Welcome to the ninth installment of America's sake-centric newsletter.
Firstly to all of those who fell for the April Fool's Joke – I am sorry.
Secondly and most importantly people, "shochu" is the devil and I would
sell wine coolers before ever selling this distilled form of weasel
sauce. No more April Fool's jokes for a while. And to all the reporters
who excitedly wrote to me to about their pending stories about shochu I
have two words for you – headaches and heartbreak. Shochu will leave you
groveling for your last Advils before you have to phone your friends and
explain why you danced on their toilet and urinated in their hamper.
Just say no to shochu! And now we can resume our regularly scheduled
Please note that True Sake can now ship to the entire USA.
Give us a call today 415.355.9555
In this issue:
Sake Exported To The US Is Different – Yawn!
Every so often I will get that person who comes into True Sake and
tries to convince me that the sake that is exported to the US had been
"treated" to meet FDA regulations. They say how sake tastes so much
better in Japan, because it has not been treated. They then say that
the proof is in the fact that breweries make different sakes for Duty
Free sales at the airports. My typical response before I escort them
out of the store is "phooey!" (I have always wanted to type the word
Seriously, the sake that you get is the sake that they get! I cannot
be any more straightforward than that. It is the same. They DO NOT
treat sake that goes abroad. Importing companies who tried to sell
"untreated" sake as a selling point probably started this rumor.
Firstly by treating they mean adding preservatives, and in fact up
until 1969 they did add preservatives to some sake in Japan. But it
was never a requirement by the USDA or the Japanese equivalent. For
all intent and purposes it was a practice in Japan to keep sake from
spoiling too early thus wasting potential income for large breweries.
I recently exchanged emails with John Gauntner who reminded me of the
fact that preservatives in sake became illegal in Japan in 1969 and
it was the mega-brewery Gekkeikan who claim credit for this non-
Nevertheless the rumor exists, and as many of you who know me, know
that I am used to doing wacky things with sake. So to lay this rumor
to rest on my last trip to Japan in the fall of last year I brought
a bottle of sake that was exported from Japan to the US back to Japan
to its place of brewing. Along with several kurabito (brewery workers),
the toji (head brewer), and the kuramoto (owner of the brewery) we
opened this bottle side by side with a bottle from the same "batch"
that had been released in Japan. This was quite rewarding to the makers
because they wanted to test how their product had stood up to the
trials and tribulations of transport. In the end the sakes were almost
identical. The exported sake had a softer feel to it, because of the
vibrations found in the moving process, but the flavors were the same.
A smile for the brewers and a "see I told ya so" from me!
Sake may indeed taste better in Japan, but for reasons other than
"treatments," such as time, place, and occasion and the fact that all
boozes of the world taste better in the environment for which they
have been made. Thus, and please repeat after me, the sake in Japan is
the same sake sold in the US. (By the way, I never escort people out of
True Sake, not even those who are rumormongers.)
Back to top
Mad Dash To Dai Ginjos – Whoa take'er easy pardner!
I have several $150 sakes in True Sake, and I can honestly say that I
have turned more people away from buying these sakes than I have sold.
Why? Simple, I feel that they haven't done their time learning sake
before appreciating the subtleties found in these amazing Dai Ginjos.
This has caused some heated exchanges for sure. But I truly believe that
one must earn the right to taste heaven.
Am I being a snob? The answer is absolutely not. I am being a guardian,
and my quirky approach to the upper echelons of sakes is done out of
respect rather than the chasing of the mighty buck. (Don't get me wrong
– I like the mighty buck, but will risk it to make certain that a
person's first taste of a supreme Dai Ginjo will be met with as much
understanding as fascination.)
Junmai Dai Ginjos are the pride of most breweries. To prove this point
they typically make Dai Ginjos at the end of a brewing season when the
team is functioning perfectly. Typically at the beginning of a brewing
season the kurabito will start making Honjozos (with added distilled
brewers alcohol), Junmais, Ginjos and lastly the Dai Ginjos when the
team is firing on all cylinders. Of course they use their best brewing
rice, their best polishing rates, their best yeasts, their best storing
tanks, etc. Dai Ginjos are pampered babies. They are the most labor-
intensive sakes, and as such the most expensive.
At True Sake we sell Dai Ginjos from a brewery that usually gets credit
for inventing Dai Ginjo polishing rates (50% removal and 50% remaining
of each grain of rice). The brewery from Kochi prefecture called
Tsukasabotan sells a certain Dai Ginjo called "Delouxe Hourei" which
comes in an antique bottle that symbolizes the first of the Dai Ginjos.
And many breweries thereafter have taken the art form known as Dai
Ginjos to crazy levels such as polishing the rice to 17% and removing
83% of each grain of rice.
The bottom line is that people feel compelled to go straight for the
best. But as I say Dai Ginjos are only the best in process not in
personality. I much prefer customers to cut their teeth on Junmais (70%
remaining). Once they have tasted a variety of sakes in this category
then I say try some Ginjos (60% remaining). Then and only then do I
recommend vaulting into the realm of just starch and water called Dai
Ginjos. Ironically, when I want to woo somebody away from wine I will
offer a Dai Ginjo, but once they see how amazing sake really is I tell
them to go back to the beginning. It is about exploration.
