Gokyo released two hiyaoroshi this year. One was made with a yamadanishiki/nihonbare blend, and the other, this one, was made with yamadanishiki grown by the Toratan agricultural collective near Iwakuni city. The rice used for this one was “unclassified,” meaning that for some reason it did not pass agricultural inspection–whether due to small grain size, broken grains, discoloration, or other similar reason. However, Sakai Shuzo decided it would be a waste not to use it, and so made this sake.
Because the rice is unclassified, it cannot be listed under any of the tokuteimeishoshu listings – Junmai, ginjo, and so on – meaning it must be sold as futsushu. However, it is made without any added brewer’s alcohol, so it is essentially junmai. And as a junmai made from locally grown yamadanishiki by Nakama toji at Sakai, you can expect greatness.
You would be right. This sake was fantastic. Flavorful and fresh, while still displaying the depth you’d expect from a hiyaoroshi, it’s unbelievable that this sake only cost 1,000 yen. I warmed it up to nurukan (around 40 C) but it was actually a bit more well-balanced at room temperature. Just a lovely sake, for mealtimes or sipping.
I should also speak a bit about Toratan. This is an agricultural group in a village near Iwakuni that has banded together to grow premium sake rice for brewers and help boost the local economy at the same time. Sakai buys Yamadanishiki on contract from them, and makes some fantastic sake with it. The name comes from a Japanese saying, 取らぬ狸の皮算用（とらぬたぬきのかわざんよう）”Toranu tanuki no kawa zanyou.” It literally means “Figuring the skins of tanuki you haven’t caught.” Or, in other words, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.