Is a Ford Focus similar to a Ford Mustang? How about Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” and “Cujo”? What about Subway’s 5-Foot “Cold Cut Combo” and it’s “Subway Club”? In most cases anything made by the same company, person, or group of people has some of the same components, ingredients and similarities. They are unavoidable! In fact they are inevitable! And sake is no exception.
We all know the ingredients: in most cases special brewing rice, brewing water, brewing molds, brewing yeasts, and brewing technique. Not to mention the same equipment, packaging, brewing environment, atmosphere, and the big old et cetera! Sakes made under the same roof therefore may just happen to have some similarities. They do! Trust me. In some cases, you have to look for them, and in many cases they hit you as gently as a Mike Tyson uppercut. Personally I like sakes produced in one brewery that have bucket loads of similarities from their futsu-shu all the way up to the ladder to their high-end daiginjos! (One of these kuras is Nishinoseki from Oita Prefecture – sadly we only carry one of their excellent sakes – but I once tasted a gaggle of their brews including a Fall released draft and they all had a very distinctive feeling – almost a “glide” to their sakes which radiated in each brew – amazing!! By the way – you should try our Nishinoseki Junmai – you’ll love the body and it is absolutely one of best warming sakes in the biz!)
Sake similarities come in all forms – from flavor and feeling to finish and aroma components. Even in brews that do not use the same rice or yeasts, there is a “certain aspect” that comes forth, which can be manifested by the same water or same mold or same equipment or the same technique for brewing. It’s there! But at times you must really look for it. Just like chefs who make amazingly different dishes themes can come forth – presentation, seasoning, big and bold, subtle and nuanced, acidity plays etc. The same is true with tojis or head brewers in the sake world. They are using ingredients and they are using techniques and equipment that radiate similarities that can be subtle or very pronounced. It comes down to detecti-bility! Is it possible to detect the similarities in sakes made by the same producer! Absolutely!
What follows is a list of sister and brother brews that we carry here at SakeSocial. It is a collection of sakes in pairs made by the same hands and equipment but using different ingredients in most cases. Therefore it is a good example of finding the sake similarities via the more subtle approach of detecting the SMV or the acidity (brewers tend to keep these indicators roughly the same within their portfolios in general), the feeling of the sakes, the finish, the aroma aspects, the width of the brews and of course the “et cetera’s” In a sense it is like that children’s menu game, where you draw a line between the animal and it’s footprint – match them up!
So if you would like to discover your own understanding of sake similarities then try these sake pairs and then match them up!
Chikurin Fukumari Junmai andChikurin Karoyaka Junmai Ginjo. The owner of this brewery is an organic loving freak and he is tremendously proud of controlling all of his raw materials from seedlings to sake bottles! The brews although quite different have some obvious sake similarities. Look for a gentle richness in both brews – the Junmai Ginjo is actually a “blend’ with an aged sake to give it this richness. There is a distinctive smoothness that also pervades the drinking experience. HINT: Look for similar richness and smooth delivery.
Kariho Namahage Yamahai Junmai and Kariho Rokushu Junmai Ginjo. So this pairing is a great one that pits two quite different sakes a Yamahai and a Junmai Ginjo, but the similarities jump forth quite quickly. How? Why? Well close your eyes and taste two brews with similar fruit tones but very dry finishes. Fruit up front and a dry finish! That is a brewing technique! And these two brews show that. HINT: Look for upfront fruit tones that vanish in a quick and dry finish.
Kasumi Tsuru Yamahai Ginjo and Kasumi Tsuru Extra Dry Junmai. So both of these sakes fall smack dab into the “technique” similarity camp, as both are made using the Yamahai and Kimoto methods! Is this reflective in their similarities? You bet! A very wonderful result of making more laborious and time consuming sake is a creaminess that comes forth and both of sakes have veins of this – yup even in a Ginjo! HINT: Look for a general body and texture play that is based on the extra lactic acid of the brewing technique and behold the similar creaminess.
Manotsuru Junmai Ginjo Genshu andMonotsuru So this pairing is a great example of a “feeling” similarity. These sakes from an island off the coast of Niigata are pretty different in feeling and classification and yet they have a hallmark similarity. One is more wheaty and ricey whilst the other is a little more bright and fruity, but they both have the same mouth feel – fat and chewy with loads of viscosity. How? Don’t let the acidity or lack thereof fool you, as these two sakes share a mouth greeting that is unmistakable. HINT: Forget aroma and flavor and just jam on the feeling of these two sakes – feel the weight and balance of the brews in the middle mouth of your pallet. A “feeling” similarity.
Miwatari Junmai and Miwatari Junmai Daiginjo So this pairing of two completely different tasting sakes has a very very subtle similarity, but you must work to find it. Never mind that they both drink with the same weight and feel in the mouth – they do! Never mind that one is quite sweet and the other dry – they are! Never mind that they both push more acidity in a smaller cup, which is odd – they do! Try both of these sakes in larger vessels and behold a similarity in the wateriness of these sakes. Huh? Yes, if you work you can pull out the flavor and feeling of their brewing water. HINT: Look for the most common denominator in these two different sakes – the similarity is the taste of the mineral water amongst all of the flavors. Use a white wine glass.
