March 2008

Sake Spotlight - Dr. Reg Rector Looks At "The Black Dragon"

Posted by admin in 2008, March, Newsletter, Sake Spotlight

sake spotlight march 2008"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 why's 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 I am quite pleased to introduce Dr. Reg Rector, who is "one of those kind of guys" who you wish that you could be in some other life. Reg came to the store wearing scrubs post saving countless lives, and I knew within seconds that not only was he a Japanophile, but he knew his libations! Since that day long ago I have had multiple conversations with what I would find out is a "wine-guy" disguised in sake clothing (he has been forgiven) and after each dialogue Reg's words would stick with me in one form or another for quite some time. He has a brilliant way of "description."

So logically I have asked him to share his "description" talents as well speak to his other "project" when not saving humans from themselves! And true to form Reg picked a stellar sake that is quite fun to read about and more fun to drink! Herewith is Dr. Reg Rector's "Sake Spotlight" on Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo called "Black Dragon."

E. Reginald Rector, M.D.
Sake: Black Dragon
Kokuryu "Junmai Ginjo" Sake
I have been a vinophile and sake-zuki for about 10 years. I, along with two other vinophiles, recently started an evolving, online web- based wine community called Vinoyo. Vinoyo is a gathering place to promote the wine (and sake) culture. Check it out, tell me what you think; and if you're not careful, you just might learn something. www.vinoyo.comMy sake: Kokuryu or Black Dragon. (koru = black; ryu = dragon). After all, I was born in the year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar. My wife, however, says I was born in the year of the Snake according to the Japanese calendar. Hold the Snake, take the Dragon. Year of the Golden Dragon? Forgedaboutit, I was born in the Year of the Black Dragon.

Black Dragon is a recent sake import and now available at True Sake. Beau initially told me about the Dragon when I was planning a trip to Japan several years ago. I searched all of Osaka, eventually finding it at Yamanaka sake-no-mise. I tried it at their restaurant, and bought a bottle back the U.S. I made the mistake of holding onto the bottle for about a year before opening. Black Dragon does not hold well. Drink it immediately.

Fortunately, Black Dragon is now available as an import. The bottle and label are beautiful. Understated. Wabi-sabi. If you're looking for inspiration for your next tattoo, you'll be disappointed. You will not find a red-eyed, fire-breathing dragon on the label. I appreciate that the Kokuryu Shuzo (brewery) has not changed the labeling for the American market. The bottle you buy here is exactly what is available in Japan. Unlike many sake, it is not available in large format bottles (1.8L). On a recent trip to Osaka, however, I was able to find small single serving bottles for Black Dragon.

Black Dragon should be stored and consumed cold. Once opened, the flavor profile degrades within 48 hours. It's clear, however has a very slight pine color. The nose also has a slight pine odor. I primarily detect a scent of Bosc pear, dried apples, and light butterscotch.

On the plate it is semi-dry. Dark, semi-sweet cocoa and black liquorish flavors give way to and caramel undertones. There is an unexpected, and very slight, salt taste that can be felt on the tip of the tongue. Black Dragon has a strong, but clean finish. Cedar and pine wood elements remain.

Kokuryu (Black Dragon) is produced by the Kokuryu Shuzo in Fukui Prefecture. Kokuryu expresses terrior. This is a great Fall/Winter sake.

I had this sake with moderately spicy beef kuree (Japanese curry) with fukujin-zuke (pickles). The kuree was fantastic, but I will admit, this was not a good pairing. I actually recommend Black Dragon with something slightly sweeter. It would go extremely well with sukiyaki or gindara-no-kasuzuke (codfish marinated in what I would call sake lees). The Dragon would also go well with anything marinated in teriyaki. Smoked salmon with a brown sugar based brine (honey smoked). Filet mignon, cooked rare, with a light cream morel sauce. Beef carapaccio. A dense, dark semi-sweet, chocolate torte.

Enjoy Kokuryu (Black Dragon) with something with texture, that is mouth watering, and slightly sweet. I recommend kicking back and enjoying Kokuryu while watching Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai." (aside: look for the village scene with the unfiltered sake)


Well done sir! That was a lot of fun and really touched on some of the points that make this sake one of the best in the biz. I found this brew in Japan and would make it one of my "three suitcase sakes" that I would bring back after each trip. And yes I was pretty stoked to find out that Chris Pearce from World Sake Imports took this brewery under his wing, which is good for you because Chris has always priced sake very fairly.

I will add my review below, but will also mention that this kura (brewery) also makes an outstanding Ginjo that is worth a try as well!

Kokuryu "Black Dragon" 
From Fukui Prefecture.
Junmai Ginjo.
SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.4
A tantalizing nose filled with hints of roasted coffee, mint, salt water taffy, tropical flowers, grapes and honey. This extremely well balanced sake achieves the near impossible of being both expansive in character and clean in feeling. There are hints of fruits, minerals, and caramel but also peek-a-boo layers of grains and umami. Almost sweet and savory at once with a dry quick finish.
WORD: Big Clean
WINE: Merlot/Pinot Noir/White Burgundy
BEER: Blond Ales/Hefferviesens
FOODS: Anything Grilled!

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