Welcome to the first sake tasting set!
The two bottles we have today are Akabu Junmai and Akabu Junmai Ginjo from Akabu Shuzo. Read more about the brewery here! First some terminology – Junmai means pure rice. Traditionally sake is only brewed using rice, water, yeast, and koji, with no other added ingredients. Junmai sake refers to this. Ginjo refers to the rice polishing ratio of the sake. Sake that have Ginjo as labels signify that it has a rice polishing ratio of at least 60% (40% or more of the rice is milled away). There are other terms for different rice polishing ratio – Junmai Daiginjo sake has a rice polishing ratio of at least 50%, (50% or more of rice is polished away).
How does this affect taste?
The outer part of the rice grain contains proteins and fats that have strong opinionated flavours – they contribute to the bitterness of sake. If more of the rice grain is milled away before sake brewing, this would usually result in a cleaner tasting sake that is fruitier. This is not to say that lower milling ratios produce superior sake. A good Toji can brew a well balanced sake with all the different flavour profiles (with a nice balance of bitterness and acidity for example)!
Akabu Junmai and Akabu Junmai Ginjo
From this logic, Akabu Junmai Ginjo should have more fruity notes compared to Akabu Junmai – and I think it is true in this case! Try to drink these two sakes side by side and using a wine glass! Wine glasses (or similar shaped vessels) accentuate the aromatics of the liquid. Swirl the glass and try to pick up the aromatic notes of both sakes. I find that Akabu Junmai Ginjo has a more pronounced fruity aroma that reminds me of lychee and pineapple. Akabu Junmai has aromatics that remind me of grapefruit.
Taste wise, Akabu Junmai Ginjo has low acidity (soft) with a gentle clean finish. Akabu Junmai has a slight bitterness and a sharp acidity reminiscent of citrus fruits, and an umami finish. I find both delicious! I would pair Akabu Junmai with fattier foods like smoked duck or roasted pork which will balance well with the acidity. Akabu Junmai Ginjo would pair well with sashimi or burrata cheese (a softer, lighter cheese)!
Hope you enjoyed this sake tasting flight! You can also try drinking using the masu, which will impart a woody-spicy note that comes from the Hinoki cypress used to make it. Follow us @sakeculturesg for updates on our next set 🙂