Sake Review: Kimoto for Kimoto lovers
Kimoto is one of my favorite styles of Sake brewing. It takes incredible skill to control the fermentation as they naturally develop lactic acid in a cold environment. It’s also labor intensive as poles are used to mix and grind the rice. The result is some of the most complex beverages in the world. Here are three of my favorites representing a broad range of the style. You can learn more about Kimoto via this excellent podcast from my friends Jim (a translator living in Yamaguchi) and Andy (brewer at Fukucho).
Izumibashi Black Dragonfly “Kurotonbo” Kimoto Junmai
This special Kanagawa prefecture kimoto sake has a reserved and understated aroma, with light delicate flavors due to it being aged 2 years at the brewery. but don’t let the subtle mineral rich nose fool you as it hides a deep, robust, umami laden palate. I get some pear skin but mostly this is about the calf leather on the day long finish – a geek’s sake. It is delicious slightly warm, and perfect for enhancing rich flavors and cutting through oil, like say, pepperoni pizza.
Believing that good sake is made with good rice, Izumibashi is one of the few breweries in Japan that polish AND grow their own sake-rice with their own hands. The name Izumibashi comes from the Izumi river which irrigates their fields, and Hashi their family name.
Sawanoi “Fountain of Tokyo" Kioke-jikomi Iroha Kimoto Junmai
From one of the few breweries actually in Tokyo, Ozawa Shuzo, since 1702 but recently they’ve really upped their game. This is done in the old school method. Fermented in a cedar barrel (kioke) and also kimoto style so they naturally fermented the lactic acid. It’s deceptively complex. Pours a beautiful yellow color. There’s no cedar aroma as the barrel has been used for decades instead the wood just helps regulate fermentation temperature and allows more oxygen into the ferment. The nose is a wonderful mix of sweet chestnuts. The finish evolves continuously taking us on a journey from nuts to more savory cured meats. Try it warm or in a double martini glass to really unlock the aromas.
Tae no Hana “Sublime Beauty” Junmai Arabashiri Kimoto Muroka Nama Genshu
Rumiko Moriki is the 4th generation of her family to own the brewery in Mie, and along with her husband Hideki, they are not only the Kuramoto (owners) of this tiny brewery, they also are the Toji (master brewers). Rumiko’s fame is in being the first female brewer in Japan, and there is even popular series of manga (illustrated novels) written about her life as a brewer.
It’s 90% polish which means only 10% of the rice has been removed. This leaves some of the lipids, oils and proteins still on the rice giving the finished sake wild aromas and flavors.
Pours clear and yellow. You’ll immediately notice the robust and savory nose featuring mushroom broth, lightly browned butter and fresh hemp. As you taste it, you’ll think someone is grating aged Parmesan into your mouth. Tasty! Perhaps some agave as well. The richness goes for days. So savory and wonderful. Pair this with a really rich steak and rich sauce.
If you had this last year, this is totally different. She’s back to making it via the older recipe and it’s fabulous again.