Episode 35 Show Notes
Season 1. Episode 35. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” When Shakespeare’s Juliet is coming to terms with the fact that she is crushing hard on Romeo – her family’s sworn enemy – she muses on the meaning and importance of names. Is what’s true for roses also true for sake? This week John and Timothy dive into the word of “re-branded” or so called “white labelled” sake. That is, sake that is purchased from a brewery and sold under a different brand name.
There are a couple of ways these sakes show up on the market. The above-board way is to truly partner with a sake brewery and be completely transparent about who the producer is when selling and promoting the re-branded sake. However, some brands buy sake to re-label and don’t disclose the producer. This is a tricky situation as you can never really be sure of the source or quality of the sake. Because of this, we’ll be focusing on a few re-branded sakes that put their brewers front and center where they belong.
Skip to: 00:19
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy
Joto Honjozo Graffiti Cup
Brewery: Marumoto Shuzo
Rice: Akebono & Yamada Nishiki Rice
Enter Sake Harukasumi Junmai Ginjo
Brewery: Kuribayashi Shuzo
Classification: Junmai Ginjo
Rice: Misato Nishiki
Rice polishing ratio: 50%
This is it! Join us next time for another episode of Sake Revolution!
Episode 35 Transcript
John Puma: 0:21
Hello everybody. And welcome to Sake Revolution. This is America’s first sake podcast. I’m your host, John Puma from the Sake Notes, also moonlighting as the administrator at the internet sake discord and your friendly neighborhood sake nerd.
Timothy Sullivan: 0:37
And I am your host, Timothy Sullivan. I am a sake samurai. I’m a sake educator and also the founder of the Urban Sake website and together John and I will be tasting and chatting about all things, sake and doing our best to make it fun and easy to understand.
John Puma: 0:55
That is right Tim. Now few episodes ago, I had a sake that had a name on it. That was not the name of the brewery or a brand of that breweries. Do you remember that?
Timothy Sullivan: 1:11
I do. Joto brand. Now I know that Joto does not have a sake brewery. They’re actually an importer
John Puma: 1:19
And the last time I checked, they didn’t have a sake brewery, but yeah, but, I want to kind of talk a little bit about that and how that works, is that a common thing? Uh, how do they make these arrangements? What is this all about?
Timothy Sullivan: 1:32
some people call it white labeling or rebranding. it’s basically a business buys sake from a sake brewery and they put their own label on it and sell it as. Their own product. And Joto is a sake distributor here in the States. Very well known one with some great breweries and they have three sakes that they sell that are white labeled or rebranded with the Joto brand. And what they’re doing is they’re buying sake from a reputable, great brewery and putting their label on it. What do you think of that?
John Puma: 2:09
well, I’d be hypocritical if I didn’t say I liked it because, if you go back to our episode, Well, it was episode 23 when we talked all about Hiroshima and Okonomiyaki it’s it’s, it’s all coming back to you now, the sake that I was drinking was, Joto’s, Daiginjo, which we talked about that actually, despite having this, very, very modern looking, very, Western labeling on it is actually made by a Nakao brewery, in Hiroshima who was very well known for making fantastic sake. They make great stuff.
Timothy Sullivan: 2:44
Absolutely. And the label that they designed is really beautiful. It has all those clocks on it, and it’s really modern and cool. there’s really two ways that this can happen. One I approve of, and one I’m not so happy with, so this rebranding. Let’s talk about, I think the proper way to do it first. if you’re a restaurant or you’re a distributor or you’re a business and you want to sell your own brand of sake, you don’t have a brewery. You can buy sake from somebody, put your label on it and resell it. But what I think is really important is that you have to be upfront about who the producer is. And you have to celebrate the producer and you have to, make sure that you tell their story and their, you know, expressing their sake through your brand, in a partnership with you. And I think that Joto does that really well. They highlight, who the producer is, but there are some other brands of sake that. buy sake and put it in a fancy gussied up bottle. And you have no idea who made the sake and they don’t share that with
John Puma: 3:54
really, they don’t it’s so it’s not like it’s it seems like the opposite of, of what we were discussing, for example, Joto doing so, they just get the sake and just pop it out. Is it always the same sake?
