New Year’s Sake! Toyobijin Aiyama

New year’s in Japan is a big deal, more like Christmas in the USA than anything. Most everyone gets a long holiday, families gather together to celebrate the day, and lots of sake is drunk. Lots and lots of it. This is a time when sake is not only a nice way to lubricate those stressful social events, but it’s also a very important part of the New Year’s tradition. In keeping with this, I decided to save a very special bottle for the evening.

Toyo Bijin Tokugin Junmai Daiginjo Aiyama, Seimaibuai 40%, 100% Aiyama rice

This is a very special limited edition Junmai Daiginjo from Sumikawa Shuzo. It was put out in autumn and I grabbed a bottle as fast as I could. It came in a pretty nifty pleather bag for that coveted “premium feeling,” but honestly it was what’s inside that I was looking for.

Aiyama is a very rare sake rice, once grown exclusively by a single farm in Hyogo prefecture and still only available to a handful of kura. It has a very full, balanced character and in the hands of a very good brewery it can make some fantastic sake. Sumikawa is luckily a very, very good brewery.

This sake is the definition of balance. The flavors come in subtle waves, introduced by a smooth melon aroma. You get an initial mild sweetness that is boosted by a full umami note that quickly gives way to the very pleasant sourness. It was like drinking a premium melon juice…only alcoholic!

It really opened up at about 10 degrees celsius, so the pleasure only increased as you kept drinking…and frankly I could have kept drinking this one all night.

Worth every yen of its premium price of about 5,000 yen, I’d say, though not something I’d splurge for every week.

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