Category Archives: Fuglen

Fuglen Sake Flight | Nature’s Harvest – Autumn 2015

Fuglen Sake Flight – Nature’s Harvest

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As we are living in an era when we are increasingly concerned with the quality and origin of our food, as well as the sustainable, organic cultivation of produce, a return to a regional style of sake which utilises local raw materials has great appeal.

This autumn at Fuglen we will be celebrating nature’s bounty with a selection of three sake made using local cultivated, chemical free rice, and traditional, low intervention brewing techniques.

Savour the unique, terroir-driven flavour of these beautifully crafted sake at our Nature’s Bounty Sake Flight release party on Wednesday, October 21st.

Daina Tokubetsu Junmai Hiyaoroshi

大那 特別純米 ひやおろし

At Kiku no Sato, sake production begins in the fertile fields that surround their kura.  This small family brewery is as equally committed to cultivating their own chemical free sake rice as they are to brewing flavoursome sake with that celebrates the terroir of their local area.

A gentle herbaceous aroma invites you into glass, where you are greeted by the gently matured flavour of sweet grains enlivened by a refreshing acidity. Departs with a clean dry finish and a lingering aftertaste of spicy cedar wood.  Enjoy this sake at a range of temperatures: bright & crisp when chilled, with the flavour of the rice becoming more prominent as the sake is warmed.  A sake to savour under the harvest moon.

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Kiku no Sato Brewery, Nasu County, Tochigi – 菊の里酒造、栃木県須郡

Sake rice: Nasu County grown Gohykumangoku
Rice polishing rate: 57%
Yeast:
Sake Value Meter: +3
Acidity: 1.9
Alcohol: 16-17%

原料米: 栃木県那須産五百万石
精米歩合: 57%
酵母:
日本酒度: +3
酸度 1.9
アルコール度 16-17%

Shichi Hon Yari “Muu” Munouyaku (Organic) Junmai 七本槍 無農薬純米 無有 火入れ 

This rich, deeply flavoured sake captures the spirit of Shiga area’s terroir, as well as the eco-mindedness of its modern craftspeople. Brewed from organic rice grown by the brewery & local farmers, then gently aged for 18 months to allow the flavours to settle & mature.

Ambrosial notes of sweet, mellow rice & malted grains on the nose. Full-bodied with well structured acidity and a dry finish. Enjoy chilled in a wine glass to enjoy its brisk, refreshing acidity, or serve at 45C for a mellower, comforting expression. Pair with lean grilled meat or river fish.

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Tomita Brewery, Shiga – 冨田酒造、滋賀県

Sake rice: Locally grown Tamasakae (by brewery & local farmers)
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Yeast: #9
Nihonshudo: +4
Acidity: 1.8
Alcohol: 15-16%

原料米: 滋賀県産玉栄
精米歩合: 60%
酵母: 協会9号酵母
日本酒度: +4
酸度 1.8
アルコール度 15-16%

Daigo no Shizuku Bodaimoto  Junmai Muraoka Nama Genshu

奥播磨 春待ちこがれて 山廃純米 生酒

Made using the ancient bodaimoto brewering method first developed the temples of Nara,  in which the sake is fermented naturally by airborne yeasts, with organic rice which is grown by the brewery in their own fields. Unpasturised, unfiltered, undiluted and completely additive free, this is a pure, artisan sake with a flavour that is beyond compare.

Cloudy in the glass, with a soft creamy hue, its has a heady aroma of pear, yeast and sweet koji rice. Its dynamic flavour of sweet fruit and pickled ume plum, and grapefruit like acidity dance across your palate.  A perfect companion for cheese at the end of an mid-autumn meal.

Terada Honke Daigo no Shizuku

Terada Honke Daigo no Shizuku

Terada Honke , Chiba – 下村酒造、兵庫県

Sake rice: Locally grown organic Koshihihari
Rice polishing rate: 90-93%
Nihonshudo: -40~-70
Acidity: 6-12
Alcohol: 8%

原料米: 千葉県産 無農薬 コシヒカリ
精米歩合: 90-93%
日本酒度: -40~-70
酸度: 6-12
アルコール度 8%

 

Fuglen Sake Flight: The Autumn Harvest

The harvest season is here, and what a bummer crop it is! Around the country we are enjoying the rich array of nature’s abundance; tables heave with with fresh produce, new season rice, ripe fruit, and some of the fattiest, tastiest fish of the year. Autumn is indeed shokuyoku no aki – the season of hearty appetites.

