Noriko pouring sake from isshobin (1.8L bottle) in Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953)

Yuzo Special Sake

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Yuzo Kuji is an enigmatic figure. I've heard much about him and his sake for the past few months; whispers of how unique they are, how he is pushing the boundries from the shadows. Yuzo is the younger brother of Kosuke Kuji, the 5th-generation head toji (master brewer) and owner of Nanbu Bijin, one of the most famous sake brewers in Iwate Prefecture, in northern Honshu. The sakes of Nanbu Bijin are classics exhibiting the crisp, clean and refined style of the region, and on their website Kosuke proudly proclaims "I want to brew sake that makes people smile like the sun shines." Yuzo says he feels like the moon.

Steaming rice at Nanbu Bijin (photos coutresy of their website)

Yuzo Special are small, some would call them "experimental" batches of sake produced at Nanbu Bijin (I imagine them tucked away in a dark corner somewhere) by Yuzo Kuji, veering radically from the traditions of the brewery. Sacrificing the "elegance" that many people look for in sake, Yuzo is creating bold and full-bodied expressions, radical but also rustic. Whether by polishing rice to only 90%, using proprietary yeasts, or aging sake, Yuzo is able to make sake that almost feels wine-like, with pronounced acidity and richness and texture on the palate.

A rising star in Japan, there is only one expression of Yuzo Special that is currently available on the market in the United States: a beautiful Miyama Nishiki rice Junmai from the 2015 brewing season. Like the rest of the Yuzo Special line-up, it is only available in isshobin, the traditional 1.8 liter bottle that historically most sake was sold in. Yuzo only bottles in this format as he wants his sake to be shared and enjoyed. We're very happy to finally be able to offer it to you. Oskar Kostecki

Nanbu-Bijin Yuzo Special Junmai Miyama Nishiki 1.8 L

This is a sake brewed in the 2015 season from Miyama Nishiki rice milled to 60%. While many breweries will pride themselves on making sake with a very crisp and light, almost breezy finish, this one breaks that rule entirely. Yuzo Special is built on a framework of high acidity and mouth-coating viscosity, which leads to a long, quite robust finish. Not an overly aromatic sake, there are still some notes of melon, banana, citrus rind, and yellow flowers, but the three years of aging that this undergoes leads to beautiful savory notes of toasted sesame, cocoa nibs, hazelnut, walnut, and toasted cereal grains. A lovely sake to pair with heavier, winter fare, this is great with any dish containing soba noodles or similarly savory flavors. Drink with a slight chill, at room temperature, or gently warmed to unveil the heartier qualities of Yuzo Special. And don't let the bigger size deter you, this sake will keep for a few weeks in your fridge once opened without any loss of quality. Oskar Kostecki

  • Junmai
  • 7 in stock
  • $44.99