Bottle 1 – Jokigen Tokubetsu Junmai (Nama)
As a labor of love, and in an attempt to document my feeble effort to get re-aquainted with my favorite alcoholic beverage, Nihon-shu (日本酒), I will photograph the few bottles I consume, and post them for those who want to see some great brews, that more than likely, you can only get in Japan. Along the way I may provide some links and info about Nihon-shu (what westerners call sake) for a little in the way of education. This is not meant to be a seminar in any way, and I am by no means a professional, hence my use of taste terms will often cause debate, or be flat out incorrect. For taste references I rely on two books: The Insider’s Guide to Sake and The Book of Sake, both by Philip Harper, a man who is highly regarded as perhaps the best non-Japanese technical expert on sake in the world. The best overall resource to learn about sake is Sake World (the link is in Travel Resources on this blog) and perhaps the best sake instructor in the world is John Gauntner, my sensei, and the guy who has brought the passion of sake to thousands in the Western World. Any book on sake by him, and I have them all, is a great resource.
As for the sake pictured above, it is Jokigen Tokubetsu Junmai (Nama). It is an unpasteurized, all rice, sake, with a semai buai (rice polishing ratio) of 55%. From Yamagata prefecture, this 720ml bottle cost me Y1500 at my favorite local sake store, Mitsugiya in Fussa-shi. I will do a write up of them soon enough.
I would describe this Nihon-shu as on the dry side, but lively as a nama should be with nice rice, junmai feel. It is clean across the palette and finishes with no lingering after taste. I drank this chilled out of the fridge and along the way to room temperature. I would opine that its optimal temperature is around the 60-65 degree side (slightly below room temp). However, because of the influence of Philip Harper, I think a lot more about how things might taste heated, and I think this would be very nice at the hito-hada (body temperature) to (nuru-kan) range. I never go above nuru-kan so that is where I would stop, especially with an un-pasturized sake. Unfortunately, the bottle did not last long enough to find out. The remarks on the Mitsugiya web site describe this as the best Junmai-shu in Japan for the price. Perhaps. There is no doubt that in the Y1500/720ml range it is well worth it. I had this with grilled chicken, bacon-wrapped asparagus with a tare sauce, soft tofu and ponzu, and a Caesar salad with anchovies (thanks to my wife) and it went well with all.
This is certainly an offering that I would not turn down, and if I see its easily recognizable kanji on a menu, I will not hesitate to order one up.
Three Stars *** (out of 5)