I couldn't finish.

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Kizakura Yamahai. A nice step up from last night's perfect shite. Yamahai sake is different to other sakes in a way I don't really understand and don't presently feel like reading up on. But it's different, ja, in terms of how it's made. It's meant to be 'different', too, flavour-wise. And it is. Not wildly so from some of the sakes I've tried but ... for a kind of sake that's meant to be 'wilder' this example, at least, is one of the more refined drops I've tried. A bit of bitterness on the entry with the first sip but otherwise it's clean and smooth with a mouth-filling rice booze savouriness. I say mouth-filling but it's still ... subtle. It's not the big punch in the face some of the junmais I've tried offer the imbiber. I like this one. Makes me want to seek out some of the 'wilder' examples of yamahai sake available on the Australian market. And, yeah, I'm drinking from a Mr Burns-style oversized brandy balloon. I'll release the hounds on anyone that has a problem with that.

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In my role as the President for Life, Glorious Leader and Five-Star General of the Chris Taylor Sake Appreciation Society I am fortunate to get the chance to pay for sakes and cast my untrained eye upon them to see whether they are good ... or not. This one falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

 

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This is the entry-level model of an Australian sake I tried earlier in my career: Go-Shu. For those that know Australian geography, this sake is made in Penrith using water sourced from the Blue Mountains. For once the geography lesson on the label of a bottle of booze means something to me.

 

On the nose, Go-Shu hits you with a whole lot of Shaoxing wine. Once it gets a bit of air--like, say, half way through the first glass--this dies off a bit. On the palate: bitter ... a bittersweet creaminess .. moving to a subtle but sharp bitterness. Hard to describe that in a way that would make sense. As in, it's got a bite to it without being overdone. Subtle--like, real subtle, to the point I wonder if I'm imagining it--juniper. A bit of boozy warmth on the faaaaaaaaar end of the tail.

EDIT

 

Still, I reckon it's superior to the higher end model. If you're going to buy a bottle of Go-Shu, go against what would ordinarily seem sensible: buy the 740mL variant that sells for, plus or minus a couple dollars, the same price as the 350mL 'blue' offering. Seriously. If you want your sake to taste of more than 'rice booze, refined' the entry-level Go-Shu is superior. 

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Curious, Chris - unfiltered sake is usually a late winter drink in Japan (just coming out now, actually)...it does have a cooked rice porridgey taste to it that doesn't seem very summery. Have you tried unfiltered sakes in colder weather? Cool-weather room temperature, or even slightly warmed...

Also wonder how old it was - I'm no sake expert, but some unpasteurised sake seems awfully quick to develop off-flavors, to me.

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It's been a while.

 

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Mansakuno Hana junmai ginjo. Clean smell. Fruity ... soft fruit ... banana? Maybe. Bit of bitterness. Harsher than the ginjos I've had but not terribly so. Bit of berry tucked away there. Something I can't identify on the far end of the tail. Something herbal? Maybe a surprising touch of aniseed. Dunno. But after an insta-chill (bottle + ice cubes crammed into cocktail shaker and parked in fridge) it's workable.

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A sake from Kobe: Fukuju's junmai ginjo. Fresh stone fruit on the nose and on the palate in a big way. Then there's a satisfying, savoury dryness with just a touch of boozy bitterness. It's not the most interesting sake around but it's very drinkable. 

 

EDIT

 

This is the first 'new' sake I've found at my local source, the dearly-loved Hong Kong Supermarket, in some time. At least in the ~300mL bottle size. I think I'm going to have to make a trip to the two Japanese grocers I know of that actually stock booze. And pay accordingly >_>.

 

EDIT 2

Since last night's post someone pointed me in the direction of a local-ish sake retailer. Judging by the website Sake Shop stocks a few sakes I haven't tried yet. I also found another. These, combined with Elsternwick's Tokyo Deli, should serve me well. Shame that most retailers exclusively/largely focus on ~700mL bottles.

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I mistakenly thought I'd mistakenly had this one already. Reading the thread, though, it seems I've merely had one that had a somewhat similar label. So, hey ...

 

Tokubetsu Mansakuno Hana. Junmai, as per my wont. It's the first sake I can recall having where the label has tabulated info on serving vessel, serving temperature, suggested food pairings, etc. It rates the sake on a compass, too: I assume one 'east' is sweet and 'west' is dry. Unsure what north/south might be. Floral? Fruity? ll of this information might be helpful if I could actually read more than a handful of hiragana and katakana characters. Seems like they're oddly specific about the volume of the glass you should be using. Well, maybe. 