Timothy Sullivan: 4:08
That’s the thing you don’t know, the company that is doing the re-bottling doesn’t share with you who the producer is. So they may buy from brewery a one year and then get a cheaper price from brewery B next year, and then switch suppliers midstream. And you, you wouldn’t know as a consumer, what you’re actually getting in the bottle. So that’s not so cool. And there are some brands that do that, however, we’re going to be talking about the brands that I think do it the right way, they’re very upfront about who the producer is. And again, like I just said, they celebrate who that producer is and they, really have a partnership with them, which I think is what’s so valuable about that. John, I think is that it brings the brewery to an audience that might not get it otherwise.
John Puma: 4:59
yeah, I think that’s probably, the goal then to kind of get it out there to people who otherwise may not try it. Like, I feel like, for you and me, we’re going to go and get the sake no matter. What the labels look like or what they are is on it. But I think that for somebody who’s maybe first getting introduced to sake, having something that looks a little bit more, Western friendly and a little bit more accessible is going to be a great way, to get into the market.
Timothy Sullivan: 5:23
Well, what do you think the motivation is for these companies, that are doing this rebranding or this white labeling?, what do you think their motivation is to do that?
John Puma: 5:31
Well, my guess would be again, just to kind of get it in front of people who are not your normal sake audience.
Timothy Sullivan: 5:36
Yeah. And I think it, you know, if you’re selling sake, it gives you another way to talk about it. Like this, this was so special. The sake was so special for me that, I created my own label around this one and I really wanted to sell it in this extra special way. I think that’s a story worth telling as well. So I think the motivation is. Is good. It helps get it in front of new people and it can speak to a special connection that a distributor or a business may have with a particular brewery. You know, they want to take that relationship to the next level and actually sell their own version of that sake. I think it’s pretty cool.
John Puma: 6:13
I do too, so I’m pretty sure we’ve got some white label sake that we’re gonna be tasting and talking about. Is that right? Tim?
Timothy Sullivan: 6:21
Yeah. There’s a few companies that do this really well, I think. And you mentioned one, Joto and, uh, I think you have a Joto sake today. Don’t
John Puma: 6:32
I do I have, I want to say, from a, a label design, standpoint, I have the coolest and funkiest of their selections.
Timothy Sullivan: 6:41
You know, I’m not going to argue with you on that one photo in the show notes.
John Puma: 6:46
oh. Definitely. And Tim, what about you?
Timothy Sullivan: 6:51
Yeah. I have a sake from a really interesting venture called Enter Sake, which I know you’ve heard of
John Puma: 6:59
I I’m very familiar
Timothy Sullivan: 7:00
Enter Sake is a brand that was created by a techno DJ Richie Hawtin who is a fellow sake samurai, and a really, really cool dude.
John Puma: 7:12
You sake samurais in your ways.
Timothy Sullivan: 7:18
He created a brand called Enter Sake And he does techno shows all over the world and, he was very passionate about sake and wanted to create a way to introduce sake to his techno. Crowd and people who love techno music. And I mean, that’s just so awesome, those people would probably never get exposure to sake on this level without this Enter Sake project So what he did was he traveled around Japan and he went to all these craft breweries and the ones he really connected with, he asked them to bottle a special bottling of one of their sakes that he really loved and put the Enter Sake label on it. But what I love about his project is that the brand of the sake is also listed right next to Enter Sake So, you know, the brand that you’re getting, even though it’s an Enter Sake label. So I think that’s really cool.
John Puma: 8:13
I do too. I think that’s really nice. And in a lot of cases, Some of these sake is this was the first way to get their sake is outside of Japan I know that in the United States, it was the first way to get Aramasa here. it was the first way to get Heiwa Shuzo, who make a kid brand here. Uh, so that’s wonderful. That’s really great.
Timothy Sullivan: 8:35
Yeah. And there’s, there’s one other company that just leaps to the top of my head that I know of. It’s called heaven’s sake Have you heard about them?
John Puma: 8:41
I have heard of them. I don’t know that much.
