Raise your glass to Japan’s brewers
Choosing a bottle of sake can be quite a daunting prospect. Bottles come in all shapes and sizes, each decorated with graceful but indecipherable kanji. A good place to start though is to focus on quality. Gekkeikan Hourin Junmai Daiginjyo, for example, has won Monde Selection’s gold medal for five years in a row. But before we drink, let’s break down that name. Gekkeikan is the name of the brewery (one of Japan’s most prestigious, with a history going back 400 years).
Hourin is the brand name of this particular sake, and Junmai Daiginjyo describes its exact type, or ‘special designation’. A sake’s quality is down to how extensively the rice used in its production has been ‘polished’ to remove the bran and leave the all important inner starch. This will then turn to sugar and ferment to produce alcohol. Other factors governing the quality include how much extra alcohol is added, how long it is left to mature and even the kind of wood used for the barrels it is stored in. Junmai Daiginjyo is a premium sake with nothing added, made from just rice and water. It is worth bearing this in mind when you drink it and marvel at the complexity of flavour achieved from just these two ingredients. It has a fruity aroma, a mild, sweet and layered taste but nevertheless at 15 per cent also has quite a kick to it. This sake goes well with a light meal, fish or chicken, or can be enjoyed equally well just on its own.