Party Tasting! 2 – Gokyo Koshu, Taka

So following up to my last post, where I discussed some good sakes enjoyed with friends at a year-end party, I’d like to discuss some GREAT sakes we enjoyed. These are sakes that linger on in the memory, that make you want to share them and talk to people about the savor. They are sakes with real depth and identity.

First up is this ridiculously underpriced Gokyo Koshu.

Gokyo Junmai Koshu. Brewed in 2002, bottled in 2018.


Sake pricing is a tricky topic, and I typically don’t like to argue for more expensive ANYTHING, but this bottle of sake that has aged in a cave for 16 years is available for 2,100 yen. That’s ridiculous.

Speaking of the cave! When I went to the liquor store and saw the bottle, I asked the owner if this was a new thing the brewer was trying because I’d not seen it anywhere before in the 2 years or so I’ve been haunting his shelves. He said no, they release it every year if they can, but “the cave where they store it is in the mountains and in years when there are lots of bears they can’t reach it, so those years don’t get any released.”

I guess 2018 was a low bear year in the mountains around Iwakuni? If so, I’m glad because this sake was a wonder.

I have had experiences with Koshu before and rarely enjoyed them. The one I tried in my Sake Navigator class tasted like bleue cheese soaked in soy sauce. The one I found in a liquor store cabinet was like sake yogurt. However, the one I tried at the Nakajimaya brewery was excellent and well flavored.

This one is, in a word, amazing. It has a very slightly cheesy, mushroomy aroma but in the mouth it is a deep, almost caramel sweetness with a hint of tea-like astringency. It hits with a full range of mouth filling flavors, but finishes clean and clear, leaving you wanting more. The two non-hardcore sake drinkers loved it as well, and the bottle went very, very quickly.

Such a good sake. And so cheap.  If you see it, buy it. For real.

The other truly great sake is one I’ve mentioned before: Taka Nojun Karakuchi 80.

Taka Nojun Karakuchi Junmai. Seimaibuai 80%  (!!!)

I first tried this at the end of the Guruguru no Sake event last year. It struck me then as one of the most layered and interesting sakes I’d tasted, but I was also at the end of a lot of tasting and wasn’t sure of my bleary notes. So I picked up another bottle to see if it lived up to my memories.

It did! This sake is wonderful. Delightful. It has this big full rich flavor full of umami and rice and rich sweetness but none of the unpleasant flavors people imagine with that enormous semaibuai. It’s smooth and easy to drink, and could be a daily drinker with no problem at all. It was perfect with the cheesy, spicy snacks at the party, and with rich sourdough bread, and with life in general.

I love it. Our wine-loving teacher friend loved it. It’s one of the best sakes you’ll find, if you can find it.

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