Timothy Sullivan: 8:45
Yeah, they partnered with three different breweries and they have a very unique bottle shape. They have this like tear drop bottle shape, and a Dassai is one brewery. They work with, they also work with urakasumi and, they. Sell a version, under their own label. And it’s very good sake a very high quality sake And, they are also, one of these brands that’s doing this white labeling or this rebranding type of effort. Yeah. So I’d love to get more details on what you have. So do you want to do, your sake intro, John?
John Puma: 9:21
Sure. Sure. So, I am going to be tasting the Joto one cup graffiti cup, Honjozo. Now, we talked a little bit about one cups on the show before usually glass. sometimes cans, but this is actually a literal paper cup. Um, this, I think this is to my knowledge, the only paper cups, sake, uh, one cup I’ve ever encountered. and the fact that it’s a paper cup, lets them put art on like almost every square inch of the cup. And in this case they got a very popular Japanese graffiti artist who goes by the name of Shiro, and apparently she had also does a lot of work in New York. Uh, very, yes, there’s a lot of, a lot of graffiti here in New York. And then also back in, in Japan where she’s originally from, and they got her to do, this custom work for this cup. And it’s beautiful. It’s awesome. You’re going to see this in the show notes and this very much fits in with that idea of getting sake In front of people who normally wouldn’t try sake if you’re not into sake this is going to be something that’s going to get you to maybe give it a second look.
Timothy Sullivan: 10:32
Yeah. And if I saw that sitting on the shelf of the liquor store, I would not immediately think that might be sake It’s really cool. Modern, edgy, urban packaging. Yeah, really
John Puma: 10:43
Yeah, however, this is actually made by, Marumoto Brewery, in Okayama, uh, these guys are known for their, Chikurin brand, which is a very, very popular brand,
Timothy Sullivan: 10:54
yeah. Chikuran’s really well known. It’s a very beautiful brewery. Uh, the architecture of the is really, really beautiful and, it’s so cool that they’re partnering with their distributor to sell this honjozo cup here in the States.
John Puma: 11:12
out of curiosity, have you, have you been to this brewery?
Timothy Sullivan: 11:16
John Puma: 11:17
I figured as soon as you start talking about the architecture, I’m like, ah, here we go. He’s been in this one too.
Timothy Sullivan: 11:22
well, I’m going to put a photo in the show notes. It really is a stunning brewery. And you’ll see everyone just look at the show notes. The, the Vista looking at the brewery is, right behind a rice field and it’s really beautiful. So please check that out. But the sake is beautiful too. It’s not just the brewery. Yeah. Well, I picked up an Enter Sake and this is from Harukasumi brand. It’s from Akita and the brewery is Kuribayashi. This brewery is actually part of the next five.
John Puma: 12:02
Oh, they are one of
Timothy Sullivan: 12:03
yes, there are one of the next five brewers. So the next five is a co-op of five Akita breweries that also do very avant-garde projects and special bottlings. So it’s not surprising that he’d also be interested in the Enter Sake program, I have junmai Ginjo. And, we’ll talk more about that. All the details when we get to the tasting part.
John Puma: 12:23
when the Enter Sake brand was first getting rolled out here, I think one of their, one of their premier products, was, part of that next five collaboration that you mentioned, this brewery is a part of, that’s really interesting. I like that. He’s going to kind of getting this, this there. I say trendy, let’s say trendy, Akita group and getting their sake over to the States. That’s wonderful. I think it’s time to sip sake.
Timothy Sullivan: 12:47
Why don’t you go first, you go ahead. And I’m really curious what you think of that cup.
John Puma: 12:52
All right. so guys, it won’t be any pouring from me, on this week’s episode. because like I mentioned, this is a cup is a one cup. It is like I said, it’s literally a paper cup. And so it’s got a little bit of a plastic lid and then a covering that. I’m just going to peel back, hopefully without spilling sake all over my desk, that’d be great. So, unfortunately since it’s a cup, it’s not, shaped amazingly for capturing aroma, but having said that it’s a, a little bit rice forward and there’s definitely. A little bit of alcohol going on as you might’ve guessed, from a cup sake, the rice being used here as a combination of Akebono and, Yamada Nishiki rice. and it is milled down to 70%. The SMV is minus two, so a little bit on the sweeter side, and alcohol by volume is 15%.
Timothy Sullivan: 13:56
Yeah. And it’s a honjozo style. So it’s the alcohol added style. Yeah.
