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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
Fukucho is made at Imada Shuzo, in the town of Akitsu in Hiroshima Prefecture, on the shores of Japan's Inland Sea, a body of water separating the islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Notably, Imada Shuzo is run by a woman, Miho Imada, who holds the title of both Brewery President and Toji Master, positions she inherited after over a decade of training in the family business. In the years since, she's put her own mark on the brewery, most notably with the Forgotten Fortune bottling. Imada-san revived an heirloom variety of Hiroshima rice called Hattanso, previously only conserved in seed banks, and replanted it for the first time in over a century. After years of experimentation, she's dialed in the exact brewing specifications and crafts this wonderfully clean, vibrant sake with a undercurrent of salinity and umami. The nose is delicate with notes of melon, cucumber peel and steamed rice, and the palate shows great acidity and crisp dry finish. Hiroshima is famous for its oysters, and this sake is a perfect pairing. Delicious with all types of shellfish and seafood, this sake also pairs wonderfully with salads and other light vegetarian fare. Oskar Kostecki
Full bodied and with great texture on the palate, this is a sake to build a meal around. Notes of steamed rice, green melon, lemon curd, pickled bamboo, lotus root, yogurt, black pepper, and a certain earthy, savory je ne sais quoi make this a very complex and engaging sake. It is bottled from a single tank, as the producer feels they want to preserve the individual qualities of each batch as opposed to blending for consistency. This sake is also bottled without charcoal filtration and undiluted, which adds to its richness and texture. Oskar Kostecki
I met Niichiro Marumoto at a sake tasting hosted by Brooklyn Kura in June, and was immediately drawn to what he is doing at Marumoto Shuzo. Unlike about 99.9% of the industry, Niichiro-san farms all the rice that is used in the production of his sake. Since World War II, Japan has had a system where all rice production was controlled and distributed by the government. Only in the last few decades have sake producers been able to buy directly from rice farmers; but the rice market is still dominated by large regional co-ops with immense buying power. When Niichiro-san took over the family business at a young age, he quickly realized that a way for a small company like his to be not only sustainable going forward, but also to guarantee the best quality of raw material for their product was simply to grow everything himself. Thus far he has converted about 10% of his production to organic farming, and has a team at the brewery that does comparative analysis on each rice paddy to see how various agricultural practices have an impact on the finished product. I spent over 45 minutes chatting with Niichiro-san about rice farming, and feel like I left with more questions than I had at the start! This sake is wonderfully complex, effortlessly mixing the more fruit-forward elements of the classic Junmai Ginjo style with a savory undercurrent that resolves into a long and crisp finish. Notes of cucumber peel and melon rind, citrus, yellow flowers, acacia, nettles, and steamed rice dance across the palate, building in depth and intricacy. A sake I want to drink all the time. Oskar Kostecki
Masumi, the premium brand from Miyasaka Shuzo in Nagano, makes one of our favorite hiya-oroshi styles. On the nose, among the more forward notes of steamed rice, melon, citrus rind, and underripe mango is a savory undercurrent of sesame paste, hazelnuts, cream and a faint whiff of pine, moss, and crushed leaves. As the sake warms up to room temperature, the savory characteristics become even more prominent, it gains in weight and mouthfeel, and a hint of caramel and honey creeps in. Enjoy with fall vegetable dishes, mushrooms, a roast chicken, or as a wonderful accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner. 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
This honjozo (sake with brewer's alcohol added during the fermentation process, NOT after) is our ultimate summer session sake! Clean and refreshing, with a crisp aromatic profile, this is an everyday sipper of the highest caliber. Notes of melon, banana, cucumber water and white flowers drive the nose and the palate is bright, with good acidity and a graceful finish. Oskar Kostecki
This richer and more rustic hiya-oroshi is produced at the small brewery Tomita Shuzo, in Shiga Prefecture. Tomita Shuzo is one of the oldest breweries still in operation, and while it has been a local favorite for centuries, the past few decades have seen this tiny kura garner an international reputation. Fuller-bodied and more savory than the Masumi, this is a textured sake, with layers of dried flowers, dried leaves, chestnut, lemon oil, and a hint of cracked black pepper on the finish. Balancing out the richer texture and earthier qualities with bright acidity, this hiya-oroshi is a beautiful example of the powerful and old-school sake being made at this historic brewery. Oskar Kostecki
The term "Yama-oroshi" refers to the old school method of continuously ramming large poles into vats of rice, water and koji, creating a sort of mash, which historically was believed to be necessary to allow the koji to convert starch into sugar. It wasn't until the early 20th century that it was discovered this koji process would take place regardless, saving workers countless hours of labor. A few breweries still use this time and labor-intensive method, modernly known as "kimoto", which allows ambient yeast and bacteria to interact with the moto (mixture of rice, water, and koji) before commercial yeasts are used, creating a richer, more savory and sometimes "funkier" profile. Yuho Rhythm of the Centuries goes one step further, and the brewery ages this sake in glass for around four years before release, to round out the flavor profile. This sake is very rich, with warm earthy notes of toasted sesame and an umami, slightly mushroom character. Enjoy with heartier foods. Oskar Kostecki