Watanabe Sake Brewery’s decision to take on Cody Brailsford as assistant-head brewer is famous throughout the world of nihonshu. The enthusiastic American rose through the ranks from apprentice to assistant head brewer, determined to share the joys of beautifully crafted Japanese sake with the Western world, presented in a way it could easily relate to.
The Hourai Cody’s Sake range has undeniably achieved that, its catchy names (see Cody’s Ninja Junmai) and trendy bottles stand out against a sometimes-impenetrable wall of kanji and tradition in sake lists. And whilst Cody is admittedly still a way off from his ultimate goal of having the US President drink his sake, it certainly doesn’t seem impossible, considering the ever-growing reputation of him and his produce.
Mulling this over as I unscrewed the cap on a 720ml bottle of Cody’s Junmai Daiginjo, I admittedly had a few reservations. As a vocal advocate of Watanabe’s various futsushus (which I consider amongst the very best of the oft-dismissed classification available in the UK), I wondered if I was about to become the victim of hype, drawn in by the strikingly blue-tinged bottle and an inspirational story…
Appearance: Pellucid appearance, with a slightly ‘heavier’ body than water; almost like a weak syrup.
Nose: Deeply fragrant wafting aroma of freshly cut sweet pears, with just a hint of almost raw potato starchiness.
Palate: Full-bodied, yet gently silky mouthfeel, harmonising with medium intensity fruit notes on the tongue. The body is juicy and extremely complex (especially as a chilled glass slowly returns to room temperature), whilst the finish is extremely short and crisp, tempting the consumer towards their next fulfilling swallow. The perfectly balanced natural sweetness makes this an extremely pleasant sake to drink unaccompanied, as it’s perhaps just a little too subtle to compete with all but the most muted of food pairings.
Verdict: With many consumers both in and outside of Japan turning to daiginjo class nihonshu only on special occasions, it’s important that the chosen sake delivers the goods. Whilst the initial presentation may hint otherwise, where Cody’s Junmai Daiginjo is concerned, this doesn’t come in the form of a big, bold flavour profile or ambitious and daring taste concoction.
Instead this is a subdued and developed sake, best suited to relishing in situations where it can be the sole focus of one’s senses. Sipped slowly over the course of an evening, there is much to discover in its flavour density. A liquid reminder that tranquil moments can be just as memorable as the hectic ones when properly cherished.
A credit to both its Japanese and American creators.
Grade: Junmai daiginjo
Seimaibuai/Rice Polishing Ratio: 45%
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 recently passed his level one sake education qualification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and hopes of becoming a judge and educator.