Ikuyamakawa Jizake – Tasting

This junmai “kounodou” sake comes from small, traditional Kinfundo Shuzo in Kudamatsu, Yamaguchi. I picked it up in preparation for their open house event later this month, so I’d have an idea what to expect.

I was delighted with what I found.

To start with, this sake is a junmai made with rice milled to 60%, which points toward a quality sake. However, as that description “kounodou” (Extremely rich) says, it’s a rich, full flavored brew. No fruity ginjo or refreshing nama here: this sake is deep.

Jizake Ikuyamakawa Semaibuai 60%, Alcohol 16-17%

It hits the nose first, a big, round aroma of umeshu, or castella, or a touch of black cane sugar.

On the tongue the flavor fills the mouth, low bottomed sweetness with a rich level of umami, and just a touch of sour in the aftertaste. There is a certain bite to it, which feels different to alcohol burn. It lingered long after swallowing, too, which might turn some people off. Personally, I enjoyed the bottle, but I can see some people being overpowered.

Overall, I think this is a sake for after meals, or to accompany a rich cheese plate. It balanced fine with spiced, smoked Austrian sausage and smoked cheese, but completely overpowered crackers and senbei.

It’s not for light summer afternoon sipping or as an aperitif to start off an elegant dinner. This is working man’s sake.

Wrapped in real bamboo sheath!

Kinfundo is a pretty minor brewery, even for Yamaguchi. You can only find their sakes in a very limited number of shops, and there are no news stories about them in the paper. Their website is ancient. But they’re still putting out sake without fuss or pretension, and that seems more traditional and less moved by fad than some of the bigger names.

They offer this sake in a 720 and isshobin wrapped in dried bamboo sheath, for Pete’s sake! On my bottle, the level was clearly hand applied, crooked and wrinkled-I’m imagine the toji’s aging wife helping out after a long day of keeping the house afloat, squinting at the labels at the kitchen table.

Which is to say, I feel like the narrative of this brewery is just waiting to be written for them to go far, because the sake is every bit as good as it should be.

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