Shichi Hon Yari, Shibori-Tate
By Tomita Shuzo, Shiga Prefecture
About a month ago now I stumbled upon a superb article on Nippon.com (link below) that introduced a very old brewery in northern Shiga prefecture committed to brewing sake that shuns the lingering trends towards highly fragrant ginjo styles. The article notes that instead Tomita Shuzo aim to make sake that showcases nihonshu’s unique umami and compliments the often rich tasting cuisine of the local area.
As someone who has always favoured the more subtle, perhaps even less ostentatious, styles of sake, it came as a breath of fresh air to hear that the fifteenth generation owner Tomita Yasunobu had “no desire to make sake that smells like fruit or flowers”. His vision was instead to make sake that is easy drinking, with a clean finish, yet with enough umami and acidity to give it a fullness of flavour. After finally tracking a bottle down at a specialist shop in Tokushima, I’m delighted to say that Shichi Hon Yari, or Seven Spears as it translates in English, is exactly the type of wonderful deep flavoured and rich sake that Yasunobu has described in the article.
It opens with a really rice-forward flavour, that is dry and just a little astringent. However, it quickly develops into a wonderful chewy full bodied taste that, as promised, is loaded with those delicious yet hard to define umami flavours. The most surprising thing though is it’s clean, almost sharp finish that leaves you refreshed and wanting to drink more and more.
This particular example of Shichi Hon Yari is their Shibori-Tate, or first press of the year. These are typically a kind of trail-run for most breweries to see how this year’s rice will behave with the various other elements in the brewing process. On the basis of this sake alone, I can tell that my initial inclinations were correct and that I have found a brand that really meets the criteria of what I look for in a sake.
It has an easily distinguishable taste that in many ways reminded me of when I first tried Tamagawa, another personal favourite. It is rich and complex, yet somehow refreshing and easy drinking. However, the most important aspect of this sake is that it genuinely reflects the style that the brewer sees in his minds eye. It has character and personality, and regardless of whether it is your preferred style of sake or not, it will at least leave you with a lasting impression that you have had a quality made sake.
Brand: Shichi Hon Yari / 銘柄: 七本鎗
Polishing Ratio / 精米歩合: 60%
Alcohol Content / アルコール分: 17%
Yeast Variety: Brewer’s Association #14 / 酵母: 協会14号
Spec: Unpasteurized, Unfiltered, Undiluted / 無濾過生原酒