Okay, this is probably going to be a short one unfortunately. Sleep deprivation and a buzz don’t really mix well when it comes to mental accuity, so I’m going to try to keep it to the point.

I’ve posted twice about Suzukagawa before, the local sake brewed up in Shiroko, down by the seaside. Recently they put out the last batch of winter’s production (sake is best produced during winter) to coincide with Hanami (the traditional time to enjoy sake). Their Junmai Daiginjo usually sells out pretty quickly, and I grabbed the last bottle on the shelf. Junmai signifies that the sake is made without any added alcohol at the end of the process (which is not a bad thing, just a taste thing) and Daiginjo means that the rice grain is polished until a minimum of 60% of the outer part is gone. Compared to Ginjo sake, the taste is lighter and more complex.

Unfortunately, this stuff is so good, I’ve already consumed over the limit of where my sense of smell and taste can catch every nuance, so I’ll do my best for now. This stuff is eminently drinkable, as all Daiginjos should be. Like a good white wine, it’s very easy to overdo, but like any high quality sake, it’s a velvet hammer, clean and cool.

The color is clear, with a very slight yellow tinge. The smell is quite light as well, reminiscent of apples, honeydew melon and flowers (I’m not good at sussing out specific flower smell, not being a particular aficianado of them… yet). The taste is light and crisp, yet with the characteristic heavy mouthfeel and lingering aftertaste of Suzukagawa, though both pleasant. The taste is much like the smell, though with a slight citrus touch and a heavier presence of flowers (wildflowers maybe?). In all, recommended, particularly when fresh.

Yeah, Part II of Nara will come sometime. Wait for it.

I’m dismayed to tell you that Yamaya, the local liquor boutique in my town has shut its doors permanently, as such, my recent ventures into fine sake, shochu and awamori will be somewhat curtailed.

I offer up this elegy to the fine shop passed. The vast majority of supermarkets and downscale booze shops here have staff and clientele that couldn’t care less about the state and origin of their wares. I go to the average supermarket and ask for a genshu or a namazake and they stare at me blankly even as   out the kanji on my palms. The shops make most of their money on happoshu which is “beer” that makes Budweiser seem like the storied Czech Pilsner it descended from. Real beer is taxed heavily here, so most “beer” sold is some half synthesized swill (most “sake” too for that matter). Yamaya always had at least on person on hand who was willing to tolerate my questions phrased out in grammatically incorrect Japanese and my obscure brewery whoring, until I finally figured out they focused on in-prefecture kuras (sake brewery), and tried to just get a sense of Mie alone.

Now I am reduced again to hunting the shelves of supermarkets in vain, for something fresh and exciting. R.I.P. Yamaya, you were too soon in passing in today’s recessionary economy.

So, onward to today’s selection. What we have today is “Suzukagawa”. Like most drinks I’ve had, and all that I’ve been profiling here, it’s unavailable outside of Japan. What makes this particular brew so interesting is that it’s basically the local product of the town (though when I noticed the address, it’s closer to Shiroko town than the bulk of Suzuka City). I hadn’t tried it yet, as it’s a bit steeper priced than most of what I buy, and not “unusual”, which is usually what I seek out when I get sake. I got it from JUSCO, from a clerk who didn’t know sake from socks.  Oh well.

The box and bottle are fairly nondescript, each variety being distinguished only by a different color label. As they were out of Daiginjo, I settled on purchasing a Ginjo, with the rest of my money going to a shochu which will be reviewed later. Chilled and poured the next night. The color is completely clear. The bouquet is one of the strongest I’ve encountered; heavy, sweet smelling and fruity. With reflection, one notes elements of honeydew melon and apples, with an undercurrent of bananas. It’s quite an intoxicating smell. The taste is light with a light mouthfeel. It’s sweet, but not cloying. Any particular flavor is difficult to distinguish in the mouth. This is definitely a sake made for the enjoyment of one’s olfactory senses. The otherwise enjoyable experience is a bit ruined by a bitter finish that lingers on the tongue, the unfortunate hallmark of many an otherwise delicious ginjo.

I’ll probably try this again with the Daiginjo grade. It got high marks in the 2006 “Joy of Sake” tastings held in San Francisco.

Well, as I’ve now imbibed quite too much, and probably lent more ammunition to those who assert that I’m simply a souse, I’d like to admit right now to the world, that the more I think about it, the more I’d like my day job to be in some aspect of the premium alcohol and tobacco business. Any pointers anyone?