October 2011

Sake Spotlight - Jill Jefferson Finds a Beautiful Boy

Posted by Beau Timken in 2011, Newsletter, October, Sake Spotlight
"Sake Spotlight" is a unique section within the Newsletter that takes a closer look at specific sakes that may be purchased at True Sake. I approach different professionals within the industry to give their perspectives and insights to the how, what and whys for very special sakes. These insiders are importers, brewers, authors, sake sommeliers, or just enthusiasts who will take your knowledge base a little further. What I like about this segment is that often my review is quite different than that of the guest professional's adding to the point that there is no right or wrong when discussing your opinion about sake.

This month's very passionate Sake Spotlight comes from a special customer of True Sake in the form of Jill Jefferson who resides in New York City and is a brand strategist for multiple industries and firms. Jill once sent me an incredible email touching upon the story that you are about to read and ended it with this offer:

"Nevertheless, I will definitely come by and visit the store the next time I am in the Bay area, but if there is anything I can do to use my expertise to help educate, expand and elevate what you do from a brand perspective please let me know."

And voila Jill - ask and ye shall receive! Herewith is Jill's very own take on a solid and storied Junmai Ginjo from Kumomoto ken:

Congratulations, it's a Beautiful Boy!

Several years ago I was given 72 hours by my boss to pack my bag, grab some business cards, and get on the first jet to Tokyo not knowing if I would be there two days or two weeks. I ended up staying for 7 weeks and it forever changed my life. I have always had an affinity for Japanese culture, food, and sake and my parent's say that it is because I was conceived in Japan. I know... TMI! I honestly don't know why I have such an affinity, and given that I am a black, 40 something woman, originally from Indiana, I can definitely say it is not as a result of my background or upbringing.

I was a little nervous when my boss asked me to go to Japan given the fact that I spoke no Japanese, and certainly would stick out like a sore thumb. However, I was also excited because I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to learn more about sake, and boy did I get a great education! I drank sake at 5:30am in the morning, while sitting in a hut eating sushi with fisherman at Tsukiji market; I enjoyed it while eating a lunch of fresh, homemade soba at one of the small restaurants on the lower level of my office building; and savored a variety of sakes while hanging out late with salary men eating yakatori and singing karaoke at a neighborhood bar. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my varied experiences but would have to say that there is one particular experience that I will never forget.

After being in Tokyo for several weeks and working and playing hard almost every day, I opted to pick up some food on the way back to my hotel and to just have a relaxing evening. I had always heard that there were the most sumptuous food courts on the lower level of the major department stores, so I figured I would take a look. To my surprise, I found the most amazing fresh and appetizing food for sale along with a wide array of sakes. I opted for a small shop in the corner that served grilled mackerel, pickles and sushi rice. Given that my language skills were lacking, I pointed to a bottle that looked interesting to me and my server said, "Ah, you like the Young Beautiful Boy." I absolutely do like beautiful men but had no idea what that had to do with sake until she pulled the bottle down off of the shelf and said, "This is the Beautiful Boy." I took one sip and beautiful it was.

I later found out that the full name is Bishonen Ginzukuri "Beautiful Boy" and it is a Junmai Ginjo. The flavors were amazing and had a hint of fruit but not too much. It was rich and savory and incredibly smooth. I found out that the sake gets its name from the name of the brewery, Bishonen, which was established in 1879. Bishonen translates to "young, beautiful boy" and originated from the verse of a famous song. It wasn't the most expensive sake that I tasted nor the cheapest, but one that forever will be a part of my incredible experience while being lost in translation in Japan.

As much as nothing will ever top the experiences that I had while living in Japan, I at least know that every time I purchase a bottle of this "Beautiful Boy" from True Sake, I can transport myself back to the amazing experience I had on the lower level of a Japanese department store several years ago.


I'd like to hope that everybody has had this type of experience in Japan. It's magical to say the least and leaves such a profound impression that it is easy to go back to that moment in time - time and time again.

We have written a great deal about the "Beautiful Boy" in the True Sake Newsletter as it is not only an incredibly popular sake but there has been a lot of "intrigue" with the brewery. In a word the kura went Chapter 11 (Bankrupt) and a local White Night saved the day. Please read about this chain of events in my article for the October 2010 True Sake Newsletter.

What I like about the sake is that for a Junmai Ginjo it is rich and full. It is savory and wide. A sake with good impact on a soft and round fluid. Please see the 2010 article as I compare the new and old versions side by side!

Thanks Jill "Beautiful Girl" Jefferson for giving us your take on the "Beautiful Boy."

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