The Closing of the Year

Rather than do a regular old tasting note, review, or event update, I thought I’d take a look back at what this year was like for me in my sake journey.

2019 was a fairly big sake year for me. I led my first tasting class back in January, and did my first work translating for local kura soon after.

Drinking with the boys.

I toured several kura for the first time, including favorites like Shintani and Nagayama Honke, as well as big ones in Nada.

Shintani Shuzo, makers of Wakamusume, Cinderella, etc.

I attended many events: the Yamaguchi Sake Awards dinner, the Kikisake in Hiroshima event, and the Yamaguchi Hiyaoroshi no Kai. I met loads of kind, interesting folks both inside and outside of the sake industry, and it was always, always a pleasure to be a part.

Here are some numbers: I posted 42 times, visited 3 local kura, for the first time (and revisited 3 others) as well as a few mega-brewers in Hyogo, and have notes on 60 different sakes (but with all the events, tried many, many more).

And, to fit in with the end-of-year list trends, here are my five favorite sakes from this year, in ascending order.

5. Josen, Ichimaru Shuzo (A review will come soon). This is almost an insult to many sakes not on making the list, but honestly: I could drink this decidedly non-premium sake every day, easily. It’s a dirt-cheap futsu-shu that, frankly, has no business being as enjoyable as it is.

4. Kaiten Junmai Daiginjo, Hatsumomiji Shuzo. This is made with Yamaguchi’s original sake rice, Saito no Shizuku, and highlights its potential for bright, sweet ginjo flavor.

3. Bunbun Junmai Ginjo, Shintani Shuzo. This is the first all-original product from the new toji at Shintani, Fumiko Shintani, and demonstrates a deep understanding of how richer, heavier sakes can still be easy on the mouth for longer session drinking.

2. Hachiku Godanjikomi Junmai Muroka Nama, Kirei Shuzo. (No review, links go off-site). This sake achieved a razor-thin balance between old fashioned Showa heaviness, and modern smooth drinkability. It was a pure delight.

And finally, 1. Ageo Junmai Daiginjo Jikagumi Nakadori Nama Genshu. There’s not much I can say about this one that I haven’t already said. Just an amazing sake.

I hope you’ll stick around next year, as I expand my sake experiences and try to up my review game even more.

Happy New Year, and 良いお年を!

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