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Asamai Shuzo is located deep in Akita Prefecture, in the northern part of Honshu, Japan's largest island. Akita is known as snow country, with very cold winters due to to winds blowing off the Sea of Japan-perfect for sake brewing. Asamai Shuzo uses only Akita-grown rice, which is quite rare; many breweries will source rice from all over Japan. Each year they produce a small amount of sake, but it's very well regarded both locally and nationally, and we're very happy to find some here in New York. The Amanoto Tokubetsu Junmai is a blend of Ginnosei and Miyamanishiki rice polished to 55%. The nose explodes with notes of fresh-cut grass, melon, grapefruit zest and a medley of floral tones. The palate is equally vibrant, introducing more herbaceous green notes. This sake has great acidity, and equally great resonance on the palate. Delicious on its own, this would also be great with a variety of spring salads, greens, or lightly-fried fish. Oskar Kostecki
A new batch of the Junmai Ginjo Nama, and one I am particularly excited about. Since tasting some of the first releases from Brooklyn Kura in the beginning of this year, this particular release shows more nuance and depth, and a desire for constant improvement. Brandon extended the fermentation times for this batch, going for a 40 day fermentation as opposed to the more common 30-35 days. He also forwent a sterile filtration this time, leading to a brighter, fresher expression. This sake is aromatically very complex, with cantaloupe, cantaloupe rind, banana, citrus, lemon rind, yellow flowers, yogurt, and a slightly green, grassy quality all present on the nose. The palate is bright, with higher acidity than earlier batches, but still has the mouth-coating quality I've come to associate with Brooklyn Kura sake. It is drier than previous versions, but still comes in at a Sake Meter Value (Nihonshudo) of -1, making it just a tiny touch off-dry, though this is balanced fantastically by the vibrant acidity. This sake is perfect as an aperitif, or with light summer fare, salads, crudo, or creamy cheeses. Oskar Kostecki
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
Omachi is quickly becoming my favorite sake rice. It is the oldest known pure (i.e. non cross-bred) variety, and when brewed to its full potential is wonderfully balanced. Integrating earthy and herbal tones with a subdued fruit profile; less flashy and effusive than Yamada Nishiki, but with depth and complexity. This beautiful namazake from Rihaku Shuzo in Shimane Prefecture is one of the most elegant namas I've had, with notes of white blossoms, pear, white peach, and fresh cut grass on the nose. For "Origin of Purity" they are using flower yeasts, isolated from Japan's natural flora by the crazy cats at Tokyo Agricultural University and used in sake production since the late '90s. Flower yeasts add a heightened aromatic quality, which coupled with the savory undertones of the Omachi rice makes this a very complex sake. The palate opens with more earthy tones of radish and steamed rice, along with citrus and citrus rind, and a slight lactic quality I associate with nama. It's vibrant but elegant, with notes of raw cacao and hazelnut as it warms up in the glass. Very limited in quantity, this is a must-try on my list. Oskar Kostecki
Ryujin Shuzo creates the Oze no Yukidoke line of sake in Gunma Prefecture, just to the north of Tokyo. This small brewery has a long history, going all the way back to 1597, and creates very crisp and mellow sake, mostly due to the very soft water coming from underground sources close to the brewery. With notes of steamed rice, anise, melon, banana, pineapple, and a super dry finish, this is a classic junmai to be enjoyed in any occasion. Oskar Kostecki
Tomita brewery was established in the 1540s in Shiga Prefecture, close to the city of Kyoto. They are working intensively with local farmers and use only organically grown, pesticide-free rice in their production. For this bottling, they use Tamazakae rice, indigenous to Shiga. Tomita is a very small, old school operation, and I've always found their sake to be quite rustic. This namazake is no exception, and though there are the wonderful lively qualities associated with unpasteurized sake, there is also an undercurrent of a more savory quality, slightly earthy, slightly mushroomy, with a faint aroma of dried leaves. This is coupled with grapefruit zest, orange blossom, and a yogurty, lactic quality on the palate. A very fascinating and complex sake, and incredibly food friendly. Oskar Kostecki