Tasting – Wakamusume Usuhanazakura

Wakamusume Usuhanazakura Junmai Ginjo, Saito no Shizuku Rice, Seimaibuai 60%

Local nano-brewery Shintani Shuzo has become enormously popular after winning platinum in the 2020 KuraMaster awards in France, and now is basically only available by reservation. I luckily got my name on a list for this latest namagenshu pressing. I’m a big fan of Wakamusume, and none of their sake has been anything less than great. This is no exception!

This junmai ginjo is made from Yamaguchi’s own sake brewing rice, Saito no Shizuku, milled to 60%. It is a shinshu shiboritate, meaning fresh pressed, and unpasteurized. This kind of sake is often quite vibrant and boisterous, with touches of carbonation and an aroma that can sometimes overwhelm other flavor elements.

This one, however, is not as assertive in its “nama”ness. The flavors and individual character come through quite clearly. The aroma is quite mild, with a hint of banana and rice, like a junmai. In the mouth, though, it tells another story. This is a smooth ginjo that has the clarity of most Saito no Shizuku sake, but it leans toward the drier karakuchi style.

The flavor notes are mellow and dark. It starts with a touch of banana, and follows with stone fruit–black cherries, mild yellow peach. The aftertaste is almost bitter, with dark chocolate and fresh almonds, but does not linger. The quick finish keeps it drinkable, and none of the flavors weigh or clutter. The sake maintains its clarity and complexity in a very tight balance, and it is exceptionally good.

This sake is simply delicious. It offers so much interesting flavor, while remaining easy to drink for people not used to sake. On its own or at mealtime, this is highly recommended for those who can track down a bottle.

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