 

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This one smells and tastes kind of ... boozy. And it is: damn near 4 standard (Australian) drinks. There's a warmth on the finish. It's dry. Interesting that the little compass has it only slightly west-of-centre. I think it's the booze that does it. I just finished eating fish and chips and I regret not opening this earlier (even though, hey, I ate in the car ... while driving) because it seems like it'd go well with salty food. I just seems a little closed. There's a bit of pepper, maybe. Maybe some old apple--you know, the way big supermarkets keep in storage year round, how it kind of dulls the flavour? That. Just a little.

 

EDIT

 

And, yeah, I just noticed/remembered that this is put out by the same mob that made another sake I tried. Looking back on my mini-review, they're clearly wildly different products. Wonder if they're meant to be contrasting styles of sake or if there's some kind of quality difference, a la Johnnie Walker Red/Black/Double Black/etc.

 

EDIT 2

 

Oxygen seems to be getting to it. Adding to the above: a bit of bitterness on the finish (in a mostly pleasant way, not the nasty, brutish and short way of a couple of the shittier sakes I've tried). A bit of stone fruit. Just a little. If one of those 'poles' on the compass is indeed fruity/flora, then, yeah, there's a reason this sake is sitting damn near dead centre. This isn't, in my opinion, a great sake and yet it is a sake I'd consider buying again if I decided to actually get around to making sake cocktails. The flavour profile isn't great but the booziness would ensure it didn't get lost if mixed with a spirit and diluted.

 

I've been banging on about the compass so, hey, here's a picture of it. Sorry that the writing's slightly out of focus: this sake's hitting me like the kind of boxer that buys a tiger and then debases himself by starring in a Zach Galifianakis movie.

 

DSC_0037_zpsxuxkcanm.jpg

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Finally had a chance to delve into sake a bit as I have always been curious. We had a sake master from one of the distributors come out to our little Wednesday afternoon tasting group and went through a few. Mostly from Kikusui as the local sales manager from Kikusui also came along.

 

Wednesday tastings 1APR15 1.JPG

 

Very interesting but may have been a touch of sensory overload. Tried the Perfect Snow that Chris was, umm, so fond of a few posts up. I didn't have quite the negative reaction but it is certainly on the sweet side and a bit gritty and milky. Somewhat dessert like I suppose but clearly seemed geared to the western palate as our sake master said these were not a big seller in Japan. I will take him at his word.

 

My favorites were probably the three Nama or unpasteurized sakes.

 

Wednesday tastings 1APR15 2.JPG

 

A bit higher proof at 19% ABV (("cask strength") and had some real character to each. The gold can is the basic Honjozo version that is sealed as soon as it is filtered while the red can is "aged" in the cans for a year before being shipped apparently making it a bit unusual when most sakes or supposed to be drunk relatively fresh. An interesting fruit like flavor develops. Lychee perhaps? The green was a seasonal product made from the first rice of the harvest as I understand it. It is still has a bit of effervescent quality or tingle to the taste, especially in the finish.

 

Others included the nigori style Perfect Snow as previously noted, Organic Junmai Ginjo in the black bottle which is "organic" (by US standards anyway) sake made with a California grown sake rice that is shipped to Japan to be brewed and then back to the US for sale. A bit drier with an interesting and distinctive vegetal nose and flavor which I rather enjoyed.

 

The small blue bottle was the regular Junmai Ginjo which was described as a sake intended for consuming with food where you might normally have white wine. This one had the most subtle (read bland for me) taste but I can see where it would not compete with food flavors.

 

Next in the small pink bottle and the small blue bottle were two the sake master brought. The pink had the lowest ABV and was intended as an introductory sake. The blue bottle was the sake masters own "barrel pick" with his name on the label and a painting done by his mother! It was quite flavorful with a lot of umami as best as I understand that flavor.

 

Next was a Kikusui Junmai Ginjo Hiyaoroshi that is made with rice harvested on the coldest winter days and then left to age until the following fall in stainless steel tanks. I didn't get much out of this one myself.

 

Finally we finished with the Sakamai (a rare type of sake rice apparently) Junmai Daiginjo that is polished down to 40%. An interesting nose that seemed most like an Argentinian Torrontes light white wine. Quite striking! The palate didn't really match the nose but it was a nice light fruity flavor.

 

A lot to take in but fun as well.

 

Of course we couldn't limit ourselves to just sake so we finished with a comparison of Lillet to the Lillet Special Reserve (as it happened the Kikusui sales manager suggested cocktails with sake like the Vesper and the Corpse Reviver 2 where the sake replaced the Lillet. May have to give that a try.). The Lillet Reserve is Sauternes based and quite lovely on its own.

 

I finally got that bottle of Blume Marillen and we decided to break that open as well before resetting the palate back to normal with a bit of bourbon. The recent Abraham Bowman Vanilla Bean finished bourbon finally arrived and we compared it to a particularly nice single barrel of Bowman selected by the Party Source. Both were nice but not sure I could really appreciate what the vanilla bean finish brought to the party.

