Event – Enjoying the Sake of Western Honshu

From Left to Right: Chiyomusumi Goriki 50 Junmai Ginjo (Chiyomusubi Shuzo, Tottori); Gassan Junmai Ginjo (Yoshida Shuzo, Shimane); Sake Hitosuji Honjozo (Toshimori Shuzo, Okayama) ; Kamoizumi Junmai (Kamoizumi Shuzo, Hiroshima) ; Gokyo Daiginjo Saito no Shizuku (Sakai Shuzo, Yamaguchi)

On Saturday, November 21 the Hiroshima Tax Bureau sponsored an online seminar to show off sake from the five prefectures it handles: Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi—the Chugoku region, in other words. The seminar was led by the “sake guy” John Gauntner, with backup from Andrew Russell, kurabito at Imada Honten.

John started with a simple run-down of sake’s history, its production, and the classifications, to better help new drinkers find and buy a sake that they might like. It was basically a condensed version of main points of his Sake Professional Course, and was well explained in a fairly short time.

The second half moved on to tasting. John and Andy tasted each sake and compared notes, then tried it with a specially selected accompaniment to see how the food and sake worked together.

This was an incredibly valuable point for me, since I so rarely get to sit and try the same sake with a group of people with guidance from real pros. I was glad to see I was able to spot many of the same aroma and flavor notes as John & Andy, and grateful for the nudges to find notes I missed.

My favorite of the five was a close race between Gassan and Gokyo–but I’m going to go with Gassan because, well, Gokyo has already won my heart. This was my first experience with an apparent Shimane classic, and it was an exquisitely well balanced, smooth, and thoroughly enjoyable sake.

After those two, I’d be hard pressed to say which of Chiyomusubi or Sake Hitosuji I preferred. I’ve had Chiyomusubi’s big boned, slightly spicy Goriki 50 before, though, so again let’s give it to Sake Hitosuji. This honjozo was made with Omachi rice, and had some interesting anise and herb notes to it. It was a delight heated up with my dinner that night!

The final one, Kamoizumi, was sadly off for me. I think my bottle had been stored improperly, because it had an overwhelming aroma of cheese, and a hint of old eggs. Sake shouldn’t smell like that, so I couldn’t drink it. Which is truly unfortunate, because it would have been nice to have a solid example of Hiroshima sake to compare with the other four. So it goes.

The event was a great opportunity all around, though, and I think using the online seminar format has a lot of potential going forward, as well.

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