Autumn has also long been regarded as the prime season for drinking sake, and the reason is that as the temperature chills and the leaves turn golden, crimson colours, breweries around the country finally release their fully matured brews.

The fresh autumnal sake is known as hiyaoroshi, and sometimes, more poetically, as aki-agari – ‘the autumn yield’. And like the madness surrounding the release of Beaujolais Nouvelle, there is always a lot of eager anticipation for the arrival of hiyaoroshi, which is officially released on September 9th. Hiyaoroshi, refers to sake that has been pasteurised only once before it is stored & then matured throughout summer. It is prized for its harmony of lively nama freshness and ripe autumnal flavours… the perfect beverage for pairing with the season’s harvest fare.

This month at Fuglen we will be celebrating the bounty of the season with a tasting flight of three rich and settled autumnal brews: Yamawa Junmai-Ginjo Hiyaoroshi, Yamagata Masamune Junmai-Ginjo Aki-agari and Senkin Akatonbo Yamahai Kame no O Hiyaoroshi. Cheers!

Yamawa Junmai-Ginjo Hiyaoroshi

山和 純米吟醸 ひやおろし

Yamawa Hiyaoroshi

A refreshing and easy to drink sake with a mellow, savoury nose and a smooth, supple flavour that lingers in the finish. Its nicely pitched acidity make it an the ideal companion for comforting autumnal fare. Drink it straight from the fridge and then enjoy the subtle shifts in flavour and aroma as it warms to room temperature.

Yamawa Shuzo, Miyagi – 山和酒造、宮城県

Sake rice: Nagano Miyama Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 50%
Nihonshudo: +2
Acidity: 1.7
Alcohol: 17-18%

原料米: 長野県産 美山錦
精米歩合: 50%
日本酒度: +2
酸度 1.7
アルコール度 17-18%

Yamagata Masamune Akiagari Junmai-Ginjo

山形正宗 秋あがり 純米吟醸

Yamagata Masamune Akiagari

A gentle, refreshing fragrance, with faint notes of ripe fruit. The aroma is beautifully complemented by the calm, sweet richness of the Yamada Nishiki rice, which swells and reverberates across your palate.  And the finish – ah! It ends with the clean, sword like cut which is so characteristic of  Yamagata Masamune’s style. Carefully matured at low temperatures, this sake has a wonderful harmony of freshness and soft, settled flavour. 

Mitobe Shuzo, Yamagata – 水戸部酒造、山形県

Sake rice: Banshu A-Grade Yamada Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 55%
Yeast: Kumamoto Kobo (Also known as #9)
Nihonshudo: +2
Acidity: 1.55
Alcohol: 16%

原料米: 播州特A山田錦
精米歩合: 55%
酵母: 熊本酵母 (9号)
日本酒度: +2
酸度 1.55
アルコール度 16%

Senkin Yamahai* Kame no O Hiyaoroshi

仙禽 山廃 亀の尾 ひやおろし

Senkin Yamahai Hiyaoroshi

Enter the dragon(fly)! The Akatonbo Hiyaoroshi is the latest creation of  Senkin’s genius Usui brothers. And what a stunning debut it is. Comforting notes of vanilla custard, caramel & dried fruits emanate from the glass and infuse harmoniously with the rich & mature flavour.  The palate is juicy with Senkin’s trademark sweet-acidity, and while its got some impact from the alcohol, its a punch with a velvet glove. Warm and nostalgic, this sake evokes images of an autumnal crimson sunset.

*Yamahai-shikomi is a traditional brewing method in which the yeast starter is made in a way that allows wild yeast and bacteria to be present, for a time, in the fermenting mash. It often produces a gamier, rustic flavour.