 

The random bottle of sake between the Lillet and the Blume was just something I brought in for the sake master to see.

 

 

 

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So, now that my local supplier has run out of ~330mL bottles--although one of the guys reckons he can maybe order in a few more--I've moved onto larger bottles. Luckily, aside from a couple of popular brands--the samurai one I didn't like, for instance--the range of sakes available in the large format is different to the range of sakes available in the smaller format.

 

I bought this one because it was a) reasonably priced and b) I liked the label. Only when I got home did I realise that it was from Kizakura. I remembered trying a Kizakura sake and I was worried I'd purchased the same product, albeit with a Japanese label instead of the English-language one. Thankfully, it's a different product: I'd tried the Yamahai. This is the Kurano Uta.

 

And, hey, look, I'm getting all serious with the format of my reviews!

 

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Origin: Kyoto

APV: 14.5%

Grade: Junmai

Initial temperature*: Lightly chilled

 

English-language bottle nonsense:

Authentic Japanese junmai sake of good smooth ricey-ness with rich bodied flavor and aroma.

 

So let's see now ...

 

Aroma: It smells very clean. A lot subtler than the palate is: rice booze.

Palate: Wow. This is surprisingly big. Fairly generic, but not in a bad way. 'Generic' in the sense it has none of the more ... unusual flavours I've picked up (and often enjoyed) in other sakes I've tried. It's straight down the line. No fucking about. Rice booze without any one flavour popping out. A little bit of sweetness on the entry but a solid, dry sake. There's a bit of sharpness on the finish followed by this nice, clean rice taste. 

 

* If you take my reviews at all seriously, which you shouldn't, note that my general 'rule' is to drink the sake straight from the fridge. I let the glass and bottle to slowly come up to room temperature. The exception to this rule is if something on the bottle recommends I drink the sake warm.

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So, now that my local supplier has run out of ~330mL bottles--although one of the guys reckons he can maybe order in a few more--I've moved onto larger bottles. Luckily, aside from a couple of popular brands--the samurai one I didn't like, for instance--the range of sakes available in the large format is different to the range of sakes available in the smaller format.

 

I bought this one because it was a) reasonably priced and b) I liked the label. Only when I got home did I realise that it was from Kizakura. I remembered trying a Kizakura sake and I was worried I'd purchased the same product, albeit with a Japanese label instead of the English-language one. Thankfully, it's a different product: I'd tried the Yamahai. This is the Kurano Uta.

 

And, hey, look, I'm getting all serious with the format of my reviews!

 

DSC_0042_zpss1b1kiwx.jpg

 

Origin: Kyoto

APV: 14.5%

Grade: Junmai

Initial temperature*: Lightly chilled

 

English-language bottle nonsense:

 

 

 

So let's see now ...

 

Aroma: It smells very clean. A lot subtler than the palate is: rice booze.

Palate: Wow. This is surprisingly big. Fairly generic, but not in a bad way. 'Generic' in the sense it has none of the more ... unusual flavours I've picked up (and often enjoyed) in other sakes I've tried. It's straight down the line. No fucking about. Rice booze without any one flavour popping out. A little bit of sweetness on the entry but a solid, dry sake. There's a bit of sharpness on the finish followed by this nice, clean rice taste. 

 

* If you take my reviews at all seriously, which you shouldn't, note that my general 'rule' is to drink the sake straight from the fridge. I let the glass and bottle to slowly come up to room temperature. The exception to this rule is if something on the bottle recommends I drink the sake warm.

Like you I find I prefer the Junmai style preferable (free of added Brewer's alcohol).

 

I was strongly admonished by the sake master that gave our little presentation that good sake should always be drunk at least slightly chilled and that warm temps were reserved for the every day run of the mill "table" sake. I did rather like it better slightly chilled than warmed which is the typically way I have had it in the past. Then again I was probably drinking a better quality sake as well!

 

So is this one a ginjo or a honjozo? I have got to use all those fancy terms I learned somewhere! :rolleyes:


Edited by tanstaafl2 (log)

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I bought this because the bottle looked like some kind of cosmetics product

 

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Nakao Sake Brewery's Seikyo Ginjo Syare Bottle. Remarkably free from marketing babble--English, Japanese or otherwise. Nose is a bit dull but it's sweet and stonefruit-y on the palate. A very accessible sake that hits like a motherfucker.

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DSC_0061_zpszbtkh6vp.jpg

 

More Kizakura: tokusen hana/jumnai ginjo.

 

Marketing babble -- all sics recorded accurately

HANAKIZAKURA is clean, light & semi sweet Junmai Ginjo sake with beautiful floral fragrance up front from Kizakura original Hana Kobo (flower yeast) & crisp finish at the endAlcohol contents are only 12% so the attack on a front palate is soft & gentle. Best drink chilled.

