Considering Asahi-Shuzo is the largest sake producer in Niigata prefecture the washi paper label of its Kubota Senjyu (1000 Long Lives) is a charmingly personal touch. And whilst online retailers seem caught between the technicalities of whether to best market as ginjo or tokubetsu (special) honjozo, the brewery’s own website is happy to promote the Kubota range for its‘subtle flavo[u]r’ and ‘mellow… and gentle taste.’
Pairing the lightly chilled Senjyu with a vegan twist on a Chinese oyster sauce and ginger chicken dish confirmed exactly why those subdued characters are as important as bold and intense in the right setting.
Appearance: Translucent without tinting or bubbles.
Nose: Light intensity aroma largely driven by ricey earth tones. There are subtle spice rack and dried fruits notes.
Palate: Much like the nose, flavours are certainly low key; again umami is the dominant profile here, with just a murmur of whipped cream on banana and a dry, acidic finish with no juiciness. Crisp, clean and conservative in the best possible way. A great cleanser.
Verdict:First-timers and seasoned nihonshu fans alike will find the modest, extremely drinkable offering of 1000 Long Lives is just what’s required to accompany relaxed conversation and casual savoury dining. To describe this as a simple and traditional Niigata sake is intended as the highest praise.
Seimaibuai/Rice polishing ratio: 50-55%
Bio: Jordan Smithcroft is a Manchester-based healthcare worker with an interest in Japanese culture, including Studio Ghibli, Haruki Murakami and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Having travelled to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto in 2019, he hopes to return to see more of Japan in the near future.
Jordan was shortlisted for the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Best Young Beer Writer in 2016 and has since expanded his interest into sake. He is currently undertaking the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) sake qualification in the hopes of becoming a judge and educator.