Now you know why I won't sell a $150 bottle of Dai Ginjo to somebody
who doesn't know sake. In a sense going to the top is cheating. It's
like taking an elevator to the top of Mt. Everest. Wow the view may be
grand, but knowing the feeling of risking it all on the way up using
ropes and fortitude makes the view all the more special. You
appreciate the top more when you have tasted the whole mountain.
Back to top
New Store Arrivals – Viva Arabashiri and Don't Forget Mom
I am incredibly pleased to announce that the entire batch of the spring
released nama (unpasteurized) sakes sold out in one month as opposed to
two last year. Obviously you are enjoying the opportunity to drink
extremely fresh and vibrant nama sakes.
In this vein we are pleased to announce the arrival of two spectacular
Arabashiri sakes from Masumi and Gokyo. We had both of these late
spring nama sakes last year and the feedback that I gathered was
extremely impressive. People love Arabashiri sake, which is called
first run or rough nama sake. Basically it is unpasteurized, undiluted,
and has not been charcoal filtered (not to be confused with nigori
sake, which is cloudy). Arabashiri sakes have the lees (rice
polishings) filtered out, and are incredibly tasty. Don't miss the boat
on these two unique and flavorful sakes. ($35 and $30 respectively)
Is it snowing outside? I don't think so, but don't tell that to the
brewery from Hokkaido called Otokoyama. True Sake is pleased to
announce the return of Otokoyama's excellent unpasteurized "light snow"
sake, which has small dancing grains of rice lees that look like
snowflakes. This is a tasty sake, with a full nose of honeydew melon
and a nice round honeydew flavor. So if you feel up to a little summer
skiing then this nama is for you!
And of course don't forget mom. I mean come on. If it weren't for mom
you would never have had your first sip of sake. So why not return the
favor. Get mom a Mother's Day Gift of sake. Choose from sparkling, low
alcohol, of your favorite filtered or unfiltered sake. And don't forget
the packaging. You don't even need to gift wrap some of the amazingly
beautiful boxes. Or get mom the gift that keeps giving: sake glassware.
We have it all to make mom feel great on her special day.
You can review many of our sakes on our web site:
Back to top
Sake vibes - Blind sailing (no… not blind drunk)
In early April I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Scott Duncan a
fellow sake lover and all around great person. Scott came into the
store to buy some nigori sake that he loves dearly. We spoke for
several minutes before I noticed that Scott was "technically" blind. I
told him that I thought that he had a leg up on me when it comes to
tasting sake as I feel that when one sense is removed –like sight - it
makes your taste sense all the more acute. I don't know if Scott
bought this but he told me that he enjoys sake on his sailing boat. He
then explained that he is currently in the process of sailing around
the globe blind. He and another blind sailor Pamela Habek are trying
to become the first blind sailors to do so, and if you are at all
interested they have a
killer website that allows you to follow them
real time. By all means shoot them an email and tell them that your
friends at True Sake told you about them. Truly incredible.
Back to top
The restaurant sake/food pairing event has been moved to June.
Monday May 23rd:
A "Full Moon" Koshu Tasting. Welcome to the world of aged sakes. This
special evening will feature many different styles and categories of
aged sake, and will be highlighted by several "once in a lifetime"
Koshus that have no peers. Because of the limited quantities of these
amazing sakes this event is extremely limited and expensive.
3-5-8-10-25 year old sakes will come alive on a full moon evening for
12 tasters only at $85 per person. Includes perfect Koshu appetizers.
We will sell only two tickets per purchaser.
May the best connoisseur win!
Back to top
This month's "Ask Beau" question comes from Tamara W, a subscriber to
the Newsletter, who asked "What it the best thing to use to dilute my
sake so that I can enjoy 2 glasses of it without getting that much
alcohol into my system?" Hmmmmm My first impulse was to say spit out
every other sip, but then I imagined a party situation and a realized
that a pocketbook spittoon isn't that fashionable.
My quick answer is to try a lower alcohol sake. For example Ichinokura
Himezen 8% or a Sparkling Sake at 6.5%. If that does not appeal to you
then I recommend freezing distilled water and making ice cubes to cut
the alcohol content. Don't use tap water or even filtered water as
they are both too flavorful and will dominate the nuances of your
selected sake. Lastly, there is the other water trick where you drink
a glass of water before each glass of sake. Hmmm, and if these don't
help then get smaller glasses!
Back to top
The SECRET WORD
Wow, are you guys lucky. Thanks to the kindness of Kazu Yamazaki of
the Japan Prestige Sake Association (the largest single importer of
sake into the US), I am psyched to announce that this month's SECRET
WORD sake is one of my top 10 favorite sakes of all time. The brewery
is called Gokyo and their "5 Bridges" Junmai is a great example of a
layered sake with full umami flavor and a classic junmai finish. This
bottle is pictured on many covers of sake books, and is regularly
priced at $24. But for you my dear readers a steal at $12. For those
who are new to this, the trick is to visit the store and say the
secret word under your breath so as to not alert others. Limit one
bottle per person, and phone in orders must order a minimum of three
other sakes for shipping. And the SECRET WORD is "Shochu Is The Devil."
Please send your sake specific questions to
askbeau2 @ truesake.com. (This
address is not for general questions and I only review the questions
once per month. All correspondence should use
info @ truesake.com.)
Back to top
Thank you for reading and enjoy both your sake and your life!
TRUE SAKE: America's First Sake Store.