Sasaiwai Junmai Sake tasting

Launching a sake business with over 100 different products requires the dutiful task of thoroughly learning about each product.  Admittedly this is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the business.  However it is done conscientiously.


Earlier this week, I was accompanied with two other experienced sake experts at Meishu Center Yokohama.  Yoshi and David took time from their schedules to participate with a tasting exercise at my business.  Yoshi is a key player in the sake industry.  He currently runs and export and consulting business .  He has a sake formal education as an Advanced Sake Professional.  David, enthusiasm for sake can be contagious.  David’s introduction to sake began some thirty plus years ago, dare I say likely perhaps before was twenty one in the US.   After allegedly trying every sake available in the US, David is now in Japan and seems to be enjoying the access to many more options than overseas for sake.  Both of these experts have not only knowledge of the sake industry and process, but distinguished palettes.


I have done my fair share of individual research for each producer.  But a peer tasting session is usually more insightful.  Tasting with peers hones tasting skills and builds confidence.  Best of all, a collaborative tasting session will deduce the analysis to define a logical conclusion to a particular product.


On this particular day, we selected two products from one producer.  Sasaiwai.  Brewery is located in Niigata.  Niigata has a strong reputation as a great sake brewing region. The name Sasaiwai translates to “bamboo celebration”.  I have had the good fortune to visit the brewery.  The brewery is rich with traditional architectural detail.  Inside there are enormous notched beams and original detail from over history.  Inside the brewery there are two main operations for producing sake.  The first is the more automated process.  The bulk of sake is produced from the automated system.  Sasaiwai is a local favorite among the Niigata community.  In another section of the brewery is the much smaller area of tanks that are dedicated to high quality labor intensive production.  Ryosuke-san  refers to it as his “ginjo area”.  The brewery is surrounded by the vast rice fields of Niigata.  It is very picturesque and hospitable. There is a large tatami room for private tastings and hosting guests.


The tasting was structured using three different glassware to differentiate aroma as well as taste.  The three of us  evaluated: color/appearance, aroma, dry/sweetness, acidity, impact, texture, body and finish.


The first tasting of our afternoon was the Kamenoo Junmai (translation: turtle tail junmai).  This particular sake had a bottle date of 4/17.  The alcohol level is 15.5%  Seimai Buai (polish rate) 65%.  The group conclusion was that this sake was very representative of Niigata style.  It was clean and dry.  There was a noticeable acidity level with a short finish.  We also agreed that this particular sake would probably do well served warm.


The second sake we tasted from Sasaiwai was a Muroka Junmai.  This sake was made with 100% Yamada Nishiki , Yeast Kyokai 901 and 1801, bottle date 4/17, 15% alcohol, Seimai Buai 60%.  Comparitively to the previous Junmai, the Muroka had greater viscosity and color.  It had cotton candy aroma with medium body.  Flavor notes ranged from green apple to young peach.  The finish was long and round.  We agreed this particular sake is probably best served very chilled.


Overall, it was helpful to have the assistance to conclude tasting results among a peer setting.  It is a fun and beneficial method.