Jul 6, 2012

Two sakes from Tokyo

Junmai Ginjo Tamura (namazake) (純米吟醸田むら )
Tamura Syuzoujou based in Fussa City, Tokyo, started sake-brewing operation in 1822. The brewery has been making sake with the brand name of Kasen (嘉泉). In a recent year, the brewery started making junmai ginjo sake with the new brand name of Tamura (田むら).

According to articles in back numbers of the brewery's mail magazine, Tamura was first planned in collaboration of the brewery and Maishu Center in Hamamatsucho, Minato-ku, and it was first sold in November of 2004. Then, in June of the following year of 2005, it appeared on shelves of general liquor shops. The brewery was regularly issuing the booklet Hinerimochi for its sales promotion, and I remember that an issue of the booklet featured an article about how this sake was born. The article told that the brewery head, master brewer, and sale manager collaborated to realize "ultimate sake." The brewery, whose sake brewing had adopted techniques of Nambu tojis (master brewers of Iwate Prefecture), selected sake rice Ginginga (吟ぎんが) harvested in Iwate Prefecture, milled it down to 55%, and used sake making techniques equivalent to those for daiginjo sake making to produce Tamura.

The namazake (non-pasteurized sake) version of Tamura seems to be shipped two times in a year (in June and in November?), and a liquor shop in Fussa City recently tweeted in its twitter site that it carried Tamura namazake, so I went to the shop and purchased one bottle.

The soft uwadachika (orthonasal aroma) of this sake makes brings me an impression of sweetness of rice, and a sip of the sake enters the mouth very smoothly. Palatability spreads on the tongue and it turns seamlessly into moderate acidity. The taste gently fades out. This sake is not very brilliant sake but it leaves me an elegant impression as a whole.

Junmai Ginjo Kisho (純米吟醸喜正)
Itsukaichi-kaido Street ends at a point close to JR Musashi-itsukaichi Station. The road that runs westwards from here is called Akikawa-kaido Street, and it soon changes its name to Hinohara-kaido Street, further extending westward. If you go along this street to westward about ten minutes by car, you will get to the place called Tokura, where Nozaki Syuzou is located.

By the way, the district around the JR Musashi-itsukaichi Station including Tokura was formerly called Itsukaichi Town, which is now included in Akiruno City. Itsukaichi developed as a trading center of charcoal yielded in the nearby Hinohara village, and the town was also known for its cloth products named Kurohachijo. So, the place enjoyed its prosperity and I guess that people in this district have been drinking Kisho, which is made by Nozaki Syuzou since olden days.

Nozaki Syuzou seems to be a small brewery with relatively small sake production. You can find liquor shops selling sake from the brewery in Akiruno City and other towns, cities, and villages in the vicinity. However, it is difficult to find such shops in the urban area of Tokyo and in other prefectures.

Sake whose consumption is limited to its production place and nearby areas is surely influenced by the taste of people living there. So, such sake should probably be called jizake (local sake). Whenever I drink Kisho, I feel a yearning for something unsophisticated, unaffected, and ingenuous that is implied by the word jizake.

As to Kisho, usually, I prefer drinking junmai sake to more high class sake, but the other day, I got and drank Junmai Ginjo Kisho enjoying some luxury.

This Junmai Ginjo Kisho has a very gentle and mild taste. Most sake tastes better at room temperature rather than when chilled. The taste of this sake is also better at room temperature than when chilled. So, I warmed it up lukewarmly to make nuru-kan (ぬる燗: around 40 degrees C (104 degrees F)). Elegant sweetness and flavor and gentle aroma expanding in the mouth are well balanced wonderfully. A faint banana-like aroma is consistently harmonizing with the palatability of the sake as if moderate background music were playing.

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