John Puma: 14:01
so now I’m going to give it a little bit of a sip. This is pretty good. Actually, this is this is very pleasant. This is going to be very food friendly. There’s some nice little sweetness on it. while still being. A little rice forward. This is, something I would expect to have and then get on a shinkansen and have some, you know, maybe have some fried chicken bento or maybe I’m just really missing being on shinkansens like we are every week.
Timothy Sullivan: 14:27
Yeah. if you’re sipping along, you want to take a little break. You can put the plastic top on
John Puma: 14:33
you put the plastic top on it’s. It’s not gonna, you’re not holding on to this, it’s a paper cup. It’s going to be a little flimsy, especially after you open it up, it’s going to lose some of its integrity from the top, I think this is meant to be had in one sitting generally speaking, like all like, like all one cups are. if I were to pick a fruit out of this, though, it’s going to be like a mascot, like a green grapes, but it’s very faint. It’s very covered up by that rice flavor, but it’s. it’s like a S it, because it’s ricey and it’s still a little bit sweet. It’s like a sweet rice almost. It’s very pleasant. It’s very nice. This is not what I was expecting to be completely honest with you. I was thinking this was going to be a very, honest, hardworking, uh, blue collar. one cup sake and no, this is this, there’s some depth to this. This is really nice.
Timothy Sullivan: 15:26
Well Marumoto brewery out of Okayama. They make some really delicious sake. So I’m not surprised that they’re there. One cup is delicious as well. I had this sake a long time ago, so long ago. I actually don’t remember any tasting notes about it, but I’m happy to hear and reminisce with you a little bit about this cup and the label design is just so amazing. It, I’m sure it draws a lot of attraction to this cup. Don’t you think?
John Puma: 15:57
I think that’s the goal. I think I said design and to me it looks like it’s going to do it. it caught my eye and I’m somebody who’s around sake all the time. So yeah, this is really, you know, I think this is eye-catching and really nice. I’ve also seen this sake In other States in places that you would very much not expect to see sake This is the lone sake available at a, uh, at a Barcade. I was, in Kentucky at the beginning of this year.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:28
John Puma: 16:30
Barcade, it’s an arcade that has a bar because all the people who grew up going to arcades are now my age. So. So they set up these arcades with like old school, like the arcade games that, that people like me grew up with. And then they put a bar on the front and they’re off to the races. There you go.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:48
John Puma: 16:50
And this one sake was the only sake on there, available at this place in Kentucky, which you wouldn’t expect to see Tim, I don’t want to, I don’t want to stereotype anything, but Kentucky, not a hotbed for sake drinkers.
Timothy Sullivan: 17:07
Well, um, You know what I’m picturing in my mind, th the places that also have the hatchet throwing, have you
John Puma: 17:16
Oh yeah, there there’s one of those, across the street from this barcade,
Timothy Sullivan: 17:22
Okay. All right. Now I know exactly what you’re talking about. the owners of this Barcade obviously have excellent taste in sake and they, they saw something that matched with their brand. And I bet, I bet they sell a lot of it.
John Puma: 17:39
they sold at least one cup when I was there. So, enough about this wonderful cup. Let’s talk about your bottle.
Timothy Sullivan: 17:46
All right. So again, I have the Enter Sake Harukasumi Junmai ginjo and many of the Enter Sake labels have a circle design logo, and there’s different colors and foils on the circles. And this is a silver one. So let’s look at some of the stats for this sake the bottle here says 50% rice polishing and the rice strain is unique. It’s Misato nishiki Yes, this is I think, exclusive to Akita prefecture. I read it’s a hybrid of the Yamada Nishiki rice strain and the Miyama Nishiki rice strain. And they were looking for. A type of rice that would grow well in the snowy interior of Akita prefecture. And Misato is actually the name of the region. So, it’s a region name in Akita. And this brewery is located in the Misato region as well. So they’re using this rice to promote their region and it is going to be interesting to taste. Now, the brewery is called Kuribayashi, established 1874. And they’re well known for having an what’s called an ippon Kuda. Have you ever heard that
John Puma: 19:16
No, no. So what does an Ippon Kura? I mean, Kura, is a brewery and Ippon is, is what exactly?