Senkin Shuzo, Tochigi – 仙禽酒造、栃木県

Sake rice: Tochigi grown Premium Grade Kame no O
Rice polishing rate: 80%
Yeast: Private
Nihonshudo: Private
Acidity: Private
Alcohol: 17%

原料米: 栃木県さくら市産亀の尾特等米
精米歩合: 80%
酵母: 非公開
日本酒度: 非公開
酸度 非公開
アルコール度 17%

 

Fuglen Sake 101: Natsuzake – Summer Sake Flight

When the hot, humid days of summer arrive, brewers around the country wrap up production for the year and take the opportunity to enjoy a well deserved break. By now, the first batches of new spring sake have already been released, and the rest is settling & aging in tanks, so the market goes a bit quiet as everyone waits expectantly for the release of the year’s fully matured sake in October. But fear not, there is still plenty of great sake to look forward to during the summer season. It’s around this of year that pretty blue bottles of lively and intensely fruity summer namazake begin to appear in the refrigerators of good sakaya. These sake tend to be light, refreshing and, due to lower alcohol levels, eminently quaffable – perfect for quelling the meanest summer thirst.

This month at Fuglen, ICHI FOR THE MICHI has selected three breezy summer sake for you dive into.

Fuglen Summer Sake Flight

石鎚  夏純米 槽搾り

Ishizuchi Natsu Junmai Funeshibori*

Clean and refreshing, with Ishizuchi’s characteristic spring water-like minerality. An aromatic ginjo nose, with a light body that spreads nicely across your palate. Beautifully balanced, with notes of sweet rice, flinty stone, and a lingering crisp acidity. Slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune to produce a fine-grained texture.

Ishizuchi Natsuzake

石鎚酒造 (愛媛県)Ishizuchi Shuzo (Ehime) 

Ishizuchi Shuzo is a small, family run brewery founded which was founded in 1920, near Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture. The name of the shuzo comes from Ishizuchisan, a mountain significant for being the tallest in the Shikoku region, as well as the source of the rich spring water which is used to create their sake.

This tiny brewery is run by four members of the Ochi family, who devote themselves to producing a small amount of high quality sake made with time-consuming, labour intensive techniques. Their sake is fermented for 40 days at a low temperature, then slow-pressed using a slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune press. The result of this careful process is a finely textured sake with a smooth, clean flavour.

Sake rice: Locally grown Shizuku Hime
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Nihonshudo: +3
Acidity: 1.7
Alcohol: 16%

原料米: 愛媛県産 しずく媛
精米歩合: 60%
日本酒度:+3
酸度: 1.7度
アルコール度: 16%

*Funeshibori 槽しぼり – Sake that has been pressed in a traditional wooden ‘fine’ box press.

Taka Natsu Junmai Happo Nigori** Namashu

貴 夏純米 発泡 にごり* 生酒

Lively and delicious! This happo-nigori’s light effervescence and cloudy appearance is reinforced by a fragrance of sweet Calpis and fresh grapes. On the palate the gentle sweet rice flavour swells and then pulls back to leave a refreshing dry finish. It’s delicate bubbles and nicely pitched acidity create a light, cool and refreshing summery feel.  – the perfect partner for convivial drinks on a hot summers night. 

Serving suggestion: Enjoy in a champagne flute, and pair with grilled meat & vegetables.

Taka Happo Nigori

Nagayama Honke (Yamaguchi) – 永山本家 (山口県)

Located in Ube City, at the south-western tip of Honshu, family run Nagayama Honke has been brewing its sake since 1888, with the mineral rich water from Shimofuriyama.

Under the leadership of fourth generation kuramoto, Takahiro Nagayama, the brewery is moving forward with a new, progressive vision. He is also one of the growing number of young kuramoto who are taking on the duel responsibilities of being a brewery’s managing director, as well as its master brewer.

Committed to producing only junmai sake, made with the best of the regions natural resources, Nagayama-san keeps production yields low in order to the quality high. The brewery is invested in supporting local agriculture, and contracts local rice farmers to supply sakamai for the brewery. Nagayama-san has also turned his hand to farming – cultivating his own Yamada Nishiki in the fields that surround the kura.

“Taka” (meaning noble) takes its name from the first kanji of the man who created it. The stylised font of the 貴 character, which Nagayama-san wrote himself, reflects his strength, passion and slightly wild personality. Since launching the label in 2001, Taka has become one of the darlings of the sake world, and for good reason. Its characteristic mellow flavour, and nicely chiselled acidity, favors wide range of delicious cuisine, and lends itself to a night of delicious fun.

