While my job is less than ideal when it comes to relations with management and co-workers, I often form fairly close relationships with clients who contract services from my company. Recently one who I had worked quite closely with for several months was transferred by his employer to America, and as such I assisted him in certain cultural and social details during my working with him.

In gratitude, the day before he left, he presented me with a bottle of sake from his hometown of Ehime in Kagawa on Shikoku. As per Japanese custom, he denigrated his gift as cheap, but once I opened it, it clearly was not. It’s a winter limited edition Genshu Namazake from Kinryou Brewery called Hatsushibori (from the rather obscure kanji, I guess a decent translation would be “first fruits”).

Genshu is undiluted sake (the vast majority of sake is diluted from ~20% alcohol content to 15-17% content) and namazake means unpasteurized sake (interestingly one of the kanji for it reads as “source”). In other words this is pretty much as untouched from the brewing vats as it gets. I do think that it was one of the namazake that receives partial pasteurization (post bottling, but pre-vat aging) due to the fact it wasn’t refrigerated, and didn’t have a little hole in the cap for fermentation gases to escape as most raw namazakes do.

As per custom with genshu, I served it chilled, and on the rocks. As a general note, Genshu is the only type of sake that should be served on the rocks. Oddly the nose is fairly faint for it’s type. Just the slight sharp tanginess that denotes the presence of active yeast and mold cultures. Immediately after pouring, the taste is overwhelming, a club over the head of that ineffable nama zing, and the concentrated flavors of genshu. As the ice melts a little, the flavor smooths and becomes more manageable, with a mineral feel on the tongue and subtle floral finish. Unfortunately the lack of proper storage for my bottle during the time I was at work means that it’s developed a bit of the immediate cloying sweetness that is the weakness of the delicate nama brew.

Eventually, the ice melts a bit too much and I must replenish from the bottle to keep the flavor from getting to watery. It’s a fun game to keep the glass at the magic point where the taste and aroma is delectable, but between the 20% strength and bottle size, it’s also means that my ability to type sentences which are acceptable to read is quickly diminishing.

If you’re a fan of strong, idiosyncratic flavors, I would definitely give it a shot. You’ll not find a bottle of Kinryo Hatsushibori in any store in America, but a couple of Genshu Namazakes can be found in New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu and San Francisco.

Here’s the brewery web page, which is a bit text thick:


Pictures will come tomorrow.