Otokoyama Tokubestu Junmai andOtokoyama Junmai Daiginjo So this pairing is all consuming! How is that? Well the sake similarities in these sakes made in Hokkaido is based purely on balance. What? Can you taste balance? Seriously? Yes indeed. Balance is paramount in sake making, and these two sakes on opposite ends of the milling and monetary scale both posses a solid foundation of balance. But how should I taste that? Don’t worry the balance will speak to you – the flavors , acidity, finish all work in a harmony that drinks like a tuning fork – tngggggggg! Can you taste the tngggggg? Indeed! HINT: Look for a balance between the flavor and feeling of these two brews – there are no flyer elements or feelings – no loose cannons or dangling modifiers.
Shutendouji Junmai andShutendouji Junmai Ginjo So this excellent pairing focuses on one of the historical mysteries of sake – the water! Kyoto was always known as the region that made soft, gentle, and feminine sakes, whereas its counterpart region in Kobe was known for having firmer, harder water and more masculine sakes. These two sakes made of completely different raw materials except the water have so much in common that it is scary. Taste the difference but feel the similarities. HINT: Look for a common thread of gentle and easy sakes that have a softness that is undeniable.
Taiheizan Junmai andTaiheizan Junmai Daiginjo So this pairing races right to the point – technique! These two sakes were made using the very strenuous and laborious kimoto or poll-ramming technique that produces in some cases an extra layer of lactic acid in the sakes resulting in a creaminess. Well lo and behold these two brews just so happen to have that layer! And then some. Despite their different polishing ratios and rice varietals they both have an obvious similarity because of the way these suckers were made. It’s upfront and very noticeable. HINT: Look for a mutual creaminess amongst the layers of flavors as the similarity between these two brews is based on production methodology.
Tsukasabotan All FIVE!"Karakuchi" "Great Plan" "Makers Mark" "King of Peony" So this pairing orgy pits 5 different sakes all from the same brewery in a region that is known for heavy drinking! How can 5 brews have a “theme” or a similarity? They do and it is quite obvious, and it is based on where they live. The consumers in this prefecture are not too keen on sweet and fat sakes – hard to drink too much of it! That said they do like light and dry sakes that they can drink all night long. This pairing is a great example of 5 pretty different feeling and flavored brews that all come out dry in the end – yes even the fruity Daiginjo. HINT: Look for light and dry commonalities, as the feelings and flavors are over the board, but the unmistakable dryness reigns supreme.
Tsukinokatsura Junmai Ginjo andTsukinokatsura Junmai Daiginjo So this pairing is also a “water” pairing as these two sakes come from a prefecture known for very soft, round, and gentle water that had a reputation for making feminine sake. The owner of this kura actually calls his water hard, but by comparison it is pretty soft. These two superb brews are made with far different rice varietals, but have layers of fruit tones and similar drinking styles. That said there is a theme of “smoothness” in each sake that can very well be called a similarity. Smooth, round, velvety! These are not accidents. They are the result of great water and great technique. HINT: Look for a vein of smoothness amongst layers of fruit tones that speaks to the water basis.
Umenishiki Junmai andUmenishiki Junmai Ginjo So this pairing is based on technique as these two sakes are spectrums apart! But the common thread is how the brewer likes to express his use of acidity in the final product. The Junmai Ginjo is a Genshu with loads of acidity to push back on all of the fruit. The Junmai is wickedly dry, and the acidity is used to hold up the ricey flavor and body. In both instances the acidity is doing a lot of work. HINT: Look for the acidity play in both of these brews, as the toji likes to make the acidity really work to bring out a dryness and to suppress a sweetness.
Urakasumi Junmai andUrakasumi Junmai Ginjo So this pairing goes right to the heart of the matter – the flavor! Both of these brews share a commonality founded in their very distinctive rich and round flavor profiles. It’s pretty easy to taste that these sakes share the same roof, and the richness is a dead giveaway. Both brews are made for flavors of the sea, which means a hidden sweet richness that is balanced and velvety. HINT: Look for the flavor silly! It’s unmistakable.
Wakatake Junmai -Junmai Ginjo -Junmai Daiginjo So this trifecta speaks to the very interesting sake brewing area known as Shizuoka prefecture, which is known for making semi-sweet and fruity brews with lots of zing! These three sakes are made with some of the same ingredients but the overall commonality comes down to the fruit, acidity, and feel. One brew is quite dry compared to its sisters, but even still there is a zesty acidity that pushes this brew dry as there is lots of acidity pushing back the fruit in the other two. HINT: Bold sakes that drink bold – Look for the blend of acidity and fruit play and watch for the overall mouth weight.
Yuho Junmai andYuho Junmai Ginjo So this by far is the easiest of the pairings to quickly come to the conclusion that they were made by the same guy. Ishikawa prefecture is known for some funky sakes and count these two in. So many layers of flavors and attitudes almost like ten sakes within each sake bottle. And both brews have that technique’s quality. HINT: Look for two sakes that express themselves in the same way! Unmistakable similarities!
Yukinobosha Junmai Ginjo andYurimasmune Futsu-shu This last pairing is a fun one based on the word smooth. Yup. Smoothness is a good thing and these two completely different styled sakes have the brewer’s hallmark of smoothness, which is cool as one of these sakes has added sake brewer’s alcohol. When you add alcohol – not to fortify – it actually acts like a “smoother” of sorts and yet the brew that is without added alcohol also has the same smoothness. That is technique and that is quite a similarity. HINT: Look for a vein of smoothness in both brews that is dancing amongst loads of flavors and other feelings.