Sake rice: Yamada Nishiki
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: +-0
Acidity: 1.6
Alcohol: 15~16%

原料米: 山田錦
精米歩合: 60%
酵母: 協会9号系
日本酒度: +-0
酸度 1.6
アルコール度 15〜16%

**Happo Nigori 発泡にごり – Sparkling cloudy sake. Sake that has some residual rice lees – ori -remaining, and has undergone secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Tamagawa Ice Breaker Junmaiginjo Muroka Nama Genshu***

玉川  Ice Breaker  純米吟醸 無濾過生原酒

Ice Breaker by name, Heat Breaker by nature. Don’t be mislead by its fresh, pretty fragrance, this rich and flavoursome muroka nama genshu has plenty of punch. Delicious straight out of the fridge, or it enjoy over ice to soften the impact of its amped up alcohol level. Revitalising, tasty and eminently quaffable – the perfect thirst-quencher for the hanabi & summer festival session.

Serving suggestion: On the rocks. Perfect for enjoying with barbecued fare.

Tamagawa Ice Breaker

Kinoshita Shuzo (Kyoto) – 木下酒造 (京都県)

Kinoshita is an extraordinary brewery. And that’s not so much due to the award-winning Tamagawa sake they produce, or the old school brewing techniques they use, – as it is for their toji (master brewer). Philip Harper has the distinction of being the first and only non-Japanese to attain the rank of master brewer. He’s also responsible for producing Tamagawa’s remarkably intense brews.

Although there may have been some suspicion (and expectation of failure) of a foreigner brewing the country’s national drink, since taking on the role of toji at Tamagawa’s, in 2007, Harper has won over the sake industry and the nation with his flavour driven, masculine sake.

The brewery’s mission is take fine rice, grown by farmers they have a direct relationship with to create their sake. The distinct flavour, for which Tamagawa is so renowned, is derived from Harper’s use of traditional brewing technique called ‘shizen shikomi’ or ‘stontaneous fermentation’, a natural brewing preparation used during the Edo Period, but which is not widely used today. By combining the best natural resources with labour intensive brewing techniques, and an exceptional level of skill, Tamagawa aims to brew great sake with integrity, heart and soul & to strive to produce sake that will delight and inspire.

Sake rice: (Koji) Nihonbare, (Kakemai) Gyohakumangoku
Rice polishing rate: (Koji) 50%, (Kakemai) 60%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: -2
Alcohol: 16~17%

原料米: (麹)日本晴、(掛) 五百万石
精米歩合:  (麹)50%、(掛)60%
酵母: 協会9号系
日本酒度: -2
アルコール度 16〜17%

***Muroka 無濾過 – Uncharcoal filtered

Nama 生 – Unpasteurised (fresh) sake

Genshu 原酒 – Undiluted sake

NOTE: As always, you can supplement your flight, or replace any of the above sake, with Norway’s own premium sake: Nøgne Ø “Nadakajima” Junmai, brewed with Hokkaido grown Ginpu sake rice – developed especially for cold climate conditions.

Fuglen Sake 101: Sakamai

When spring arrives, sake brewers around the country wind up production for the year, and farmers being the labour-intensive process of planting the rice for next year’s brew. But while sake can be made from table rice, only premium sake can be brewed from sakamai: rice which has been specifically developed for sake making.

There are around 100 different types of sake rice in use today, each with its own unique characteristics that will have a significant affect on the taste of the final product.

In this season’s flight we will compare sake brewed from three iconic grains: the majestic Yamada Nishiki; the pristine Gohyakumangoku; and, the granddaddy of them both, Omachi – the only pure strain of sake rice in Japan.

Aizumusume Junmai

Aizumusume Junmai – 会津娘 純米

A classic expression of Aizu grown Gohyakumangoku rice. Fresh yet restrained fragrance. Light bodied with a calm, clear flavour which spreads across the palate, then departs with a clean finish.

