Tasting – Senpo Tensei Junmai Ginjo

Senpo Tensei Junmai Ginjo
Yamadanishiki, 50% Seimaibuai

Made with Kumamoto-sourced #9 yeast (so-called Kuma Kyu).

This sake comes all the way from Kanagawa prefecture, and was made by small Kumazawa Shuzo. It was recommended by sake evangelist John Gauntner at an online event during the whole corona lockdown thing back in the spring, and has been sitting in my fridge ever since.

I was particularly intrigued by the focus on the “Kuma Kyu” yeast, since the implication is that ostensibly the same yeast became association yeast #9, but that from the source is more vigorous and aromatic than the association version. I must admit that I am not as versed in yeasts as I should be, but I do know that #9 was part of the winning formula of the early Heisei period (YK35 – Yamadanishiki, #9 yeast, Seimaibuai 35). It still has a reputation for quality ginjo brewing, so if the so-called original strain was even better, then it must be something worth trying.

This sake was certainly filled with ginjo-ka aromatics. It has a juicy, fresh apple aroma that flows out of the bottle, and in a glass it is mixed with grassy, herbal notes and a nice hint of fresh rice.

The initial flavor is sweet, bordering on tart, with a vibrant mix of fresh fruit and mochi-like sweet on the sides of the tongue. The finish lingers fairly long, and leaves some more-ish umami that keeps the rather boisterous flavors from cloying.

It strikes me as the archetypical modern ginjo, with it’s bright aromas and lingering finish. It shows none of the notes that strike as “harsh,” like astringency or hints of bitterness. It’s well made and drinkable, for sure.

It is also not for me. It’s odd to say that, as I can’t say anything is wrong with the sake, and I would recommend it over a big name like Dassai any day of the week. But I think it’s a bit too easy on the mouth. The sweetness isn’t tart enough, the umami isn’t big enough, the tail lingers a bit too long without that astringency I like to clear it up. Meaning, as a pure matter of taste, I wouldn’t buy this sake again, but as a matter of judgment I can’t find any flaws with it.

If you’re into the modern premium ginjo thing, with juicy sweet flavors and easy drinkability, this is a great choice. If you’re into more complexity and robustness, then you might look elsewhere.

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