This is a a very special treat I picked up at my recent visit to the Kinfundo Shuzo brewery in Kudamatsu. Out of all their sakes (about ten varieties, I think?), I only took home two bottles: this one, and the Ginjo version. Why, you might ask?
Because I have, as I mentioned before, a weakness for the rarity and tobindori is RARE. This is the style (is it a style?) that so caught my attention at the Toyobijin no Kai, the style that Sumikawa bottles but does not sell because they only get 18l a year.
To recap, let’s talk about what this sake is. First off, it’s a daiginjo, NOT a junmai daiginjo. That means it is made with rice, rice koji, and brewer’s alcohol. Please remember, this is not actually indicative of any lower quality than junmai. It only means that the toji wanted to bring out certain flavors of the moromi that require additional alcohol. It was brewed in the low temperature, slow ginjo style using rice milled to 40%.
Additionally, it was brewed with 100% Yamadanishiki rice, the current king of the sake rice world and known for clean, crisp brewing. The unpublished yeast would have been one known for bringing out ginjoka aroma and flavor, the fruity scent that makes ginjo so very popular.
And then, from that sake, at the finished stage, this particular bottle was treated a little differently.
Sake, after fermentation is complete, is pressed in a number of ways. It can be run through giant mechanical accordion presses, it can be put into cloth bags that are pressed inside giant wooden tubs. Or, like this particular bottle, those bags can be hung up first to allow some of the sake to run off naturally, without any mechanical pressure at all. This sake is then collected into glass bottles for storage and pasteurization. Those glass bottles are called tobin, and thus you have this: tobindori sake.
What difference does this make? Well, I can’t explain the science behind it, but the tobindori (also called tobingakoi or shizuku sake) has all been extremely complex. Ginjo/daiginjo sakes tend toward smooth simplicity of flavor, focusing on that elegant ginjoka aroma to excite the nose and the tastebuds. Tobin styles, however, bring a deeper level of sourness and umami to the drink.
They are not, I think, big-tent sakes. There will be those who prefer the easy drinking character of the big name daiginjos, and that is fine.
However, for me, there is a draw to drinks that evoke a stronger character, and this is definitely one of them.
This particular sake opens up with an aroma of melon and a touch of cooked rice.
The flavor is a full bodied sweetness, with the aroma hinted melon and a touch of mild caramel cake. It had a big finish, with strong umami notes and a lingering rich sweetness on the tongue. There’s not as much sour in this one, so it tends to be less of a refreshing daiginjo and something more akin to a heavy junshu.
It can be a bit rough, with some astringency and bitterness in the throat, but with a rich snack (cheddar crackers) the umami woke up and it smoothed out quite a bit.
It was well worth trying, but I wouldn’t call this an every day drinker, and at 2,300 for a 300ml (a price I can’t really argue with, given the immense rarity of the sake) not one I’ll be actively buying again. But for someone looking for the unusual, this is definitely one to put on the list.