Takahashi Shōsaku Shuzo, Fukushima-ken – 高橋庄作酒造、福島県 

Sake rice: Locally grown Gohyakumangoku
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Nihonshudo: +2~+3
Acidity: 1.4~ 1.6
Alcohol: 15%

原料米: 会津産 五百万石
精米歩合: 60%
日本酒度:+2~+3
酸度: 1.4~1.6度
アルコール度: 15%

Jikon Junmaiginjo Yamada Nishiki

Jikon Junmaiginjō Yamada Nishiki Muroka Nama Genshu

而今 純米吟醸 山田錦 無濾過生原酒*

Yamada Nishiki’s rich, fragrant character gets amplified in this charming Junmaiginjō. Ripe melon & green apple aromas. A sweet, well-rounded flavour, enlivened by pleasant acidity, and a faint bitterness that lingers in the mouth.

Kiyasho Shuzō, Mie-ken – 木屋正酒造, 三重県

Sake rice: Yamada Nishiki locally grown in Iga, Mie-ken.
Rice polishing rate: 50%
Yeast: No. 9
Nihonshudo: +1.0
Acidity: 1.2
Alcohol: 16.5%

原料米:伊賀産山田錦
精米歩合:50%
酵母: 9号
日本酒度:+1
酸度:1.6
アミノ酸度:1.2

Kaze no Mori Omachi

Kaze no Mori Junmaiginjō Shibori Hana Muroka Nama Genshu.

風の森 純米吟醸しぼり華* 無濾過生原酒

Kaze no Mori harnesses the rich, fruity, earthiness that is unique to Omachi in this superb Junmai. Lively & fragrant, with refined acidity and a smooth, round flavour that wraps the palate.

* ‘Shibori Hana’ is Kaze no Mori’s moniker for Arabashiri; a term linked to the pressing process. When the moromi (fermenting mash) is placed cloth bags and laid into a tradition fune box press, sake will immediately begin to run out due to the weight of the bags – without any pressure being applied by the press. This run-off sake is known as “arabashiri,” which means “rough run.” Kaze no Mori believes it is the most lively and fragrant section of pressed sake, hence the more flowery epithet.

Yucho Shuzo, Nara-ken – 油長酒造、奈良県

Sake rice: Omachi grown in Bizen, Okayama-ken.
Rice polishing rate: 60%
Yeast: No. 7
Nihonshudo: -4.0
Acidity: 2.0
Alcohol: 17.5%

原料米: 備前 雄町
精米歩合: 60%
酵母: 協会7号系
日本酒度: -4.0
酸度 2.0
アルコール度 17.5%

NOTE: As always, you can supplement your flight, or replace any of the above sake, with Norway’s own premium sake: Nøgne Ø “Nadakajima” Junmai or Yamahai Junmai, brewed with Hokkaido grown Ginpu sake rice – developed especially for cold climate conditions.

Fuglen Sake 101: A New Year – A New Sake Generation

Fuglen and Ichi for the Michi are welcoming in the new year with a tasting flight of fresh sake by three dynamic ‘New Generation’ brewers. With sake this good, the future looks very bright indeed.

Senkin Yukidaruma Nigori 仙禽  雪だるま しぼりたて活性にごり酒

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This freshly pressed nigori junmai daiginjō is as delightful as it is rare. Fresh aromas of sweet, juicy fruit jump out of the glass. It’s inherent sweetness is cut through with sparkling acidity and ends with an unexpectedly crisp finish. 

Senkin Shuzō – Tochigi 仙禽酒造 – 栃木県.
原料米:  栃木県さくら市産酒造好的米1等級
Rice: Locally grown 1st Grade Tochigi sake brewing rice
精米歩合:50%
Rice Polishing: 50%
アルコール度 12/ 日本酒度 -30 / 酸度 2.0

Alcohol 12/ Nihonshu-do -30/ Acidity 2.0

This year is the debut of Senkin’s ‘Snowman’ Shiboritate* Nigori** as a junmai daiginjō. It’s an audacious move to brew what is considered to be a doburoku (unrefined) sake with the most refined grade of sake rice. But that is what one would come to expect from this young and innovative kura whose ethos is all about pushing the boundaries of convention… and having a bit of fun as they do it.

