Daimon brewery : during a week immersed (a little bit more in water than in saké) in the sake brewing, we can taste... and taste again... and again this sakés :
We spend an evening in Nara with a tasting at Naraizumi Yusai (なら泉勇斎). A very simple place, with a good choice of Saké and a warm atmosphere among young Japanese connoisseurs. A little hard but fun to exchange without a shared langage. Everybody want to advice his "coup de coeur".
We retain 3 Sakes from the Nara area :
1. Inada Junmai : Dry and umami
2. this Junmai Ginjo : Delicate with fruity flavor. We can't remenber or read the name (maybe Yutyo, Chiyo or Imanishi).3. A "coup de coeur" of our neighbours : We don't really like sparkling Saké, but this one, after aeration, reveals a round and interesting taste.
After Nara and a few days walking in the beautiful mountains of Iya valley, we taste some more Sakés in TosaShu bar (土佐酒バル) in Kochi.
Here too, the beginning was hard with langage. The barman speaks as well English than we speak Japanese. 😊. But after our first choices, he really want to try to advice us, and was glad when we appreciate his preferred one.
Our choice among about ten :1. Bijofu Junmai Dai Ginjo Nama, 2. Minami Junmai Nama, 3. Kikusui Junmai
The last evening, we enter a small Isakaya in a old-fashionned galery in Shinsekai. Here the barman speak English enough to notice our interest for saké. After our 2 first choices we discuss a little bit with him and explain that we want to finish our few Yens left to discover saké. So he proposes to make a selection for us. Clearly his desire to share good sakés is more important than the money we have : Our favorite is the last one (we finaly found his name : kisuisen by 30). Harmonious and warm flavor. We found the last 4 very interesting. The n°6 is curious in the first taste but become better and better after a few moments.It was our first try of dasai 50, nice, clear but a little too light in front of "Daimon taste". Now back in Brussels... The experience in the brewery fill our memory...
Asahikawa - Izakaya Yakitori Gin'neko
Our trip starts with our old friends in Asahikawa (it’s our 4th visit). A very small izakaya Gin’neko where you can eat some small skewers and drink good local nihonchu. As welcome as Asahikawa is cold in winter (minus 14C, -20C). The standard” local Otokoyama is very pleasant (the brewery is quite big but take care of their nihonshu and local distributors).
To start with an Otokoyama "Kita No Inaho" Tokubetsu Honjozo light and can be drink "jokan" (~45°C). A delicate and wraparound taste.Then Otokoyama "Kita No Inaho" Tokubetsu Junmai tasted cold. A good balanced, simple, delicate. Goes very well with chicken skewers.
A small tasting at Takasago, range Kokushimuso. Sorry for the name of the nihonshu but in Asahikawa there are so few English speaking clients that Apart from the scheduled visit, neither the employees, nor the bottles, nor the website speak English...
1) Hojonzo Daiginjo a 35% semaibuei nihonshu, delicate, flavorful. The umami perceptible even if this nihonshu is lightly dry. Rice: 山田錦, semaibuei : 35％, SMV : +2, acidity : 1.2
The next two are only sold in the brewery. No name for this two, so that will be the “green” and the “blue”. Their particularity is that their are two Name nihonshu and brewed from Hokkaïdo rice.
2) The green one, from the Miyazaki rice (similar to the Yamaha Nishiki rice) grown in Hokkaïdo: very good balanced sweetness / umami / acidity. A delicate banana flavor. A very rich first olfactif flavor while leaving a memory of enveloping softness.
3) The blue, the same but brewed from Kitashizuku rice (grown also in Hokkaïdo and not far from Asahikawa). Same rich first olfactif flavor. We can feel the light pineapple flavor, more drier and more acidic. Less plaisant at the first sip, but really very good and tasty with fat fishes (tasted with katsuo no taki, kind of tuna lightly burned), a real delight.
4) Kokushimuso Kakujo - Daiginjo Genshu : quite a lot body, local rice riz local relatively full-bodied, developed umami. Original and well-balanced.
