Tasting – Toyo “Maru” Bijin Junmai Ginjo

This junmai ginjo is a special bottling offered through a local sake shop, Nakashimaya, which also uses the business logo Marumi, which is the same character used in Bijin, hence the “Maru” in the name.

Toyo “Maru” Bijin 55 Junmai Ginjo

This sake is particularly special, as the sake shop has contracted with Sumikawa Shuzo to reserve an entire tank (1,800 liters or so) to distribute to a specific customer list four times a year. The idea is to allow customers to see how one fermentation can change through the year. This is the first version, a winter shiboritate nama that is bottled directly from the press.

Toyobijin nama junmai ginjo is a true pleasure. Sumikawa makes lovely, clean, enjoyable sake and this is no exception. It wraps a core of well-structured depth in smooth, fresh sweetness that is simply delicious.

Even as a nama, it doesn’t seem to have that big, zingy nama flavor that often hides a sake’s other charms–this one is simply a delightful, aromatic, ginjo with clean notes of banana, rice, and touches of apple. It even warms up well, and develops a bit of fluffy, marshmallow mellowness. It has been one of the fastest I’ve even finished a 1.8L isshobin, because I just can’t seem to stop refilling my glass!

This is an excellent example, as well, of the relationship between sake brewer and seller here in Japan. Both sides make clear efforts to work together on new projects and exciting ideas to keep customers coming back. Nakashimaya in particular goes above and beyond, as the owner makes frequent trips as far as Kagoshima to meet with sake and shochu makers and maintain a personal relationship with his suppliers. Efforts like that go a long way toward making unique projects like this possible, and as a consumer I genuinely appreciate it.

I really look forward to the future developments of this one in particular. The spring is going to see an origarami, with touches of umami brought out by the sedimentation, while summer is going to be a low-alcohol “summer sake,” somehow, and of course fall is a hiyaoroshi.

It’s a fascinating project, and I’m really happy to be a part of it!

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