Timothy Sullivan: 19:26
Well, it w when you say Ippon, it means like one long thing,
John Puma: 19:32
Oh one yeah. Long, long, skinny. Yeah. Like a pole
Timothy Sullivan: 19:36
Yeah. So if you say ippon, it could refer to a bottle, like a tall long skinny thing, but what it is, it’s like a railroad apartment. So it goes straight back a hundred meters and it goes from room to room to room. So it’s like, have you ever heard of like a shotgun style building?
John Puma: 19:54
This is fascinating. please continue.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:56
Yeah. So, so it is one room after the next going straight back. And it’s a unique, brewery building style calledippon kura. So they’re well known for having that brewery style. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to go ahead and open this, Harukasumi. Okay. Let’s give it a smell. Ooh. It smells floral. Yeah. Lovely. So Enter Sake has several different brands. As you mentioned before that they work with. And I actually picked this one because it is one of the brands that I’m less familiar with. So I really wanted to try the harukasumii the aroma is very floral and perfumy. Mm.
John Puma: 20:54
That’s that’s speaking in my language that floral perfumey.
Timothy Sullivan: 20:58
let’s give it a taste. So it’s interesting. It, it has a bit of weight on the palate and it has a bit of richness to it too, really unique and again, it has, a weightiness. So, it’s, I would describe this as almost like a richer style. So, the aroma is, very perfumed and floral and very nice, but not. Something that I would describe as light and fleeting. So it’s a little bit more rich in the aromatics and the body has a little bit of weight to it as well. And the finish lingers a little bit. So that’s really interesting. You get that little bit of lingering on the finish and, uh, overall very delicious. Very elegant, 50% rice milling, yeah, so really delicious. Really good. Now, John, have you had other of the Enter Sake brand other from
John Puma: 22:01
breweries I’m a, I’m an inter sakefan boy.
Timothy Sullivan: 22:05
Let’s hear it.
John Puma: 22:07
note uh, that, I was not a Richie Hawtin, fan boy. I’m not a, I wasn’t a big, techno guy. I went through a phase, but it never really got that into it. and, um, I was always a big fan of the kid, Brand of sake. And we talked about this a little bit at the, uh, earlier in the show that Enter Sake brought the, the Heiwa Brand over. before. Kid was available in the West. This Heiwa Enter Sake was here. And so it was like my secret way to get kid sake in New York. And it was a lot of fun. Also, you know, a lot of their stuff was just really great. I was I was a big fan of the next five bottle that they, they had gotten over here. It was very different, very, very funky, Very much not my typical style of sake but something about it really spoke to me. And I was really excited about getting, this unusual sake here.
Timothy Sullivan: 23:00
So this is something we haven’t done before, but I thought it might be fun if I read the official tasting note on the sake I’m trying. Yeah. So this is what the brand is saying about this, Harukasumi. They say lively on the palate with fresh notes of Apple starfruit and Melon. The sake has a gentle acidity and tartness that makes it perfect companion for food.
John Puma: 23:27
Yeah. And what are your
Timothy Sullivan: 23:28
note. Yeah. I, I agree with that. I think that, there is some acidity there and there’s a tart aspect to it. For sure. I’m getting a little bit more floral notes on the aroma, but there is some fruitiness as well. I haven’t had starfruit in a long time. How about you, John?
John Puma: 23:47
So I was about to ask you what starfruit was.
Timothy Sullivan: 23:50
It’s a green waxy fruit that is literally shaped like a star. And when you slice it, check the show notes, everyone, what, when you slice it, you get these very, it’s a little bit like a Kiwi inside, I think, but it’s uh, yeah. It’s not common anyway, Apple and melon, we know. And, yeah, so, I think that what I would say is that, there’s kind of a layered richness to this sake as well, that, clings to the palate. It makes it more weighty, more presence, and it’s not a shy. 50% milled sake It’s got some, some weight to it. And I think that, in my view of what Akita sake are all about, they have a little bit more structure, a little bit more body to them. And you know, I’m a Niigata fan boy all about my light, my light clean and crisp. And this is from a different region. and It has a nice weight to it. Nice body. And it’s not, I wouldn’t call it a high acid sake at all, but I do get what they’re, they’re saying with a little bit of that acidity going on.
