Sake Fads - More To Life Than Juyondai
For the first time in my life I saw bottles of sake that actually had chains on them to thwart potential thieves from pilfering them. Seriously? Chains? Amongst all the super expensive bottles of wine and champagne there was not a single chain to be seen. And yet on those sake bottles there was a security chain. "Well!" I thought, what sake would be worth locking up? But of course, it could only have been one brewery! And there it boldly stood out, the unmistakable label from the ultra faddy brewery in Yamagata Prefecture - Juyondai!
Yes, I used the word "faddy" because Juyondai is such popular sake in Japan that it is almost bordering on the ridiculous. I will go on record and say that I really like drinking Juyondai and think that they make excellent sake. There is no question that they have there own dramatic style of feeling and flavors in their line-up. Juyondai is known for very bold and expressive sakes that take uber-glucose brews to a new and impressive level. Juyondai offerings are simply very dramatic sakes that speak to a whole spectrum of sake drinkers from the pros to the first timers. But they aren't the end all be all!
I've been selling Juyondai at the store since opening. Typically I would get three to six bottles at a time, which came probably once a quarter. I could never order more, because the importer didn't get that much. Basically I would get a call informing me that three bottles were available and would I like them. Yes! (My automatic answer) And that's how it went for the first 5 years of operations. I could never figure out why the "popular" Juyondai was imported by a small LA firm called Maruto Sea Vegetables. Really? They imported 6 different sakes all from Yamagata, but Juyondai was their crown jewel. Then after a while they changed their offering from Juyondai to a single pasteurized Junmai Ginjo. The previous winner was a two-year aged Junmai that rocked! Roughly at this time another importer started carrying another Juyondai (different Junmai Ginjo) offering that sold in a 720ml. Both sakes are extremely expensive, as you would imagine.
But I only like selling Juyondai to people who really understand the brewery and their style and know it for what it is! I did not and still don't like selling Juyondai to the "fad buyers." And they are out there! They come into the store and ask if I sell Juyondai? I say, yes (or maybe!) and ask if they like it. Usually they will say, "I've never tried it, but I've heard it's good." That is a fad buyer! And they are the ones that I will cross sell sake to! You don't need to buy Juyondai! There are so many sakes out there that have similar brightness or similar sweetness scales. And there I did it! I talked folks out of buying Juyondai. But why? It's similar to my initial desire when I opened the store to talk people out of buying Niigata sake. Basically folks would come in and ask for sake from Niigata because they had heard that it was the best!
No! Niigata sake is not the best. Juyondai is not the best either! As a retailer I must inform people that there are no bests and that all sakes are great! (Well that is pushing it a bit, but point being it's better to sell all sakes and not just specific perceived bests.) So with this in mind, we at True Sake have put together a list of sakes that may provide a little example of the Juyondai experience for a whole lot less. Of course you cannot say that sake A or Sake B is exactly like Juyondai. That's not possible and it's like saying Guy A is exactly like Guy B or Woman X is exactly like Woman Y. There are no two exactly alike sakes! Period! But there are shades of commonality and the two common components of the Juyondai experience as mentioned are "brightness and sweetness" via a whole load of glucose in the brew.
Herewith is a brief list of sakes that one can try to get a similar rush found in the Yamagata prefecture's darling brewery called Juyondai. These sakes are not Juyondai, but there are different and somewhat similar elements to the brews that we feel touch on the topic at hand. We have broken the list into Sweet and Bright bedfellows.
Sato No Homare JG $48/720ml
Kouro JG $75/720ml ($10 off special currently)
Harushika Nama Ginjo $47/720ml
Oka 30th Anniversary Ginjo $30/720ml
Miyosakae JDG $108/750ml
Umenishiki JDG $110/720ml
Yuki no Bosha JG $36/720ml
Narutotai Nama Genshu $35/720ml
Chokaisan JDG $60/720ml
Tedorigawa Kinka $35/720ml
Dewazakura DG "Mt. Cherry" $66/720ml
Gasanryu Gokugetsu $53/720ml
Trust me when I say that these sakes are not Juyondai! Again, they are really well made sakes that have their own styles. In some cases the sakes are more drinkable than Juyondai and may actually speak to you more than the ultra popular Juyondai brand. And you will not see a chain guarding these brews at True sake.
Lastly, and proving my point further, when Miwa returned from her trip to Japan she showed me some of her pictures. In one shot of a sake store Miwa focused in on the fact that in a very well stocked shop they were "Temporarily Out Of Stock" of one sake. Guess which sake? You guessed it! Juyondai was out of stock!