 

Good Matching with mozzarella cheese, teriyaki chicken & soy butter stir fried mixed mushrooms.

 

Nose: very clean.

 

Palate: sweet, fruity, syrupy. Sticky ending. >_> It's okay. I mean, it's accessible.

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When I went past Hong Kong Supermarket this morning they were in the process of putting some new sake on the shelves. I purchased two.

 

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There's no English on this label, aside from a web address, but poking around on Google for all of thirty seconds taught me this is Funaguchi Kikusui. It's a boozy (19%) unpasteurised sake classified by Kikusui as full-bodied and slightly sweet. That classification is accurate. The 200mL serving is just the right size. A little bit is a lot, if you catch my drift.

 

The aroma is savoury and ... fatty. As in, there's something in there--seriously--that reminds me of the cheerful smell of roasted animal fat (duck, dripping, etc). There's a bit of sweetness there. And the texture, oh, it's lovely. It has the very dry finish you'd expect from such a boozy sake. Supposedly the flavour changes a lot as this sake matures. I'm inclined to buy a few more cans and put them away for a few months. This isn't a sake for everyone. It's certainly not a sake I'd give a first-timer--even if they were the kind of first-timer that liked to start with 'interesting' things rather than 'generic' things--but it is very nice.

 

EDIT

 

I reckon you could make an interesting cocktail with this. And I'm not talking about the 'let's pair a generic-tasting sake with some fruity sweet stuff'-type affair here.

 

EDIT 2

 

Now I know, reading back a few posts, why the can looked so familiar. 

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I still have a couple of the gold cans left. I will have to give it another try in search of that "fatty" component. It definitely had a savoury edge as you describe that made it different from most other sake I have tried. I presume the unpasteurized nature helps create that flavor.

 

You would likely enjoy the red can version if you can find it!

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'Suishin' means 'drunken heart', apparently. I approve of that. The English-language label says

 

"Suishin"

junmai daiginjo gowari migaki genshu

 

17%

 

This sake was considerably more expensive than everything else I've had so far. It has a good reputation apparently and I reckon that's deserved. Restrained fruity aroma--melon. Honey on the palate, altho' it's a balanced sweetness. Melon again. It feels pleasingly viscous. I like this one.

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I bought a half dozen bottles today. I opened this first because I liked the label.

 

English-language bits and pieces:

'Akita Meijou' Ranman Tokusen Ginjo

 

Fruity. Sweet. Banana. Then there's something odd--hard to place. A sort of vegetable bitterness, maybe? Something herbal? I don't really know what it is but it's interesting. A bit boozy on the tail. 16.something%. It's alright. It's not a disappointment after the cool label or anything.

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'Asabiraki' Junmaishu Ohkarakuchi Suijin 

 

Rounded sweetness fades to savouriness. Smooth, refined. Mouth-filling butteriness. Clean. A little bitterness on the end. 

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The bird! The bird!

 

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For a brief moment I thought I'd had this one already. I guess it's the bird logo, the minimalist label design and the Ellroy.

 

A little sweet. Simple syrup. A bit of citrus going on. Lemon zest. A tiny bit of bitterness. A lasting but subdued savouriness. This one's nice. It doesn't have any obvious tattoos or piercings in weird places. It keeps itself reasonably clean. It doesn't wear swastika t-shirts. You could introduce it to your mother in confidence.

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Classic Bats and a nice ginjo. Kikusui's organic, to exact. Very restrained aroma. Delicate. A rounded sweetness that rolls, ever so pleasantly, into a crisp savouriness. This would be lovely with fresh seafood--sashimi, oysters, maybe a cold seafood salad. A touch of pepper on the end with a bit of fruity sweetness. I normally prefer less refined sake but this one is a winner. 

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Classic Bats and a nice ginjo. Kikusui's organic, to exact. Very restrained aroma. Delicate. A rounded sweetness that rolls, ever so pleasantly, into a crisp savouriness. This would be lovely with fresh seafood--sashimi, oysters, maybe a cold seafood salad. A touch of pepper on the end with a bit of fruity sweetness. I normally prefer less refined sake but this one is a winner.

We tried this as part of our little sake marathon session a while back and I liked this as well. Quite distinctive and a bit vegetal to me. Savory works as a descriptor as well as best I can remember.

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My first venture into flavoured sake: Kuromatsu Hakashika Hana Kohaku. Sake with 'natural Japanese plum extract added.' Relatively mild--12.6% APV. It's less sweet than I expected. I mean, yeah, it's sweet, but there's enough sourness--and a bit of sake savouriness--to keep it relatively balanced. Or at least to prevent it from being all-out, balls-out cloying. It's fairly ... blah, though. I mean, I like it more than I thought it would--I bought it out of curiosity--but it's not something I'd buy again. It's not ... sake enough.

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