John Puma: 25:06
Um, well, uh, I’m gonna, I’m gonna follow up, on this new thing that you’re trying and I’m going to do the same thing. So the history notes on mine are actually a little bit brief, They say light and fresh, which I can. This is, this is for what it is. It’s actually pretty light, um, notes of juicy green, grape and watermelon. All right. I don’t, I didn’t necessarily get the watermelon. Uh, and I thought that the green grape was maybe more, how shall we say gentle wafting green, grape from the other room?
Timothy Sullivan: 25:42
John Puma: 25:43
as it’s warming up, it’s actually getting a little bit more bold and the sweetness is coming through more. Which is really nice. It’s really interesting. I, I, in fact, maybe, maybe having this as chilled as I did, when I first opened it up, might’ve been a mistake. This might be something you want to let sit for a little bit. They also say that you can have this warmed, which I totally believe maybe I’ll maybe I’ll do that. Uh, after the episode’s over, and they say that it’s great with bar snacks, which I can totally see this. This is, um, can Barcade snacks perhaps. Yes. Um, yeah, I mean, it, they, they list a lot of like salty snacks, like potato chips and, uh, salted nuts, things like that. And I’m like, um, yeah, like, yeah, that makes perfect sense to me sipping this, that I kind of starting to crave salty snacks more, more so than I usually do. What about you? What are you gonna, what are you gonna pair that with? That seems like there’s a lot of possibilities with yours.
Timothy Sullivan: 26:47
Yeah. You know, I didn’t talk about how sweet or dry it is, for me, it is not reading as a super dry sake so I’m getting more medium characteristics as far as balance between sweetness and dryness here. So because of that, um, I think that I would prefer to have this. I mean things that are popping to my mind, to pair with what I have in the glasses are more like, I think a Caesar salad would be really good. Caesar salad has that brightness from the lettuce, but you have this richer coat dressing on it. And a little bit of umami from the, um, sardines that are in there. And, I think something that would pair really, really well with this, cause there’s a vein of richness running through this sake.
John Puma: 27:38
Timothy Sullivan: 27:39
Yeah. So Caesar salads, what I would go for?
John Puma: 27:42
Uh, is it bad that I’m already missing the day that we were able to pass off to each other across the table? That was nice.
Timothy Sullivan: 27:50
that was nice. Yes. We’re back. We’re back to our zoom quarantine life here. So we’ve tasted two really interesting rebranded sakes today, John and I really want to encourage our listeners to go out and find them. And again, three brands you can look for. One is Joto which you had today, uh, Enter Sake which I had today and also heaven sake is another really good one. You can try.
John Puma: 28:16
I have not yet tried the heaven sake, I need to do this.
Timothy Sullivan: 28:20
Yeah, it’s really interesting. And again, um, I think it’s worth. Seeking them out because they’re trying to bring brands that they’re passionate about to groups of people who may not otherwise come across the sake. So whether it’s a unique label or whether it’s connected to a celebrity or whether it’s unique bottle shape, or graffiti artists doing the label, something different is going to call attention to sake and I’m all for that. So I really want to support these brands and make sure that people can find them and, you know, Try something new and interesting.
John Puma: 28:56
sounds good to me.
Timothy Sullivan: 28:57
Yeah. All right. Well, yeah, cheers to that. So, I want to thank all of our listeners so much for tuning in. We really do hope that you’re enjoying our show. And if you’d like to support sake revolution, one way you can really help us out would be to take a couple of minutes and leave us a written review on Apple podcasts. It’s one of the best ways for us to get the word out about our show.
John Puma: 29:21
And please be sure to subscribe wherever you download your podcasts. This saves you the trouble of needing to. Remember to download our podcasts as it will be magically whisked into your device of choice every week, when we put a new episode out,
Timothy Sullivan: 29:35
and just always to learn more about any of the topics or any of the sakes we talked about in today’s episode, be sure to visit our website, sakerevolution.com for all the detailed show notes.
John Puma: 29:47
and if you have a sake question that you need answered, we want to hear from you reach out to us over here at [email protected] So till next time, please remember to keep drinking sake and kanpai!!.