Ask Beau - "How often do you update your reviews?" | True Sake
September 2012

Ask Beau - "How often do you update your reviews?"

Posted by Beau Timken in 2012, Ask Beau, Newsletter, September
True Sake This is very good question from Sarah T (an old classmate and friend), and there are the two answers - the short one (Whenever I feel like it!) and the long one! As you are my buddy I will go the long road.

As I have mentioned over the years the wine making and sake making processes are almost opposite in how much the final product is dictated by the production method. In the wine world it has been said that the final product is dictated 80% by the grapes themselves and the "making" only accounts for about 20%. Now in the sake making process the raw materials only account for about 20% of the final outcome. That means the production or "process" is the key component, and that is why there are really no "vintage" years in the sake world. Thus, there is amazing consistency year in and year out when making sake. For a sake reviewer like me that is a blessing of note!

Each season the offerings from breweries are pretty much the same as the year before (in general) unless there are some "issues." What would constitute an "issue"? The most obvious is a new master brewer (toji) or a radical change in the rice varietals or raw materials used. Of course natural disasters, fires and other damaging events come into play as well. (And I have also heard of problems between owners and brewers having an impact on the quality of sake being produced.) But as you can tell, these events or issues do not occur that often. But when they do is it obvious? The quick answer is not really, because typically the next toji was probably training under the replaced toji for years, and switching rice doesn't have that much of a "drastic" impact if they brew in the same way that they are used to.

That said, there are about 220 sakes currently in the store and it's hard to re-review each brew continuously. That would kill me! (I'll die trying for you good people.) So I have to be selective in the brews that I re-review, and sometimes certain sakes fall through the cracks, especially popular sakes that sell themselves and do not need my weird verbiage to help the sale.

True Sake A good case in point is the ever-popular brewery in Shizuoka Prefecture that produces the Wakatake Onikoroshi "Demon Slayer" sakes that have been historically some of the best selling sakes imported into the US. (The Daiginjo is and continues to be the number one imported premium Daiginjo into the States.) As a result, I do not re-review these sakes on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. But an "issue" has recently occurred and it was important for me to re-taste their line of sakes to see if the reviews stay within the ballpark.

This year's sakes, that were really made last BY (brewing year), were made by a new toji (head brewer), who just so happened to be trained and nurtured by the former toji. So, by default you would think that the "system" would stay pretty much business as usual. And despite changing their process, they now only pasteurize their sakes once instead of the typical twice that is almost customary in the industry. Did it have a dramatic effect? Not really! What's funny is that they made the two sakes with the exact same SMV and Acidity levels for this new version of the brews. Did it massively change the sakes from before? Check it out!

Herewith are my old and new reviews for each of the Wakatake Junmai Ginjo and Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo sakes that we proudly sell at True Sake:

OLD:

Wakatake Onikoroshi "Demon Slayer"

From Shizuoka Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo. SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.5

This Ginjo has a sprightly filled nose of veggies and watermelon hints. The first sip feels strong, but is greeted with a gentle and smooth follow up of subtle green apple and mineral flavors. The thickness is quite noticeable and makes for a nice chewy experience ending in long dry legs down the back of the throat. The mouth speed is quite slow and this is made all the more enjoyable by an abundance of fruit tones and sincere dryness. A very solid starter Ginjo for beginners and a friend to the well versed. WORD: Thick WINE: Pinot Noirs/Dry Chardonnays BEER: Honey Ales/Ambers FOODS: Miso-based dishes, dark veggies, shrimp dumplings, spaghetti, pizza.
NEW:

Wakatake Onikoroshi "Demon Slayer"

From Shizuoka Prefecture. Junmai Ginjo. SMV: +1 Acidity: 1.4

The nose on this sake that is made by a new master brewer at Wakatake is a gentle collection of blueberry, melon, sweet rice, and apple tones. This new "Demon Slayer" drinks far more controlled and drinkable than the former version, as it is slightly more reserved and dry. Gone are the fruit pops, but there is a gentle collection of fruit elements such as ripe pear, cooked grapes, fruit component with a hint of blueberry. Even and well balanced this brew has a new smoothness that does well in the mouth. Semi-fat, semi-dry and a lurking subtle rich sweetness only comes forth as the fluid warms and that is why the toji likes drinking it at room temp. WORD: Smooth WINE: Pinot Noir/Fat whites BEER: Creamy ales FOODS: Very versatile and can stand cuisines from salty and savory to spicy with big acidity.
OLD:

Wakatake Onikoroshi "Demon Slayer"

From Shizuoka Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo. SMV: +0 Acidity: 1.4

This Daiginjo is as solid as they come, with a purring nose of soft ripe fruits and twinge of citrus. From the first pass on the tip of the tongue it is apparent that this Dai Ginjo is built around a perfect blend of fruit tones such as lychee and gentle acidity play. Ripe cantaloupe and tropical fruit flavors and a semi citrus tingle dance through the mouth and end in a smooth and creamy aftertaste. A perfect example of a "round" sake that shows amazingly well built qualities from start to finish. WORD: Round WINE: White Burgundy/Merlots BEER: Fresh Octoberfest releases FOODS: Fresh fruits, creamy cheeses, light appetizers, clean pastas.
NEW:

Wakatake Onikoroshi "Demon Slayer"

From Shizuoka Prefecture. Junmai Daiginjo. SMV: +1 Acidity: 1.4

Talk about a nice aroma package on this ultra-popular Daiginjo that is now single pasteurized! Look for plum, melon, peach scents in a sake that drinks with far more pop in a wine glass. This new version of Demon Slayer is semi-fruity brew with a unique dryness that speaks to wine drinkers as there is a flashy tail and an alertness that pings the 17% alcohol content. Good acidity meets good flavor hints of peach and tangerine elements in a fluid that has presence in the palate. As the fluid warms look for rich semi-sweets licks of honey and citrus. The new head brewer likes this sake coming into room temp, as there are great temperate flavors and a fatter feeling. WORD: Popular WINE: Elegant reds/Complex whites BEER: Crisp Ales FOODS: Cuisines that like big white wines.
As you can deduce, there are not massive differences in the new and older versions. In fact you can see some of the themes come through both sakes. The bottom line is that the reviews are in the general ballpark for each sake and that speaks to the consistency that we were talking about. Good sake from very good people!

Please send your sake specific questions to askbeau2@truesake.com. (This address is not for general questions and I only review the questions once per month. All correspondence should use info@truesake.com.)

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