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What's your favorite commercial sake?

Whilst I’m a big fan of everyone figuring out their own style, profile and personality, it stands to reason that most of us who are brewing have a specific unicorn we are chasing in our efforts. So, it begs the following questions:

  1. What is the best sake you’ve had?
  2. What is your “go-to” sake (non-homebrew)?
  3. What kind of sake is your “original recipe” shooting for?
    Bonus Question!
  4. What tips or tricks have you found to bring your brew closer to #3?

I’ll answer mine below as a separate post.

  1. Best sake to date is Kanbara “Bride of the Fox” (Niigata prefecture). Mostly dry, balanced and round, full licorice notes on the aftertaste. Don’t think I’d make it my go-to, but found it very interesting and pleasant. Most Honorable Mention goes to Tentaka Kuni “Hawk in the Heavens” (Tochigi prefecture).
  2. Nashville doesn’t have a terribly impressive selection of sake, even in the more high end liquor stores. That being said, I can usually get Bunraku Dress Bottle (Saitama prefecture), which is a pretty good sake at it’s price point ($12 USD for 375ml).
  3. Sokujō, Genshu, Fukurozuri, Junmai Daiginjo, Seishu. My standard recipe turns out very dry, full bodied and slightly acidic. I really like a lot of typical Niigata sakes, so I’m aiming for somewhere along those lines.
    Bonus Question!
  4. I ferment as cold as I can (often down to 45F), for as long as I can, and stir OFTEN (until it gets into the secondary fermentor). There is a fine line here though, because the longer it sits with the lees in the secondary, the more I find the aftertaste gets very bitter (which makes doubling tasking a few bottles of good nigori out of the same batch pretty much impossible to do).
  1. Oddly, and this theme will be repeated, the extent of my sake tasting is just too limited to answer. I’m honestly, after about 3-4 years, still at the stage that I’ve liked all sake I have tasted. That said, I’m leaning away from Nigori currently. It’s ok, but not my favorite. Right now, mostly because I have ‘discovered’ it three times (I’ll remember this time :slight_smile: ) and liked it each time for it’s ‘earthy’ flavor. Bunraku Nihonjin no Wasuremono Yamahai Junmai.

  2. At this point, I simply don’t know. Insufficient data. What I will say is that I’ve hunted down a couple ‘random’ Yamadanishiki based sake…and whereas they were quite good, they were so ‘delicate and refined’ that I am not sure if a) I don’t have the refined palate to fully appreciate them b) I like a more full bodied (but not sloppy) sake c) they were bland. Right now I would again go to Bunraku Nihonjin no Wasuremono Yamahai Junmai but mostly because I know I like it. More tasting is needed.

  3. Junmai I believe.

  4. In that I am on batch 3, again ‘insufficient data’ is the answer. My virgin brew 2 years ago was an unmitigated success…but I credit that 90% to Eckhart and my ability to follow directions. Keeping all other things equal, I have two more batches going. The first with my own koji via Vision spores and Hitomebore , and the 2nd with a different koji and spore, and 60% Akita Komachi. Yes, those are pretty big changes, but what is consistent is temperature, time and addition schedule. Basically, I am gathering my own data for what makes for the most significant flavor impacts.

Intriguing! I’ve been doing the same process, but in reverse, to identify more specific flavors and esters produces by different ingredients as well; currently trying a 4 way split with different yeasts.

How so “in reverse”?

Which four yeasts are you currently trying? I’ve toyed with the idea of different yeasts, but so far I’ve found so little research on which yeasts can in theory handle both the cold temperatures and high alcohol. I have thought about a couple Belgian Ale yeast but so many seem to want to flocculate out if chilled as much as we chill sake. Also, to me (no offense) yeast seems like the sledge hammer of adjustments. Huge and overwhelming of many of the little things…or maybe there aren’t little things.

What stage in your tests are you?

Perhaps I should not have said “in reverse” so much as, in opposition or balance. Yeah, I’m swinging the yeast-y sledgehammer away; mostly because I wanted to use rice and koji that I was more familiar with (Sake One).
I’m about to start (this weekend) a split between #7, #9, the ever-popular Lalvin EC1118, and Vitners Harvest CL23 (white wine).
I imagine the variations betwixt the sake yeasts will be small, as will the differences between the dry yeasts (wine). Overall, the differences between the dry and liquid may prove more insightful, as will how they react at different stages, temps, etc.
Expect pictures. Lots of pictures. And many, many vague and subjective words. And pictures…

I understand the decision to use the #7. What prompted you to go with Lalvin EC1118, and Vitners Harvest CL23 and why not a high gravity mead, champagne, distiller’s or high gravity ale?

Looking forward to lots of vague, subjective words. :smiley:

Both of the yeasts were chosen for their high alcohol tolerance, and low temperature range. My sake ferments at 71F and 45F, ‘cause that’s where the house and refrigerator are, and that’s that.
The Lalvin is one of the most popular yeasts around, and I’ve used it before to turn my leftover lees into, uh, “ethanol” with the aid of some organic brown rice syrup. It ferments out very dry and without a lot of flavor profile, essentially, letting the grape (or rice) take center stage. The Vitners Harvest was the same idea, but the zero foam (as it touts) was an added bonus.
At some point in the future, I may try with an actual cider yeast, but those seem to top out on paper around 18%, meaning that my results would be less. I’m trying to get a very high content with a very clean, crisp and dry profile. I’ve even considered fractal freezing to see how much I can raise the content by; after all, we’re makin’ booze here, not rice milk.

Do you mean fractional freezing? I’ve honestly heard about this a lot and yet to have it ever work very well…and to each their own. I’ve never considered this to be about the alcohol. For me it isn’t ‘booze’. It’s sake if you take my meaning. I can’t wrap my head around a reason to boost the alcohol at the very end. I’ve heard about small additions before pressing for extra flavor, but that is all.

Darn autocorrect, I did mean fractional freezing. And I understand your point about it being more for the brew and less for the booze. Some of my favorite sakes are on the lesser side of the content scale… For me, it’s more of a curiosity; what would it taste like, smell like, look, feel, etc etc. I recently had a hefeweizen that had been fractionally reduced, and it was AMAZING. It was everything I liked about the beer, amplified by a power of 2 or 3, with very little of what I didn’t. And since it was a mistake made by a homebrewing buddy of mine, I inadvertently got to try the before, and the after. Such mistakes only cause my addled brain to scheme faster and louder…

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