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Sake Initiatives – “True Sake Selections”

Sake Initiatives – “True Sake Selections”

In a perfect world (or most any other country in the world), we would be able to import the sake that we sell. We would go directly to our favorite breweries and make an order and three weeks later those brews would be on our shelves. “Ha ha!” I just laughed as I typed that, because the reality is so far removed from the perfect world. And thanks to the “3-Tier” alcohol system in the US we will never achieve sake heaven for retailers.


That said, the system where we must purchase from an importer distributor or distributor has treated us well for almost two decades. It’s all we get, and we make the best of it! Of course the end game is for sake breweries to sell lots of sake. And over the years we’ve done our best, including identifying certain sake that we thought would do well in our shop and all across the US. The list is pretty awesome, and includes such sake stalwarts as Cowboy Yamahai, Narutotai Nama Ginjo Can, Urakasumi Honjozo Genshu, Ichinokura Suzune Sparkling, Kikusui Funaguchi Monster Can, and Black Bull Cup amongst others. Basically, we found these brews and told our importers that they would kick butt, and they have over the years.

The only problem is that when we “discovered” these brews we asked for “exclusivity” for a limited time, because we wanted the breweries to sell a lot of sake. This is a good thing! And we are proud of our track record. In retrospect, we should have put some form of “tag” on the back labels to show that we helped these brews along. It feels good to watch certain sake take wing and excel around the world. But, we still would love that tag or brand to designate that we were involved on the back labels.


In this light, we have embarked on a new project to identify and bring to market sake that we think will work well and we call them True Sake Selections. Say hello to the first one!

Over a decade ago, I visited Kikuhime in Ishikawa Prefecture, the makers of some of my favorite sake including their Yamahai Junmai and the stellar Daiginjo called BY. I spent a lot of the time at the brewery, which was an honor because they didn’t allow a lot of foreigners into their brewing facility. I took it in. I took Kikuhime in deeply and profoundly and really love their sake souls.


On one of my evenings there I went out “drinking” with Toji-san. And it was a serious eye-opener because all four of the Izakaya we visited featured Kikuhime sake served at all temperatures. They heated 720ml bottles at a time and would bring them warmed to your table. My favorite brew of the evening was their Futsushu. Say what? You mean of all the brews that were created years before by the world renowned master sake brewer named Noguchi, I liked the Futsushu? You bet! It was awesome.


When I returned to the brewery I spent some more time with Shacho-san, and I told him that I really enjoyed the Futsushu. He replied, “It’s all I ever drink.” Ha, the owner could drink anything from aged Daiginjo to super pricey Junmai Ginjo styles and he only drinks the Futsushu. If it’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for us!


So we asked the brewery to send us the Futsushu with our special branding on the back label and voila we now have it! And it’s as awesome as I remember. It is a superbly tasty brew that is a food pairing maniac. To prove it, we each took a bottle home and threw some amazing food pairings at the sake to test its versatility. And Holy Moly it did great.

Here are some food pairing highlights:


Green Olives, Artichokes, Asparagus, Hummus, Mushroom Pasta, Beef/Turkey Jerky, Salami, Anchovies, Duck Pate, Hamburger, Turkey Burger, Mushrooms with butter, Shrimp Shumai, SPAM, Kimchi, Grilled Chicken with butter, Roasted Prime Rib, Bacon anything, Hawaiian BBQ, Wild Mushroom Pizza with Truffle Oil, German Schnitzel with Mushroom Gravy, Korean Kimbap, Fish Balls, Lobster Bisque, Fried Chicken, Grilled Veggies, Smoked Fish, Smoked Pheasant, Smoked Duck, Smoked Cheeses, Cheese Plates, French Onion Soup, BBQ Oysters, Mashed Potatoes, French Fries, Warmed Spinach Salad, Pizza, Sourdough Clam Chowder Bowl, Chicken Stock, Chicken Noodle Soup, Turkey Barley Soup, Dried Meats, Warm Olives, Garlic Stuffed Olives, Pancetta Based Pasta, Roast Beef, Roast Beef Sandwich Au Juice, Mushroom Tea, Soy Sauce, Butter, and Vinegar-Based Dishes.


And perhaps the best pairing of all is called the “Kiku” Pork Chop, which uses the sake in the marinade and is paired with the final product.

This is probably the best tasting Futsushu sake available in the US, and could be one of the best Futsushu sake in Japan. It is a work of wonder for a “value” sake that is made using three different rice varietals, Yamadanishiki, Gohyakumangoku, and a special Mochi rice along with a little brewer’s alcohol and that is why it gets the label Futsushu. But it’s aged and pampered and drinks entirely like a premium rich and full-bodied Junmai sake, maybe even better? The brewers do not recommend drinking this sake chilled, and we totally agree. It is a room temperature master, and a slightly warmed monster. And it’s one of the best sake to make very hot (atsukan) for food pairings! It’s the real deal, and it’s ours. Now it’s yours!

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