Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a saké from 1978!
Pour it into a glass and give it blind to some unwitting alcohol expert and from sight alone, they’d be ready to swear blind that it was an old sherry cask… possibly the Kavalan Cask Strength Sherry.
The nose would indicate otherwise – with sweet oxydised notes of sherry vinegar, chocolate, coffee and old vintage port as well as some savoury soy sauce, sesame oil and concentrated beef dripping…
The mouth throws you again. It’s a bit like accidentally finding yourself in a stunt car on the set of Fast and Furious, tasting this saké. It’s soft, smooth and svelte with a high level of residual sugar. Lighter than the first two sensorial experiences would have you expect. As my colleague so eloquently put it: “putain, c’est une bombe!”
And so what is it? A junmai koshu kijoshu (pure rice, aged, noble) called “Omiji Kijoshu” from the Omi Shuzo brewery, made just once in 1978 (17%).
Some of my other favourites from this tasting:
Soma no Tengu (17.5%) junmai nama genshu from the Uehara Shuzo brewery has an amazing viscosity. A lime cordial green tint, cloudy, or nigori in Japanese, which tells me that my mischievous colleague has been shaking up sediment again… A stunning nose that I would have called Ribolla Gialla if I hadn’t known otherwise. A sharp acidity, fresh, clean, superbly balanced. A long, rich aftertaste to boot.
Senkin Nude (17%) junmai daiginjo nama muroka genshu (translation: no alcohol added, 50% of rice left after polishing, unpasteurised, unfiltered, undiluted) made in wooden barrels. Fresh and fruity on the nose, the mouth is a revelation of acidity, fruit and minerality. An amazing length too.
And by no way forgetting:
The Mii no Umeshu (junmai yamahai umeshu) made from a 10 year old saké (somewhere between 10 and 13 years, actually) as the Biden. The predominant aroma is of almonds – the kind of frangipane you would use to make a pear tart. Stone fruit. Refreshing, no cloying sweetness than you can find too often in low quality umeshus.
Tsuru ume Suppa (11%) junmai yamahai umeshu.
The fruit comes from the Wakayama region, which is to the ume plum as Silicon Valley is to tech start ups. Enormously concentrated fruit of apricot/peach/plum. As I wrote, it has a “fucking amazing acidity.” It is true that it has a lip-smacking acidity, but to focus solely on that would be to overlook the tart sourness of the plums. Do you remember those Fizzers sweets from your childhood? My little sister’s generation actually had something called “Toxic Waste” (which caused my local newsagent to raise an eyebrow when she inquired whether they had any!). They all have a sweet and sour combination that is unbearably more-ish…