Senkin was founded in Sakura, Tochigi in 1806, at the end of the Edo period. Despite its long history, the kura changed direction in 2008, and relaunched the label with the two young Usui brothers at the helm. Their vision: to create a modern sake flavour that marries higher levels of sweetness and acidity, brewed with respect to the traditional methods of the past. All of Senkin’s sake is fresh (or once pasteurised in the bottle), unfiltered, undiluted and painstakingly pressed and bottled by hand. Furthermore, in an effort of capture a sense of terroir, Senkin has a strict “No Yamada Nishiki” (Japan’s most famous and ubiquitous sake rice) policy. Instead, they utilise sake rice (usually Kame-no O) grown in their own fields, or bought directly from local contractors.

While each of Senkin’s sakes have their own unique flavour profile, the overall impression is soft, balanced, beautifully crafted sake with pleasant acidity – perfect for enjoying throughout a leisurely meal.

*Shiboritate, or “fresh pressed”, is the first sake to be released in the brewing year. It is shipped without undergoing the traditional six-month maturation period, so is extremely fresh and vibrant in flavour.

**Nigorizake (Cloudy sake): During pressing a coarse meshed cloth or a net is used, so some yeast and fine particles of steamed rice remain as sediment in the filtered sake – hence its cloudy appearance.

Orouku “Kei” Junmai Ginjō Hon-Nama 王祿 「渓」 純米吟醸 本生

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Aptly named “Mountain Stream”, its soft flavour travels across the palate in a fresh, undulating wave. Light and clean with a subtle sweetness and gentle umami notes – it’s an elegant expression of Orouku’s distinctive style.

Orouku Shuzō – Shimane 王祿酒造 – 島根県.
原料米: 東出雲上意東地区産無農薬栽培山田錦
Rice: Organic, locally grown Yamada Nishiki
精米歩合:55%
Rice Polishing: 55%
アルコール度 16~17/ 日本酒度 +4 / 酸度 1.6

Alcohol 16~17/ Nihonshu-do +4/ Acidity 1.6

Orouku is renowned for producing dignified, muscular and tight bodied sake with an abstruse & complex flavour. The toji (master brewer), Ishihara Takemichi, has an uncompromising brewing philosophy: he only brews junmai sake made from chemical free, locally grown rice, bottled from single tanks. None of Orouku’s sake is blended (the number of each tank is listed on the bottle) filtered, diluted or pasteurised. The result is sake with plenty of personality and vivid impact – making it a favourite of the nation’s junmai fanatics.

Wakanami Junmai 若波 純米

IMG_5790Delicate aromas of dried fruit and vanilla bean carries through in the flavour as it swells across your palate and then recedes with a refreshing dry finish – like the ebb and flow of a ‘young wave’.

As the sake warms the round sweet flavour of sun-dried raisin spreads and brings out more of its vanilla bean fragrance, along with a pleasant astringency. It’s medium body and pleasant acidity give this junmai a particular affinity with a wide variety of food.

Wakanami Shuzō – Fukuoka 若波酒造 – 福岡県.

原料米:  麹: 福岡産山田錦/掛: 福岡産夢一献65%
Rice: Kojimai: Locally grown Yamada Nishiki /Kakemai: Locally grown Yume Ikkon
精米歩合:65%
Rice Polishing: 65%
アルコール度 16%/ 日本酒度 0 / 酸度 1.7

Alcohol 16%/ Nihonshu-do 0/ Acidity 1.7

Wakanami is the new label of a family run brewery which was founded in Taisho 11 (1922) near the banks of Fukuoka’s Chikugo River. The name “Wakanami” is both a reference to the ‘young’ 4th generation brother and sister team who created the label, and the ‘waves’ of the river which flow near the kura‘s door.

Created in 2011, this impossibly small kura has a staff of just four young kurabito (brewers) headed by Kaichiro Imamura, with his elder sister, Yuka, acting as toji (master brewer).

The concept behind their brewing style is to create sake which pushes out flavour and then pulls back to leave behind an aftertaste which reverberates on your palate – like the ebb and flow of a wave, if you will.

Despite this being only her 4th year of brewing under the Wakanami label, Yuka is already producing beautifully composed and compelling sake, which is directional in approach, yet stays true to the full, fragrant flavour profile which is characteristic of Fukuoka sake.

