Japanese Cuisine · Sake Reviews

My First Ever Sake Review: Akashi-Tai Honjozo Tokubetsu

Over the past few months I’ve found myself becoming increasingly fascinated with the world of sake. And thanks to the likes of the Sake On Air podcast and books like John Gauntner’s Sake Confidential, I’ve been motivated to go out and try nihonshu for myself. So, when I came across the Akashi-Tai honjozo tokubetsu, I was excited, intimidated and curious at all once.

Why did I choose the bottle?

Having found John Gauntner’s guide to be an essential part of my sake learning, I wanted to try a type of non-junmai nionshu as an entry point. The Akashi-Tai honjozo caught my eye because of the attractive red seabream logo on the front. Another reason was that it displayed a tokubetsu label, which signified the sake as different from other variations.  

Tokubetsu translates to special and there are three rules that make a sake fit into this category:

  • It is made with rice milled down to at 60% senmai-buai (rice polishing ratio) or further.
  • It’s made using proper sake rice/shuzo kotekimai.
  • The logo gives a specific reason why it’s special.

Tasting notes

I poured the Akashi-Tai into a glass choco cup and found that it had a floral aroma. This matched the taste, which came off as sweet and delicate. An undercurrent of creaminess came as an extra benefit. Also, I never found myself struggling to drink the sake because of how smooth and airy it was.

The smoothness may be attributed to the Gohyakumagoku rice that the honjozo was brewed from. As the second most widely used form of rice, Gohyakumagoku is native to areas such as Niigata and Fukushima. It is characterised by large grains with the inner part being likened to pure starch. The resulting flavour profile is clean, smooth and fragrant.

From sipping the honjozo, I got the feeling that it was crafted with a tremendous amount of care. It’s indicative of the craftsmanship that the Akashi-Tai brewery prides itself on.

Founded in 1856, the Akashi-Tai brewery specialises in artisan sakes that are as enduring as the seabream logo stamped onto the bottles. The brewery chose the fish for its symbol because they believed it represented hardiness, strength of character and drive to keep swimming against the current.

Final thoughts

As far as entry level sakes go, I found the Akashi-Tai honjozo tokubetsu to be extremely satisfying. It was light, crisp and not overpoweringly sweet. I’d recommend it to anyone who is embarking on their sake voyage and to seasoned pros.

Purchase a bottle and let me know what you think!

9 thoughts on “My First Ever Sake Review: Akashi-Tai Honjozo Tokubetsu

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