Hana Kaori – Tasting

This is a blast from the past for me, as it’s one of the first sakes I tried when I was just getting into the drink 10 or so years ago. It was the premier label of Yamagata Honten back then, before Moriko and Bochozuru, and when I visited the kura I had some straight from the tanks.

Hana Kaori Junmai Ginjo, Seimaibuai 60%, Yamaguchi Sakura yeast

This particular bottle is not nearly as fresh, though. It was in the clearance bin at the local grocery store for a mere 890 yen (about $8?) because it had been on the shelf for a year. I was curious to see how the sake had done in that translucent bottle for so long, and at that price it was a test I could afford to take.

Luckily, it was not a mistake! The sake was rounded and mellow. It had developed a smooth sweetness that was perfect for mealtimes. The aroma was very mellow, with just a touch of honey and melon on the nose. The flavor was full, with a touch of dried fruit and a strong dose of astringency to keep it from overpowering. I finished the bottle in two days, meaning it was a good investment in my books!

This sake is a junmai ginjo made with yeast isolated from cherry trees in Yamaguchi prefecture, which earned it the name Yamaguchi Sakura yeast. Funny story: when I first came to Japan, I was an English teacher at a conversation school in Ube city. One of my students there was a senior professor and researcher who at one point actually told me about how he had helped isolate sake yeast from cherry blossoms. At the time I had no real interest in sake, so it didn’t mean much to me then, but now as I sip this sake I think back in gratitude on that man and his students.

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