Text Size:-+
06.23.2008

Kamotsuru "Sokaku" Daiginjo, Hiroshima Prefecture

kamotsuru_sokaku.jpgOne of the fascinating and attractive things about sake breweries are their (usually) much longer and storied histories than the wineries of the western world. While there are a few wineries that have been in existence for a few hundred years, there are many more sake breweries that have been doing their thing for many hundreds, some continuously operated by a single family.

Kamotsuru Shuzo may not be one of the oldest breweries in Japan, as it can only trace its history back to 1623, and really only began production under the Kamotsuru name in 1873, but it is one of the most respected.

The company's name, like so many in Japanese, benefits from a clever double meaning. Kamo is both a reference to a chain of mountains from which the brewery gets its water, and Kamo(su) is also the verb to make sake. The second half of the company's name, Tsuru, means "crane," a noble and very auspicious bird for the Japanese culture.

When it comes to kamosu, Kamotsuru represents an odd dichotomy between technological innovation and strict tradition. In many ways Kamotsuru can be considered one of the most pioneering sake breweries in Japan. They claim many firsts in the world of sake including being one of the first Japanese breweries to export sake to the United States in the year 1896. Don't ask me who might have been drinking sake in the U.S. at that time. Perhaps more notably, Kamotsuru brewery can claim to be the co-inventor of the modern rice polishing mill in 1898, along with another company. In 1905 were among the first breweries in Japan to produce ginjo class sakes, whose rice had been polished to at least 60% of its former mass, and in 1958 they claim to be the first brewery to produce a daiginjo class sake (made from rice polished to less than 50% of its former mass).

Today, despite such a history of innovation, a visitor to Kamotsuru might be struck by the seemingly traditional approach taken towards sake brewing. Kamotsuru still makes use of wood where many have switched to stainless steel, and continues many of the labor intensive manual processes of sake making that have been automated by other breweries. And, of course, the brewery insists on producing incredibly high quality sake, of which this sake, named "Sokaku" is their second most premium product, and the highest quality sake that they export to the United States.

Sokaku is a daiginjo sake. This means that the rice has been polished past the 50% point. In fact, as a mark of its premium quality, the rice used to make Sokaku has been polished to 38% of its former mass, a delicate and expensive feat, and one that the brewery feels makes for a more refined and delicate brew. It is made in the dead of winter in Hiroshima prefecture as the snow blows in cold from the sea of Japan.

While it's easy to buy sake by the label (many of them are quite attractive, and when you don't have any idea what they're saying -- I don't -- it can be an interesting aesthetic gamble) it's generally best to know what you're getting yourself into. However, it is worth noting that this sake rates pretty high up on the aesthetic scale. Anyone who could receive this individually gold boxed, hand tied, handmade-paper-labeled bottle and not be impressed probably isn't worth having as a friend anyway.

Tasting Notes:
Colorless in the glass, this sake has a nose of white flowers, dried orange rind, tropical fruits, and wet stones. In the mouth it is ever-so-smooth, with clear stony, rainwater and floral qualities wrapped in a slightly creamy, melted vanilla ice cream jacket with hints of wet cedar on the finish. The sake conveys a purity that marks the best daiginjo sakes along with a silky weight on the tongue that entices sipping again and again. World class.

Food Pairing:
This sake seems like it would do beautifully with butter poached fish of any kind, but especially...butter fish! A nice filet, a splash of lemon and a glass of Sokaku could make any evening spectacular.

Overall Score: around 9.5

How Much?: $80

This sake is available for purchase on the Internet.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Instagram Delectable Flipboard Pinterest

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 26, 2015 Vinography Images: Above the Coast 2015 Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 6, San Francisco Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne A Brief Video Lesson in Champagne Disgorgement Vinography Images: The World of the Leaf Book Signing on May 9th, at Raymond Vineyards in Napa Doorman: Changing My Wine Delivery Life A Singular Expression: The Champagnes of Cédric Bouchard Acid Freaks Unite: Highlights From the 2015 IPOB Tasting

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud