Noguchi Naohiko Honjozo – Tasting

This is not a Yamaguchi sake. I would also argue it’s not a small, local sake at all, but it is one that deserves every bit of attention the world can give it. Oh, how I loved this sake.

Noguchi Naohiko is a legend of sake brewing, often called “God of the Sake World.” He’s 86 years old, has retired three times, and just can’t stop making amazing sake. His current brewery, the Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute, opened last year and is putting out hit after hit. Everything about their sake says “premium:” The package design, the promotion, and of course the flavor!

Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute Honjozo Muroka Genshu
Seimaibuai 60%, Rice: 75% Gohyakumankoku

Listen, I’ve drunk a lot of sake so far. A lot of it was excellent, ranging from delicate daiginjos to full flavored futsushu. This is arguably the best sake I’ve had, and it’s a honjozo. I can’t even imagine how amazing his other sakes are.

Remember, honjozo is the lowest rank of the tokutei meishoshu labels, meaning it has looser production requirements than something like a junmai daiginjo, but still requires a designated seimaibuai (70% or less) and a limited amount of brewer’s alcohol (10% of the weight of rice used or less). Many drinkers don’t consider this style a premium sake at all. But this particular one was exquisite.

The aroma was subdued, as befits a non-aromatic sake like this. There was a touch of vanilla and melon aroma, I felt. In the mouth, though, it was an explosion of flavors. Those vanilla and melon notes were there, as well as pear and mild berry sourness. It finished with with a strong undercurrent of umami and a level of astringency that reminded me of nothing so much as a dry white wine. Yes, this is it: the fabled wine-style sake.

I think this is one of those truly versatile sakes that go well with meals of all types, or on its own, or at a party…

Yeah, it was that amazing.

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