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Sake Moment - Aging Nama

sake moment may 2007For the past several years I have been playing around with aging Nama sake. What? "You age fresh unpasteurized sake?" Indeed I do. (Again, there are no rules with sake and the more you play with it the more fascinating this beverages becomes) Some Namas age far better than others, and some go belly-up. It's like Forest Gump's box of chocolates theory - you never know what you are going to get. That said I am starting to see some patterns develop.

Last year I had my friend Chris Pearce - Director of World Sake Imports, which imports brews such as Masumi, Dewazakura, and Hoyo - to True Sake and I presented him with four years of his Masumi Arabashiri Nama sake. I had aged these sakes at 35 degrees and then we tasted four years of the same sake in a row! It was really a great experience, as each brew got better with age. One of the reasons is that the Arabashiri is also a Genshu, which means it is undiluted and has roughly an alcohol content of 18%. The higher alcohol content in this context acts as a preservative. They drank so well that I fired off an email to Miyasaka -san (owner of Masumi) and told him to save some of the Arabashiri for aging. Likewise Chris said that he would age about 6 cases.

When I last saw my friend Philip Harper - the now very famous head brewer (Toji) of Daimon shuzo in Osaka - I mentioned that I was aging these made-to-be-consumed -fresh-sakes with a vigor and he replied that he also greatly enjoyed the flavors that come forth. It's definitely connoisseur stuff, and we both spoke about sending out a confusing message. There are some who read this Newsletter and will nod their heads in agreement that we need to keep sake information simple. "Don't send out mixed messages - Sake must be consumed fresh!" But I do not play that game. I will never dumb-down sake for anybody. I feel that we in the West are "getting" sake more than perhaps the average Japanese drinker on account of the fact that we do play around with sake - we break the morays that bind.

Recently, I had yet another of my sake buddies Kazu Yamazaki - Director of Japan Prestige Sake International, which imports Otokoyama, Wakatake, and Gokyo - over to my house to drink some aged Namas that I "made" for him with his brews. What Kazu and I drank were last year's versions of the current Nama's that are available at True Sake. We tasted the 06 Otokoyama Shiboritatate compared to the 07 (Please See The Reviews in The New Store Arrivals section of this Newsletter) and the 06 Gokyo Arabashiri compared to this season's 07 version. What a difference one year can make! In the case of the Otokoyama success was not found. This brew drank a little more flat, dull and slightly bitter. Now this sake is not a Genhsu, so perhaps this might account for the fact that it didn't keep that well.

The winner was the Gokyo Arabashiri. Wow! Holy Molly! This aged Nama just flat out rocked. One of the best tasting Nama-hine (aged Nama sakes) that I have ever produced and consumed. When compared to this year's offering the acidity has blended out and the flavor profile has widened, gotten more vast in nature. Perhaps a little more mellow, but the feel and flavor is just eye-opening. What was unusual but completely expected was the 07 Gokyo, which I drank three weeks earlier for my store review. In three weeks time this brew had changed quite significantly, and that is what Nama-sakes are supposed to do. When I first tasted it, the 07 drank very tight and very compact. It has opened up a lot and a rich sweetness has presented itself. This just proves the point that all Nama's drink differently as they continue to age in the bottle, and people may taste them at different time periods and come away with far differing interpretations of the sake.

The Gokyo Arabashiri (see New Store Arrivals) was so yummy that I immediately did three things. Firstly I finished my glass! Secondly I fired off an email to the brewers and told them to hold on to some cases for aging. And thirdly I came up with the idea to age a case of this sake and then sell it at a premium next season. I am certain there are many of you who would go ga-ga for this product if I offered it next year.

So if you are motivated you can age these mentioned brews yourself. Grab a bottle of Gokyo Arabashiri and also a bottle of Masumi Arabashiri and keep them well refrigerated until next year and beyond.

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