Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dewazakura makes limited edition sake like in 1981

Tasty -- and the bottle is pretty
Sake may be ancient, but its quality revolution is recent. The first daiginjos were made in the 20th century to win competitions and weren't sold to the public. When Dewazakura introduced its affordable Oka ginjo sake in 1981, it was a huge leap. At the time, sake was associated with cheap, high-volume drinking, and the drink of Japanese connoisseurs was whiskey.

To understand the impact of a consumer-friendly ginjo* in 1981, imagine if whisky makers had upgraded from blends to 18-year single-malt overnight. Or imagine if Burgundy growers had suddenly gone from offering only village wines to selling single-vineyard wines that consumers had only heard about royalty drinking at special events.

*(Quick vocabulary: ginjo and daiginjo ["big ginjo"] are premium sakes defined by how much of the rice is polished away, making them more delicious but also more expensive.)

Dewazakura Oka, for my palate, has since been surpassed in the company's lineup by Dewasansan, a ginjo sake named after the special rice developed for it. And ginjo sakes are now commonplace; almost every brewery makes them. But Dewazakura Oka continues to sell well, and the Yamagata prefecture brewery is proud of its place in history.

Right now, the company is selling a special 30th anniversary Oka that is made by the same methods used in 1981. This includes using Haenuki, a local eating rice, instead of bred-for-sake Miyamanishiki, which would seem to be a disadvantage.

In fact, though, Dewazakura Oka 30th anniversary is delicious and more flavorful than the regular Oka. It's fruity, with nice melon notes, and a creamy mouthfeel.

I first encountered it at San Francisco's Ichi Sushi, where the colorful pink bottles take up a lot of the wall behind the sushi bar because the sake buyers loaded up on it, knowing it's not going to be available long.

If you're reading this thinking, "where can I try this fine product?" I've got an answer. True Sake in San Francisco has it at $30 a bottle and ships throughout California. For other states, you'll have to ask them. You can't find the sake on the shop's difficult-to-navigate website, but you can order it by phone at 415-355-9555.

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1 comment:

Cody Rasmussen said...

I've had it myself and loved it!

Can also be found at Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park, CA. You're not likely to find a better sake sommelier than Stuart Morris at Hana.