On March 25, 2018 th
ere was a Japanese liquor event in Tokiwa park, in Ube city. The even brought sake, shochu and ume shu makers from all over Japan, but focused primarily on Yamaguchi sakagura. Luck being on my side, there was a children’s sentai show at the same time, so while my son was watching his heroes I could go taste a whole lot of great sake!
The event brought 8 Yamaguchi kura and 1 from Niigata with 3 shochu distilleries from Kyushu to display around 60 varieties of drink. Not being much of a shochu drinker, I focused solely on sake.
The event was a public one, so most of the displays featured widely appealing ginjo, daiginjo and nama sakes. Many breweries also had a couple of sparkling versions, as well as a few pink ones. I did not drink any pink sake.
I started out with a familiar brewery, Gangi from Yaoshin Shuzo in Iwakuni. I’d had their junmai ginjo muroka Mizunowa before, so this time I went for the junmai muroka nama genshu ノ壱 (no ichi?). It was, as a nama genshu should be, full of flavor and alcohol bite. It had a mellow sweetness balanced with rich umami flavors but very little sourness.
I moved next to Kanemitsu Shuzo, a small brewery in Yamaguchi city. This was my first experience with them. They brew under the label Santoka 山頭火, and since it was spring they had decided to bring their freshest sake, undiluted, unfiltered, unpasteurized and bottled less than a month. Santoka Shinsake Muroka (the name in Japanese is 夢露香, which translates as something like “The scent of dream tears” but is really just a play on muroka, the word used for unfiltered sake).
This is the ur-sake, sake almost totally untouched by processing. It’s pressed to get the lees out, and racked to let sediment settle, but not other changes are made. And boy does it show–this stuff tastes alive. Rich and sweet, and with an alcohol kick like a mule (20% abv, well above normal sake). It is a very special one, especially since it is only sold in spring because of the incredible temperature sensitivity.
This is the only sake I took home with me.
Next was Ube’s Nagayama Honka, which makes a fairly traditional dry ginjo, easy to drink and with a mellow mouthfeel that is nice, but not immensely “more-ish.”
(Their special junmai Takaharu, however, is very good, well balanced and perfect for meaty mealtimes. It was not featured at this festival, though!)
I tried a few other kura as well, something like 13 different sakes, but none stood out as much as those two. I drank another nama genshu, from Niigata’s Asahi Shuzo KUbota label. I found it a bit harsh and unpleasant to drink, personally, though certainly full of character.
Now, to be honest, things got a little fuzzy at a certain point. I know I tried Saruyama from Onoda, and a couple of sparkling sakes, but my notes got…garbled. Also, I ran into some friends of friends and I kind of switched from focused tasting to social drinking so…here are some pictures of lots of bottles!
If you ever get the chance to sample these, let me know. I’d love to try the ones I missed!