Sake brewing requires a tremendous amount of precision and dedication to craft a high-quality product. Breweries such as Gozenshu have built their reputation on creating sake that is as delicious as it is creative. The brand has no problem flexing its creative muscles and that’s exactly what Gozenshu did with the 1859 Prototype.
Founded in 1804 in Katsuyama, Okayama, Gozenshu was set up by Yahei Tsuji, a mercer who gravitated to brewing. Tsuji definitely picked a great location for his brewery, as Katsuyama is found in the region of Mimasaka (an old name for the north of Okayama). This region has long held the name of Umasake no Kuni, which translates to the country of fine brew.
The cold climate, fresh water and rice of the area helped to form Gozenshu’s philosophy of “being responsible for making the finest sake with locally-sourced rice, water and true local craftsmanship.”
This motto is embodied by the brewery’s toji, Maiko Tsuji, the seventh-generation head brewer and first female toji of Okayama. The Tsuji family have always aimed to create sake from the finest local ingredients, which includes omachi and yamadanishiki rice and water sourced from the Asahi River.
Using this philosophy and aiming to push themselves, the Gozenshu team came up with the 1859 Prototype.
Story and tasting notes
The full name of this sake is Gozenshu 1859 Prototype Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu Nakadori Bodaimoto. All these labels are an indication of the brand’s aim to do everything possible in sake brewing.
The drink has been made using an ancient of sake brewing method called bodaimoto, which originated in the Bodaisan Shoryakuji temple in Nara in the 14th century. Nama means that the sake is unpasteurised, muroka that it’s not been charcoal filtered and genshu means that it’s undiluted. Nakadori stands for ‘middle press,’ as in the sake from the middle of the tank that’s considered to be of the highest quality.
The 1859 moniker is a nod to the omachi rice that’s been used to create the sake, as this varietal was discovered in 1859. Phew! That’s a lot of techniques packed into one bottle. It’s safe to say this sake has as many flavours as it does names.
On the nose, a peppery heat comes on strong. The heat intensifies, sansho pepper spreading through the mouth. Notes of sourdough bread and mushroom slip in and become tempered by a powerful freshness. Banana, lychee, apple and cinnamon.
As the 1859 Prototype is unpasteurised, it’s advised that the sake be stored in the fridge and drank as soon as possible. The complexity of this drink isn’t something I’d recommend for people who’ve never tried sake before. Rather, it’s a good choice for those who want to explore the more experimental side of nihonshu.
Seimaibuai/Rice Polishing Rate: 65%