Sake Spotlight - Michael Scott Parker's Ode to True Sake
"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.
In true spirit to the fifth anniversary of True Sake this month's Sake Spotlight is more of an ode to the concept of selling sake in a dedicated store so many miles from the coast of Japan. One of our dearest and most sincere customers has taken sake to heart, and what a heart to get close to. Michael Scott Parker is a modern-day renaissance woman - from singer songwriter to designer and moviemaker - she is a young sake soul who heard the siren's call and followed. Herewith is her "take" on True Sake mentioning a brew or two along the way. For more info on this modern day marvel please check out her website: http://www.creaturerock.com
True Spirit- An Old Soul- True Sake
Just as I could write an homage to any subject that interests me and romanticize its qualities, anyone can personify the elements of a medium and depict its appeal. We peek into stores everyday and see shelves filled with various products of relative value. These days, whom do we trust to select a subject of blossoming merit? A subject that holds tradition in a modern world, whose deep complexities entice, yet smile with an approachable demeanor... Where is our source for a true product and a true experience? What does it truly require to capture and gracefully distribute a substance in all its integrity? It requires a love for the medium and charismatic genius to bring it to life.
Beau Timken's brain child, True Sake, stands distinct among spirit carrying businesses in that his store has a spirit all its own.
It's this spirit that has infused me with an ardent appreciation and desire to share and journey through a world of luxury, practice, and sweet elation.
True Sake has an old soul. Its wisdom is a mixture of the three extraordinary people who run the storefront (Beau Timken-owner, eccentric visionary, and author of the book Sake - A Modern Guide, Miwa Wang- sake expert, and Lynette Harui- inspired student of sake). Timken's sake garden thrives on creating an environment where we, the inquisitive, are free to explore the meaning of our intentions and inspirations, through the rich medium of sake. The energy of the Hayes Valley gem honors the beautiful bottles that hold sensations, memories, and adventure. There is no restaurant, no taste and sell tactics, no esoterica. It is a place to meditate on what lies inside each bottle, to pamper yourself while building a personal connoisseurship of the intricacies of rice wine; it's a place to share excitement for the occasion with which one carefully select flavors and aromas. The qualities I feel in myself when I am shopping at True Sake are the same qualities I find in many sake drinkers: imagination, focus, and a joyful spirit!
I must admit that when I first entered True Sake, I neglected to fully comprehend the depth of the information that was available to me. The shop is adorned with frames explaining the milling rates of rice, color coordinated ribbons on bottles, describing immediately the difference between Junmai, Ginjo, and Dai Ginjo. Free information on how to review sake, and slideshows of breweries and the sake process are unobtrusively placed, inviting us to learn. Books are available to help unravel the mystery of sake. Yet, distracted from my own presence while checking out on my first visit, I embarrassingly blurted out, "Who needs a book, let's just get the sake!" I paused in horror after realizing the author of the signed book I was holding, was ringing me up himself! The journey to truly understand what inspired this man was sealed! Timken's authenticity smacked with passion and expertise.
True Sake wisdom #1 - Be present.
This happened to be a very special time for me as my producer was visiting from out of state and we were celebrating the completion of my latest album, "Naked". So my first experience with sake took me out of my ego as we all sat around my cozy apartment, reading Timken's book and exploring the criteria presented. With imagination and focus, we explored flavor elements, aromas, and textures; and were completely blown away by this charming, delectable spirit! Our first tasting was a three-bottle gift pack of Nigoris, that came packaged with Mr. Timken's signed copy of Sake. These milky textured, unfiltered sakes welcomed us with their natural sweetness and wholesome presence . Drinking sake was now an adventure for us.
How is it that we can taste banana, melon, cream or mushroom in some sakes? Why can we smell cherry through the thick, sensual viscosity of a sake when it is really nothing more than rice, water, and yeast? My imagination dives deep into the concept that all things are created from the same materials. Just as wood can turn to stone, the sugars and starches that make up rice, with different milling rates and brewing conditions, can present flavors and aromas matching that of melons, apples, and over 300 other components. Cosmic!
True Sake wisdom #2 - sake has an old soul.
I wasn't even tipsy! Actually, I explored this idea in a conversation with Ms. Miwa, a rare soul who is so generous with her knowledge, and serves as my emotional divining rod when choosing a sake. If I tell her I'm feeling creative and calm, she presents to me a sake imbued with the essence of a warm spring night. That special, soft, and sparkly night is easily recovered when sipping that sake. It was a Tokubetsu Junmai Nama named DEWANOYUKI. By reliving the tender subtleties I encountered, I remember the word Tokubetsu means special, and Nama is a living unpasteurized sake. The night was alive with spring memory, the sake a was spring release draft.
True Sake wisdom#3 - There is an intriguing mnemonic quality to sake.
I have literally marked every monumental experience this past year with a sake from True Sake. I have celebrated my arrival to San Francisco, the release of an album, plus countless birthdays, holidays, and personal memories with a distinct bottle for the occasion. The expert guidance of Beau, Miwa, and Lynette bore well-matched sakes for the nature of each occasion. For my brother's visit: strong, energetic, yet still on the sweet side. A mature, pure, unique sake for my Valentine. An effervescent, warm, balanced anniversary sake. A comforting, easy, tender sake for the night my dog passed away. And a dark, bitter, faceless sake for a moody winter night.
I could go on about the experiences and emotions I've packed into this one year, all of which are entwined with the adventure and qualities of the sakes they accompanied. It is that mnemonic quality that all of True Sake's employees understand. I can mosey in, have a conversation with Ms. Lynette and realize what type of sake I'm in the mood for. A week later, she will remember to ask me how the sake we chose complimented my afternoon.
True Sake is not just a place to purchase delectable sake of delicious merit, it is a storehouse of memories and inspirations. Timken's exquisite inventory is evidence that the brewers trust him, and that he trusts his employees to enthusiastically represent the hidden treasures within each bottle. Witnessing Timken one work day, immersed in writing a poem, using the names (English translations) of all the sakes in his store, typifies the special imagination and attention to detail I now associate with True Sake.
True Sake wisdom#4 - Sake is fun and imaginative.
I find a different breed of people engaged in the beautiful tradition of drinking sake. Yes, we are drinking; we are also having fun, and we are respectful of the added element of ritual and focus to our experience. We preserve a memory through the ritual of sharing a drink. We give it reverence by exploring the origins of an ancient tradition.
I have discovered the beautiful process of commemorating the joy of the spirit itself, through the individuals at True Sake.
- Michael Scott Parker
(Production Designing Musician-Artist and Sake Enthusiast)