March 2010

Sake Reality - 30 Years of Omachi Junmai Daiginjo!

Posted by Beau Timken in 2010, March, Newsletter
Tamanohikari Granted this Newsletter does not have the same readership numbers as the NY Times but we are close! And we get all sorts of eyeballs! (Yours included - thank you). I am pretty proud that many brewers, breweries and representatives of breweries keep us on their radar and for that we are grateful. One such brewery has been a pal from day one. The Tamanohikari brewery in Fushimi Kyoto has always been so very supportive, and I am indebted to their friendship. Despite some recent issues at the brewery involving management and focus, they continue to make very wonderful and drinkable sake that speaks to western drinkers! And yes they are "Omachi" pimps! Meaning they excel at the use and production of sakes using this very unique and ancient rice form.

It goes without saying that in each issue that I mention Tamanohikari I get a quick "Thank you" or subtle reprimand if I get some facts wrong - as in SMV or acidity listings from the "overseas eyes" that belong to Kenzo Mabuchi, their General Manager of the export division. After one such screw up where we mentioned the wrong size of their "Reishu" or mini-tetra-pack sake that is meant to be frozen, I got a quick hello email from Kenzo-san. He corrected me, and then I asked if he would be so kind to write a quick "update" letter on the who and whats are going on with Tamanohikari. He said "absolutely" and what follows is a note from a good man and a great brewery:

Tamanohikari 30th Anniversary of Brewing Tamanohikari Omachi Junmai Daiginjo

2010 is the 30th anniversary of Tamanohikari's brewing sake from famous Omachi rice strain, the father of the majority of today's brewing rices. Unlike Yamadanishiki, popular rice for high-grade ginjo sake, which was deliberately bred by agriculturalists, Omachi is an act of God, a natural variation discovered in Okayama Prefecture more than century ago. Tamanohikari is one of the first brewers to have revived Omachi after World War II.

Omachi is often called "maboroshi no sakamai", rare and sought- after sake rice, because it is extremely hard work to grow. While table-rice strains grow to between 28 and 35 inches, Omachi's grows to a towering 47 inches (Yamadanishi about 40 inches) and is easy to fall down by strong wind. Besides, Omachi is very soft and difficult to use in brewing sake for many brewers.

In the hands of Tamanohikari, both skilled and experienced in the use of the strain, however, Omachi can give a sake the depth and fullness with an extra herbaceous dimension of wild flowers, characteristics that take on fascinating complexity during aging.

Tamanohikari is using a rice traceability system with recordings of all brewing process by each rice of individual growers in order to make a stable and high quality sake. Since 1980 when Tamanohikari started to use Omachi for brewing sake, Tamanohikari has been recording all results of analysis of brown rice by growers and all data regarding milling, washing, steaming, koji producing, moto producing. This is to pursue how to make best sake out of rice which is same Omachi but delicately varies by growers.

Thank you Kenzo for your update and for all of those who would like to try the Taminohikari Omachi Junmai Daiginjo stop on by the store and bring $15/300ml or $34/720ml - likewise you can also try their Junmai Ginjo 1.8L - their Yamahai Junmai Ginjo and their 300ml tetra-pack Junmai Ginjo for freezing.

Tamanohikari "Brilliant Jade"

From Kyoto Prefecture, Junmai Dai Ginjo
SMV: +3.5 Acidity: 1.7

This is a very important Dai Ginjo to explore as this brewery uses the famous Omachi rice strain, the father of the majority of today's brewing rices. The nose, like its name, is indeed brilliant, filled with all sorts of peach, apple and pear scents. Omachi rice yields deep and rich flavors and this does not disappoint; you'll taste nuts and bananas to pears and cooked coconut meat. The viscous mouth-feel is chewy and plump. Despite an unmistakable fruitiness, the fluid actually ends with dryness in the back of the throat.

WORD: Pear
WINE: Cabernets/White Burgundy
BEER: Pilsners/Mild stouts
FOODS: Roasted fowl, dim sum, game, soups and patés.
$15/300ml or $34/720ml

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