NOTE: As always, you can supplement your flight, or replace any of the above sake, with Norway’s own premium sake: Nøgne Ø “Nadakajima” Junmai or Yamahai Junmai.

Fuglen Tokyo – Sake 101: The Flavours of Sake Tasting Flight

This tasting is based on sake’s four classic flavour profiles: Soushu, Kunshu, Junshu and Jukushu.

爽酒 – Soushu: Fresh, Smooth, Herbal Sake 

石鎚 純米吟醸 緑ラベル 槽搾り
Ishizuchi Junmai Ginjo Green Label Funeshibori
 

Crisp and refreshing like pure spring water. Mild ginjo aromas, with a delicate body, mineral notes and crisp acidity make this an excellent sake to pair with food. Slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune to produce a beautiful fine-grained texture.

Ishizuchi Jungin Midori Label

石鎚酒造 (愛媛)Ishizuchi Shuzo (Ehime)

Ishizuchi Shuzo is a small, family run brewery founded which was founded in 1920, near Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture. The name of the shuzo comes from Ishizuchisan, a mountain significant for being the tallest in the Shikoku region, as well as the source of the rich spring water which is used to create their sake.

This tiny brewery is run by four members of the Ochi family, who devote themselves to producing a small amount of high quality sake made with time-consuming, labour intensive techniques. Their junmai ginjo is fermented for 40 days at a low temperature, then slow-pressed using a slow-pressed with a traditional wooden fune press. The result of this careful process is a finely textured sake with a smooth, well-rounded flavour.

原料米: (掛)松山三井 (麹)山田錦
Rice: (Kake) Matsuyama Mii (Koji) Yamada Nishiki
精米歩合:(掛)60%、(麹)50%
Rice Polishing: (Kake) 60%, (Kouji) 50%
アルコール度 16~17/ 日本酒度 +5 / 酸度 1.5 / アミノ酸度 1.1
Alcohol 16~17/ Nihonshu-do +5/ Acidity 1.5/ Amino Acids 1.1

薫酒 – Kunshu: Aromatic, Fruity, Sophisticated 

鍋島 純米吟醸 山田錦 (生酒)
Nabeshima Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki (Namashu)
 

An elegant ginka aroma of honeydew melon and pear. Initially sweet on the palate, it swells with soft rice flavours, then tapers into a refreshing, dry finish. A fragrant and beautifully balanced sake.

Nabeshima Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki Namashu

富久千代酒造 (佐賀) – Fukuchiyo Shuzo (Saga)

In recent years there has been a growing buzz surrounding Nabeshima – and for good reason: they consistently produce beautifully crafted sake, each with its own unique personality and characteristics.

It’s made by Fukuchiyo Shuzō, a small brewery which was founded in 1883, in Saga, a north-western prefecture of Kyushu. Under the direction of its visionary tōji, Naoki Iimori, the Nabeshima label was launched in 1998 with the aim of producing artisan sake that celebrates the local people, rice, water and brewing traditions of Saga. While they use famous sake rice strains like Yamada Nishiki and Omachi, they are also actively involved in developing locally grown strains. The shuzō has also developed a “Green Tourism” project, which encourages people to reconnect with the land and the local agriculture community through home-stays, rice planting and harvesting, as well as slow food events. Their vision of the future is very much a sustainable one.

Small production levels mean that stocks quickly sells out – especially of its award-winning Yamada Nishiki Junmai Daiginjō and Junmai Ginjō.
It’s elegant fragrance of florals infused with sweet melon and apples are characteristic of the #9 yeast used in the brewing process. One of the most important of all the brewing yeasts, it is also known as Kumamoto yeast, after the prefecture in Kyushu where it was first developed.

What is so extraordinary about this sake, and Nabeshima sake in general, is that so much fruity flavour can be extracted from the rice. Fragrant sake with smooth, balanced flavours and soft-grained texture, supported by perfectly pitched acidity are the hallmarks of the Nabeshima style.

