January 2009

Sake Exclusives - Extremely Limited Sakes For You

Posted by admin in 2009, January, Newsletter

sake exclusives jan 2009Okay here comes an admission of guilt. I have an ego. No not an Eggo Waffle. No not a Lego plastic building toy, but a ridiculous stash of an inferiority complex smothered in a little lack of humility sauce. I can justify it by the old whiny cries of "Hey I have been selling sake since you were a twinkle in your mama's eye" or "I took the chance of opening a sake store so I should get the wink wink nudge nudge." But these are all just lame excuses for me wanting attention - especially when it comes to identifying and obtaining great sakes in Japan and having them exported.

As you all know - retailers cannot import! (Yes a really bad scenario that makes it difficult to directly answer the desires of the market) So I am forced to identify certain sakes in Japan and encourage my importers to add them to their portfolio so that I can add them to mine. For my "identifying" efforts the importers give me "Exclusive" status on the brews - so I can dance on the rooftops and say "Mine - Mine - Mine" like a two-year-old. Am I being hard on myself here a little? A bit. But it took a while - perhaps too long to realize that I want my brewers to make money and by getting these "exclusive" sakes out to more drinkers via other vendors is better for them and really only means a little selling point for True Sake - Exclusive!

My track record is pretty good - most of the brews that I have identified have taken off in popularity. (Why? That is a good question and I will answer it by saying that I know the American palate better than most, because we get daily feedback from our customers -and it's all about the drinkers right?) A couple of familiar brews first - I was in Shizuoka at the Wakatake Onigoroshi brewery makers of the very super Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Dai Ginjo known as the "Deamon Slayer." While there I tasted their Junmai Genshu and said "Yummy," and encouraged their importers to carry it. They did and we got the "exclusive" seal. Then in Tokushima I went to Narutotai - makers of the great Yamahai Ginjo - and while sitting calmly on a tatami mat tasting their line-up I noticed a squat silver can and said "What is that?" This amazing Nama Ginjo Genshu, which we aptly called "Beau-Shu" has been one of our top sellers for the last three years.

Kaika, Kikuhime, the list goes on and on for brews that I thought would do great for the American drinker - but always pimping the "exclusive" as a selling point for the store and as a weak cry for my attention-getting ego omelet. I have since "released" all of my "exclusivity" - on all brews, including new sakes that will touch down in early 2009 (an amazing offering from Urakasumi).

Okay so what is the point here? The point is that True Sake has three "Totally EXCLUSIVE" sakes available to you great people. Yes - you heard it here first - EXCLUSIVE sakes available at True Sake!

Well - exclusive until they run out!

YUZUKI: 

Some brews are extremely important for your sake learning curve and others are just great to taste and enjoy. When I was in Yamagata last fall, I stayed at the home of Masao Aisawa and his family. Masao's brewery Takenotsuyu makes killer sake. Currently, we carry four of their efforts. One night after the kids went to bed Masao broke out a bottle of a sake that he called a Dai Koshu - he used the word Dai as in "great" and in an effort to express that this aged sake is over ten years old! He also named it after his oldest daughter - Yuzuki!

Déjà vu all over again - I said "yummy" and "we have to get it to the states!" So we did! And True Sake has 30 bottles of this amazingly elegant aged sake for your taking. (Yes I released the "exclusivity" and some restaurants in the Bay Area have a bottle or two.) As this sake is an "aged" brew of over ten years in the making when it is gone - it is literally gone from time and space.

Herewith is my review of Yuzuki:

    • Takenotsuyu Yuzuki "Snow Moon"

From Yamagata Prefecture.
Junmai Ginjo Koshu (10 Years).
SMV: +1 Acidity: 1.5

Note: I wrote most of the descriptions on the label for this stellar sake!

The brewer named this incredible achievement in aged sake (only 30 bottles available in US) after his first daughter and he calls it a "Dai Koshu" because it has been aging at 42F degrees for over the past ten years. Such a delicate aroma profile with hints of honey, orange blossom, caramel, and leather. Talk about an intelligent sake! Round, soft and incredibly elegant - this is not your dad's koshu! Gentle flavors such as caramel corn and clover honey dance with butter-toffee on a rich fluid that drinks overwhelming light for such an old sake. Room temperature pulls out deeper richness and more hints of butter, warming pulls hot- buttered nuts flavors, and chilled reminds one of a Heath Bar.

WORD: Buttery
WINE: Complex Reds/Rich Whites
BEER: Light Belgians
FOODS: Steak, game, smoked fish, risotto, cheese courses, and cigars!
$70/720ml

KOURO: 

Ahhhh yes - one of those very important "stepping stone" sakes. Roughly three years ago I encouraged an importer to offer the extremely "significant" Junmai Ginjo from this relatively young brewery in Kumamoto Prefecture. Why? Well for one it tastes great, but for the second and most important reason this Kura invented the extremely popular and heavily used Kobo #9. Yup! Without question you have tasted this yeast before - as it is used by all! (well almost all).

The Association No.9 (Kumamoto Kobo) is used almost as much as Yamadanishiki brewing rice for the national sake competitions. (Ever hear the term YK9) It is that effective in giving off great aroma elements and providing body within the brew. Basically the "Rolling Stones" of sake brewing yeast for Ginjo class of sakes. So naturally every drinker at some point should try a brew from this kura. The importer only imported 6 cases of this sake for True Sake - that's 30 bottles - and six have already disappeared!

Herewith is my review for Kouro:

    • Kouro 

From Kumomoto Prefecture.
Junmai Ginjo.
SMV: + 0.5 Acidity: 1.6
This extremely "educational" sake (only 24 bottles in the US) has a vast nose filled with strawberry, lychee, honeydew, vanilla and apple elements. How can something drink so clean and yet have so much body! This is the mystery of a classic brew that has an enormous mouth feel, which coats the mouth with gentle and nuanced flavors. A rice-driven Ginjo with hints of unripe fruits, a layer of vanilla, and a whisp of the infamous umami characteristic. So soft, so chewy, so rich and yet so well balanced. For the well versed behold "shibumi" (estrigency) in a delicate delivery and "kire" (quick finish), which is amazing for so much body. Larger glasses and closer to room temperature bring out more "moods."

WORD: Big Story
WINE: Pinot Noir/White Burgundy
BEER: Big Belgians
FOODS: Anything off the grill, out of the ocean, from the soil, or felled from the heavens.
$65/720ml

ICHINOKURA: 

A lot of importers get samples to try to see if they should carry them in the west. Luckily enough many of these importers ask me if I would like to try some of these brews. Hard work indeed! One such brew came through the pipe-line almost four years ago from a brewery in Miyagi Prefecture that was constructed when four small breweries joined forces as one. We carry many of their offerings, but we never had access to one of their best products (in my mind) until now! The Ichinokura "Kuronohana" Junmai Ginjo (made with kuronohana brewing rice) is one smooth and flavorful operator, and the importer secured for True Sake two cases - he took one case to NYC - so we have 12 bottles of a very elegant and expressive sake that is - well extremely limited! $54/720ml

(As of sending this Newsletter out this brew had not arrived, so I didn't get to taste a current version for a review. Needless to say it is great sake!)

These sakes are LIMITED so get them while they last. First come first served. We will not push them at the store to walk-in customers in hopes that you good readers of the True Sake Newsletter will come and improve your learning curve!


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