The sake is called Ba-ku-ren by Kudoki Jyouzu, Kameno Brewery in Yamagata Prefecture. As I've mentioned in previous posts, rice is a big deal in the saké world, so much, that breweries have invested an enormous amount of time and energy in looking for ways to grow newer and better rice grains just for brewing saké.
The rice used for today's featured saké is called Miyama Nishiki rice (美山錦), and it's a true saké rice varietal from the Tohoku region. Normally, a brewer who uses this type of rice may be trying to create a more full bodied saké, one that's less dry, and with a good rice texture. However, Bakuren saké was made exclusively with dryness in mind, yet many who have tasted it say it's not so dry. So what was the brewer thinking by using this rice varietal if he didn't want to brew a dry saké? I will try to answer this, read on.
As some of us may already know, that in order to brew a saké the rice used must be milled first...i.e. stripped away of its outer layer, the part where most of the nutritional content is. Standard table rice, the stuff you eat for dinner, is only milled away at 10% whereas saké rice is anywhere from 50 ~ 70% milled. That means that almost no nutritional content is left in the rice, save the amino acid content. This is better for the brewing process.
Now, for tonight's sake. The Miyama Nishiki rice is milled down to about 55% of its value, so theoretically this is a Ginjo grade saké, which places this in a the premium saké category. Premium saké will have more roundness and delicate flavor profiles than the average brands that use less refined rice. Are you still with me?
Here's the part that gets me. All sake brewed has to have what's called a SMV(sake meter value) or nihonshu-do(本酒度), which is a measure of the density of sake to water. The three things that are essential to any nihonshu or saké are rice, koji(mold), and water. How this density is measured in each and every sake determines how dry or how sweet a sake is supposed to taste. Average saké regardless of category will generally fall into a few different ranges. Just imagine a scale: -10 to 0 to +10. Negative would be sweet and positive would be dry. Many saké will either be between +1 to +3 and even +5, which are still basically sweet even though they're on the plus side. The saké I'm drinking tonight is a +20!
So wow, what an extreme ratio here. We have a saké that's brewed using Miyama Nishiki, a rice that's not typically used for creating dry sake, but more for sake with bolder flavor profiles, and more well roundedness .
Upon tasting, I noticed how smooth and very light this sake was. Hardly no bouquet on the nose. No bite. Delicate tail. Clean mouth finish. No complexity. Quite dry actually. The good point about this sake, though, is that it has a pretty taste that you never get tired of. This is the type of sake you can binge on over light snacks or what have you. After spending hours and hours of drinking much stronger sake your tongue gets tired of the complexity, not this one. Bakuren is the type of sake you can drink all night because it's so easy on the tongue... I would highly recommend this sake for bingers with sensitive tongues and people who want to enjoy eating light snacks. This could be a nice starter sake for those who may have no sense for sake.
So here you have it, a sake that was brewed using a rice that's not typically used for dry sake, but more for dynamic and bold sake, yet was +20! This sake didn't taste like it was a +20, so a bit of a let down there. I was expecting something very sexy to come out of the bottle, like a sexy Jukujo gene! Instead, a stubborn kitchen drinker Jukujo type banging her fist on the table and demanding more sake!
N.B. Most premium sake is best enjoyed chilled. Also, according to the brewer the picture on the label is of a Jukujo during the Edo period drinking sake. According to the lore, she's stubborn and demanding and refuses to stop drinking. She's dreamy eyed with tofu complexioned skin which highlights the features of Yamagata women. The +20 dryness and rice choice could be associated the brewer trying to force two different elements together by trying to make sense out of the differences and wound up creating something so light tasting, yet clean and refreshing and so Jukujo(ish).