In the UK, sake is steadily becoming more well-known, thanks to the efforts of businesses like Kanpai Brewery, Moto and Tengu Sake. Another brand that is doing a great job of putting nihonshu in the spotlight is Sorakami, which offers a sake subscription club where you can receive bottles on a monthly basis.
Sorakami’s inventory is diverse and one of their most interesting offerings is the starter pack, containing three different styles of sake that are perfect for beginners and sake savants. They are the Dewazakura Oka Cherry Bouquet ginjo, Tedorigawa Chrysanthemum Meadow yamahai daiginjo and the Masumi Mirror Of Truth junmai.
Background: This sake is produced by the venerable Dewazakura brewery, located in the city of Tendo in Yamagata Prefecture. Founded by in 1892 by Seijiro Nakano, the brewery is an important player in the world of ginjo sake.
Dewazakura released the Oka in 1980 as a highly affordable ginjo and since then they have continued to innovate by creating some of the best sake in the world.
Tasting notes: The Cherry Bouquet lives up to its name. A pleasant, fruity aroma reaches out from the glass, not unlike walking through a forest of cherry trees in Spring. The aroma is topped off with hints of blueberry that translate well into the first sip.
A tart sweetness sweeps in, something like an overripe melon or lemon cake. This is tempered by a dryness that lingers in the back of the mouth. A floral, perfumy sake best enjoyed chilled on a hot day.
Seimaibuai/Rice polishing ratio: 50%
Background: The Tedorigawa brewery is located in the quaint village of Yamajima in Ishikawa Prefecture and relies on the high-quality water from the nearby Tedori-gawa river to impart a distinct flavour into their sake.
Interestingly, the village has been home to over ten sake breweries between the late 1800s and early 1900s, but Tedorigawa is the only brewery to retain the original flavour of the local brewing techniques.
Tasting notes: If this sake was a woman, she’d be elegant, supple and graceful. A rarity among beauties, as reflected by the fact that the Chrysanthemum Meadow is a yamahai daiginjo.
She sashays into the mouth, flavours of peach, lychee and apple trailing in her wake. A creamy texture builds up, clinging to the palate even after the glass has been drained. Like any great lady, the sake shouldn’t be rushed. The rich, velvety texture unfurls one step at a time and the sweetness truly sparkles at a chilled temperature.
Grade: Yamahai daiginjo
Seimaibuai/Rice polishing ratio: 45%
Okuden Kantsukuri/Mirror Of Truth
Background: The Masumi brand is the creation of the Miyasaka brewery. Located in the town of Suwa in Nagano Prefecture, the brewery came to life in 1662, but it would take a couple of centuries before the brewery became the powerhouse that it is today.
From the Edo period till the early 20thcentury, Miyasaka struggled with finances. That all changed in 1920 when the president of the brewery, Masaru Miyasaka, hired 28-year-old Chisato Kubota to be his brew master.
Under Kubota’s direction, Miyasaka nihonshu won several awards and the brewery even discovered a new yeast variety. This became known as Yest No. 7, which is now a central component to sake making.
Tasting notes: This sake is all muscle, flexing as soon as you put your nose near the glass. Earthy and savoury notes rise up to announce that a masculine drink has entered the room and it’s time to strap yourself in for the ride.
Bold and dry flavours come into the mouth. Steamed rice, portobello mushrooms and bread duke it out. While the Mirror Of Truth is full-bodied, it’s never overpowering. He’s aware of his own strength and chooses to go down smoothly and easily. A classic jumai best served chilled or warm.
Seimaibuai/Rice polishing ratio: 60%
Rice: Hitogokochi, Miyamanishiki
If you’re interested in trying any of this sake, then I’d recommend picking up the Sorakami starter pack.