The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on the world, and this is of course true of the sake world as well. Brewers have seen plummeting sales, which is bad, and also seen stock back up in their warehouses and tanks, which is very bad. If they don’t make room for the next season of brewing (which has already started) then they won’t be able to supply fresh sake for the hopefully refreshed demand next year.
There is a place for matured sake, but not as much a one as for fresh, so brewers find themselves having to find ways to get rid of their current stock, while hopefully getting some cash influx to help pay for rice and wages. Enter the latest fad: incredibly underpriced premium sake.
The Yamaguchi end of this actually started in February (!) before the real crisis hit. Sumikawa Shuzo kuramoto & tōji Sumikawa Takafumi saw what was coming, and released a junmai ginjō under the new label Jundo Ichizu at a sub-1,000 yen price–unheard of. Other breweries didn’t follow suit until much later, but now I can think of at least five Yamaguchi brewers who have put out single bottlings of high grade premium sake at futsūshu prices. This one is, of course, Gokyo’s.
This is a blend of junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjō, ostensibly to add some extra value to the ginjō, and released with a special label (I’d say they cut some costs on that, too) and sold at an even 1,000 yen–1,100 plus tax. The label is not only striking, it’s also amusingly timely with the Japanese government’s (ill advised?) Go To Travel, Go To Eat, and other economy-boosting campaigns.
It has apparently sold well, because local stocks dried up pretty quickly. I got mine from my local hole in the wall, and Gokyo fan, Harada Saketen here in Hikari.
The sake is lovely. It almost seems beside the point, actually, to say it but it’s really quite good. It has a satisfying level of ginjōka while still being the kind of flavor-oriented ginjō that Gokyo tends toward. It has a lovely balance of medium-sweet flavors on the banana side that fade relatively smoothly into a very refreshing acidity and mild astringency that helps it go down very quickly. At this price, it really is hard to beat this kind of quality and drinkability.