5) Close to the previous one, but a little bit less harmonious, not bad at all though.
6) Kokushimuo Kitashizuku - Junmai Ginjo : pleasant but nothing more, especially after the previous one. Rice : kitashizuku, semaibuei : 55％, SMV : +2, acidity : 1,5
Kushiro - Sakagura Fukutsukasa
Small tasting of some of their sake. Light, clear but not so delicate. Maybe it was not the best selection among their production. A wider range of types of sake would have been more interesting. We bought the fourth, but nothing exceptional.
In the evening in an Izakaya (see below), we tasted some other nihonshu from their production. That experience made soften our first impression with a good surprise.
Kushiro - Izakaya Yakitori 串炉家(map)
Isakaya experience in Kushiro, southeast of Hokkaido. A little less cold than Asahikawa but still -12°C (10°F) felt -20°C (-4°F) in the evening! Fortunately, here too we can find welcoming Isakaya. Sometimes a little difficult to be accepted because they fear communication difficulties so we must insist a little with a few words in Japanese. But then, the atmosphere is really pleasant, warm and intimate at the same time. Small simple dishes meticulously cooked live from quality products. This isakaya was also the occasion for a good sake tasting. Sometimes isakayas have a limited choice of sake and not necessarily very elaborate. There, full of beautiful discoveries. The waitress, who does not speak English, took the initiative to choose for us after having managed to tell her that we wanted to try different sakés... Very good choices!
1) Fukutsukasa Shiboritate: light, harmonious, relatively fragrant. Perfect with gombo skewers and enoki mushrooms. Sake produced a few streets away from here (better impression than those tasted during the visit to the brewery in the afternoon, curious).
2) Kita no homare nigori: slightly acidic with a good balance that gives it a roundness and freshness that we wish to prolong endlessly. Produced a little further in Nemuro.
3) Houken (?) : slightly dry, very good on the fatty and salty taste of small skewers of bacon.
4) Denshu tokubetsu junmai "country squire" (Aomori) : Rice taste very present but different from those tasted so far, very interesting, well balanced with a good umami sensation. Very enveloping texture. Semaibuei 55%, SMV +3, acidity 1,5.
5) name? : good balance between flavours and body (between Fukutsukasa and Denshu n°4).
Very nice kura (brewery), but the tasting in the shop does not enhance the sake at all, it's a pity. Interesting rather dry sake with a hint of acidity throughout the range. We leave with the Honjozo Daiginjo 2019 still as excellent as ever (don't avoid the Honjozo).
<< Hiroko Yokosawa is a female toji that has consistently produced sake that is loaded with character, complex, yet approachable. She distills as well– making kasutori and kome-jochu (rice shochu) to blend into her sake. This practice goes above and beyond what most brewers are willing to do in the search of quality. >>
Much larger brewery. Welcoming, shop and tasting well established. Sake less original but not bad at all (light Ginjo). The nama bottled live at the time of purchase is very pleasant.
Smaller brewery, well modernized. Unfortunately, production was in progress so we can not visite despite a very nice reception. We already had the opportunity to taste several Akabu, and we appreciate a lot (especially the "F Newborn").
Good selection of local sake (but not only). Good advice from the server (even if we probably didn't understand everything). First photo is his favorite and our coup de coeur among the sake from Iwate prefecture: Shirowashi, a nama (unpasteurized) from Washino O pressed just by hanging bags. In the order of the photos, very good to not bad at all:
1) Washinoo Shirowashi ♥️ very nice balance between aromas, light acidity and enveloping body...
2) Washinoo Kurowashi 👍👍 not bad at all but not to drink after the previous one..
3) Akabu F newborn 👍👍
4) Suisen 👍👍 slight bitterness
5) Nanbu Bijin 👍
6) Hiroki👍 fairly dry
7) Kinotsukasa a little too light as a side dish
Correct but lighter, aromas and body a little weak:
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