A half a year earlier, these words wouldn’t have made a lick of sense to me. As I continue to dive head first into the mystical world of sake, these incredible traditions and brewing methods, along with remarkable variation of flavoring have caught me completely off guard. Growing up seven years in Tokyo as the child of an American expat, adult beverages rightfully evaded me. Now 22, and eager to discover and experience the unique ambience that surrounds Japanese sake, I will be reviewing select products from the perspective of a young American adult, all while learning more about the sake industry.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has shuttered many daily activities, but also opened the door for new interests. Now in my third month at home here in North Carolina after graduating college, family dinners are commonplace. It was at one of them where I decided to have my entire family taste test this high-quality Nigori. After deciding to pair this Gozenshu Nigori product with a Fajita-style buffet meal, we filled our glasses with the cold beverage and began conversing. Words like “honey”, “sweet”, “tangy” and “cloudy” immediately rang out around the table. This was our first time having Nigori, and we were all pleasantly surprised at how well it paired with the spicy fajitas. The cloudy and foggy appearance of the Nigori contributed to how much I didn’t know about sake, yet every sip I took allowed me to gain perspective on this very product. At dinner’s end, we were all pretty amazed at how smooth the Nigori was. While Nigori may sometimes garner a novelty reputation, this higher-end product was tart and came in a beautiful floral textured bottle.
This Junmai Bodaimoto Nigori is brewed at the Gozenshu Brewery. Founded in 1804 by Yahei Tsuji, a mercer who ventured into the brewing business, the brewery is located in northern Okayama (previously known as “the country of fine brew”). Its chilly climate partnered with the exceptional groundwater made it the perfect environment needed to use the 1000s-year-old Bodaimoto process. This process is the oldest, yet today the least seldom used method of starting the fermentation of yeast. In recent years, 7th-generation Tsuji Maiko Tsuji, the region’s first female master brewer has taken control of this highly-intricate process, while continuing family traditions that go back to the Edo Period (18th-19th century). It is truly remarkable that Maiko Tsuji is in the position that she is in, as one of Japan’s few female master brewers.
My first foray into the world of sake has made me excited to try more. As I continue to fill my glass with echoes of the Japanese culture that I grew up in once upon a time, I hope you all join me on my sake journey.