原料米: 兵庫県産山田錦を100%使用
Rice: 100% Hyogo-ken grown Yamada Nishiki.
精米歩合: 50%
Rice Polishing: 50%
アルコール度 15~16/ 日本酒度 +5 / 酸度 1.3
Alcohol 15~16/ Nihonshu-do +5/ Acidity 1.3

醇酒 – Complex, Bold, Old School 

七本槍 純米 滋賀渡船 
Shichihonyari Junmai Shiga Wataribune
 

A classic junmai with comforting depth, earthiness and old school charm. It has a complex yet balanced flavour, with rich, voluptuous rice notes that permeate throughout your mouth. A thoughtfully crafted sake from one of Japan’s oldest jizake breweries.

Shichihonyari Wataribune Junmai

富田酒造 (滋賀)Tomita Shuzo (Shiga)

Shichihonyari (Seven Spearmen) is produced by one of Japan’s oldest artisan breweries, Tomita Shuzo. The name of this iconic label is a reference to seven samurai who secured victory for warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi in the 1583 Battle of Shizugatake which took place near the shores of Lake Biwa, not far from where Tomita Shuzo had established itself in 1540.

The history of this tiny, family run kura is as compelling as the well-crafted sake they produce.  The 15th generation tōji (master brewer), Yasunobu Tomita, may be young and worldly, but he has the wisdom to continue to produce sake in accordance with the philosophy and traditional techniques of his forefathers. They only make junmai made from local Shiga rice, and eschew overly refined rice polishing, blending, filtration and pasteurisation. Despite increasing demand for their sake, they have resisted the urge to modernise – they still make all of their sake in small batches, by hand with a traditional wooden fune. Their sake truly embodies the spirit of jizake brewing. Check out Shichihonyari’s amazing website. (Japanese)

原料米: 滋賀渡船 
Rice: Shiga Wataribune
精米歩合:77% 
Rice Polishing: 77%
アルコール度 15~16/ 日本酒度 +6 / 酸度 2.1 / アミノ酸度 1.8
Alcohol 15~16/ Nihonshu-do +6/ Acidity 2.1/ Amino Acids 1.8

熟酒 – Jukushu: Mellow, Rich, Mature.

Omiji Kijoshu 1978

近江路 純米貴譲酒 1978年

Ōmiji Junmai Kijōshu 1978

Strikingly dark amber hued in the glass, with intensive aromas of molasses, toasted chestnut, bittersweet chocolate, shiitake and Asian spices, which follow through on the palate. Its deep, rich and complex flavour is balanced with a fruit vinegar-like acidity and slightly bitter aftertaste – this is a sake to linger over and savour.

近江酒造 (滋賀) – Omi Shuzo (Shiga)

Founded in 1917, Ōmi Shuzō is located on the Eastern side of Lake Biwa, in Shiga-ken – about 50kms south of Tomita Shuzō. And their close proximity is no coincidence. Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan and the water systems that flow from it are famed for their softness and purity. As water is one of sake’s fundamental ingredients, it is hardly surprising that the area is home to so many well-regarded kura.

Ōmi Shuzō makes a broad range of sake, but it is their koshu (aged sake), the Ōmiji Junmai Kijōshu 1978, which enjoys an almost maniacal following. If we break down the components of its name, we can learn more about this fascinating sake. Junmai means “pure rice”, so no alcohol has been added during the brewing process. To make kijōshu (“noble brew sake”), the tōji adds a full-bodied sake from a previous season to the fermenting moromi instead of water. And finally, “1978” is the year that the sake was brewed – in this case the Ōmiji has been carefully aged in the kura since it was brewed 35 years ago. Heady stuff!

Like the Ishizuchi, two types of sake rice have been used in the brewing process: Akebono, from Okayama-ken, for the kōjimai; and Nihonbare, a local Shiga rice strain, for the kakemai – both polished to 60% if their original size. Best served at 6˚- chilling helps to bring out the acidity and enliven its rich flavour, or at room temperature as a comforting nightcap.

原料米: (掛) アケボノ (麹)日本晴
Rice: (Kake) Nihonbare (Koji) Akebono
精米歩合:(掛)60%、(麹)60%
Rice Polishing: (Kake) 60%, (Koji) 60%
アルコール度 17/ 日本酒度 -38 / 酸度 1.8 / アミノ酸度 1.5
Alcohol 17/ Nihonshu-do -38/ Acidity 1.8/ Amino Acids 1.5