When it comes to sake, ban ryu is an appropriate phrase to use, as it translates from Japanese to ‘a thousand ways.’ This sums up the many different paths to crafting nihonshu and the huge volume of styles that are waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Nigorizake (cloudy) sake is a distinctive style with a unique set of flavour profiles, due to how it’s produced. It’s sake with rice particles that have been left over from the filtration process.
Rather than pressing the sake out of the moromi (main fermentation mash) through a fine filter, nigori is crafted with a mesh filter, leaving behind some of the solids, giving nigori it’s cloudy appearance.
A great nigori that I tried recently was produced by the Kuncho brewery located in Oita prefecture. The flavours were unlike anything I’ve experienced in drink form before.
Why did I choose the bottle?
I was browsing for new styles of sake that I hadn’t tried before at a sake and shochu sale hosted by The Sparrows and Ukiyo Republic in Manchester. I had a fascinating conversation with the owner of The Sparrows, Kasia Hitchcock about her sake experience and she recommended the Kuncho nigori to try.
After the first sip, I really didn’t need much convincing to buy a bottle.
Founded in 1702 in the city of Hita, the Kuncho brewery has a long and proud history of sake-making. In the modern day it’s home to five separate breweries and a sake museum, which honours the centuries old tradition of producing high-quality nihonshu.
The Kuncho Nigori is one of the brand’s finest offerings, produced with Gohyakumangoku rice and has a rice polishing rate of 70%.
There’s so much to unpack about this sake and the depth of complexity in the flavours. An aroma of lemon and cherry leapt from the bottle, reminiscent of a fresh Spring afternoon. The lemon carried on in the first mouthful, then it was quickly overtaken by bubblegum and tart plums.
The flavours morphed into savoury elements of butter and bread and it took me a couple of moments to realise what I was tasting. A clotted cream scone! Tinges of blueberry jam swept in, bringing on the image of afternoon tea. A tray of freshly baked scones and cakes stacked on top of each other. Truly spectacular and not a flavour I was expecting to taste.
The Kuncho Nigori is a phenomenal drink that deserves a place in any sake geek’s collection. It’s also a wonderful introduction to the nigori style and is sure to convert anyone who’s never tried sake before.
Seimaibuai/Rice Polishing Rate: 70%
Another interesting style of sake to try is nihonshu brewed with the boidaimoto method. Read Yamato Magazine’s review of the Gozenshu Junmai 9 and see what makes it so special.