Taketsuru Ozasaya Daiwa Omachi
By Taketsuru Shuzo
I have to confess that the makers of tonight's sake have become a bit of a personal obsession of mine lately. There are many reasons for this, which unfortunately go beyond the scope of this short blog, but as I have said on many an occasion, nothing gets me more interested in a particular sake than when the kura has an interesting backstory. As tonight's sake is from none other than Taketsuru of Masataka Taketsuru fame, the so-called father of Japanese whisky, you know that box is well and truly ticked!
However, as much as I find that aspect of their history fascinating, the reason that I have taken such a keen interest in this kura of late has to do with a much more recent addition to their long history. Specifically, I am referring to their often enigmatic, perhaps even polarising master brewer, Mr Tatsuya Ishikawa of whom I have been privileged to have met several times now over the last few months.
Again, it would be doing the stellar career of this master craftsman a great injustice to try and summarise it in just a short blog, so I will save that fascinating story for a more focused article in the near future. However, the easiest way that I can convey what sort of outlook he has towards sake brewing is to provide you with a quote of his during a recent interview when he stated that "Sake brewing was perfected during the Edo Period (1603-1868)."
Anyone who has previously had the pleasure of trying Taketsuru will know that their sake is not exactly what you would call conventional, at least by modern standards anyway. The key characteristics are mellow, rustic and full-bodied. There are definitely no pronounced floral ginjo aromas to be found here. This type of sake is somewhat rare these days, but it was of course the norm back before the ginjo boom of the 1980's completely altered the landscape of the industry.
Instead, this sake, as with all the others from the Ozasaya series, are aged in the kura at low temperatures for around a year before being released. They are also unfiltered 無濾過 and unpasteurised 原酒, being bottled at a sturdy 19% alcohol. But the lack of treatment that they undergo after being pressed pales in comparison to that during their conception, and perhaps the most famous aspect of Mr Ishikawa's style of brewing is an almost complete lack of temperature control during fermentation.
The affect that this has on the final sake is profound, and it definitely places Taketsura amongst the extremely rare category within today's sake industry. At first, it is complex and brooding, and I suspect a style that will very much devide opinion amongst sake drinkers. However, the rewards for taking your time to properly get to know it will definitely prove to be a rewarding endeavour.
Nowhere is this more so that in the often misunderstood arena of warm sake 燗酒, and it is here that Ozasaya truly shines. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that it is easily one of my all time favourite candidates for enjoying warmed, and the transformation that it undergoes when taken to around 40 - 50.C is truly incredible. The once somewhat muted aromas transform into rich, complex, almost perfumed ones, and the subtle, slightly tight flavours are replaced by a soothing richness as the sweetness of the Hiroshima Omachi comes to the fore.
As always, I would like to emphasise that I am not suggesting that this particular style of sake is better than the more modern, perhaps refined style that typifies modern ginjo-shu. However, I also feel that if sake such as this were to one day be consigned to history, then the industry in general would be a lot worse off for it.
In summary, this is more than just a nostalgic take on how sake used to be made "back in the day", this is a fundamental piece of sake brewing that must be preserved at all costs. For those who have yet to discover sake such as this during their own personal journey, I wholeheartedly recommend doing so. It will reveal an entirely new aspect too this fabuloulsly versatile beverage.
Brand: Ozasaya Taketsuru / 銘柄: 小笹屋竹鶴
Rice Variety: Hiroshima Omachi / 原料米: 広島県大和雄町 (Hiroshima Omachi is significantly different from Okayama Omachi)
Rice Polishing Percentage: 65% / 精米歩合65%
Alcohol: 19% アルコール19%
Brewing Year: 2018 / 酒造年度2018 （平成30)