Episode 44 Show Notes
Season 1. Episode 44. Last week was an exploration of bargain brews, so this week it only seems natural to dip our toes into the world of “bougie brews” – and by that we mean sakes that cost over $80 per bottle. Now this is an area that is reserved usually for special occasion or holiday sake. But for us this week, we are discussing the virtues of paying more for that premium sake experience.
We think it goes without saying that sakes of all prices can be absolutely delicious, but when you get into the realm of the ultra-premium sakes, can you taste a little something… different? One area where these spendy sips seem to shine is in their texture/mouthfeel. Extraordinarily silky and velvety textures are the norm at this price point. It’s one trick that the cheaper sakes just can’t pull off. So let’s explore the joys of expensive sake and answer the question – is it worth it?!
Skip to: 00:37
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy
Otokoyama Junmai Daiginjo
Brewery: Otokoyama Brewery
Classification: Junmai Daiginjo
Dewazakura Junmai Daiginjo Genshu
TYPE: Junmai Daiginjo
RICE MILLING: 45%
This is it! Join us next time for another episode of Sake Revolution!
Episode 44 Transcript
Timothy Sullivan: 0:03
Let me ask you this. We’ve we’ve been talking about these affordable, but yummy sakes. What are your thoughts on treating yourself to a really expensive sake and by that, I mean, $80 or more.
John Puma: 0:37
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 the administrator over at the internet sake discord. The guy on the show who is not a sake samurai, I’m just the, uh, you know, bougie sake nerd like the rest of you.
Timothy Sullivan: 0:57
and I am your host, Timothy Sullivan. I am a sake samurai. I’m also a sake educator as well as the founder of the Urban Sake website. And every week, 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: 1:14
uh, that is. Absolutely right, Tim. Now this is sort of a, the second part of a two parter in a way. So last week we tasted and found some inexpensive sakes. We challenged ourselves to find the, the, some very tasty, low price sakes. We were aiming for, uh, as close to $20 or below as we can get. You actually found a $19 bottle of sake that you had a wonderful time with. And I found a $22 dollar bottle of sake. That is something I kind of had in my back pocket for just such an episode coming down the line eventually. But this week we’re going in the exact opposite direction.
Timothy Sullivan: 1:57
we couldn’t help, but ask ourselves if we’re enjoying these bargain brews. What’s the other side of the coin. What if we spent more money and went a little more luxury? would we get more enjoyment out of it? So our task this week was to find a bougie brew, a sake that is more expensive and our target was $80 or over
John Puma: 2:25
but not going into it. Like the two, three, four plus a hundred dollars bottles that are, that we know are out. Yeah.
Timothy Sullivan: 2:31
there are some out there.
John Puma: 2:33
But we want it to keep it a little bit constrained because at the end of the day, we buy our own sake for the show
Timothy Sullivan: 2:39
Yes, we do. Yeah. And I think that, spending 80 to a hundred plus is reasonable for a special occasion sake don’t you think?
John Puma: 2:50
special occasion. So the super bowl, I guess, right, is that patient
Timothy Sullivan: 2:59
Or, or a start of a new year year Or someone’s birthday is this month.
John Puma: 3:05
Timothy Sullivan: 3:07
I have to ask you right away. So how much did you end up spending on your bougie sake?
John Puma: 3:12
uh, my bougie sake came in at $110. I went with one of my favorites. Breweries and I’ve actually never had this from them before. So, uh, this is the, yeah. So I’ve heard along the Dewazakura Junmai DaiGinjo Genshu, um, in the U S they call this the captain’s table. I do not know exactly why they call it the captain’s table. Maybe we can reach out to somebody over there and get an answer on that at some point. And we’ll put it in the show notes. Um, but yeah, this, uh, this is a little unusual because it’s at that super premium price point junmai Daiginjo, but a genshu. So a little bit different, a little bit, a little bit unusual. And again, this is, I think it’s probably the only product they sell in the U S that I haven’t tried yet. And this was the perfect excuse for me to, have to have some sips of it and perhaps an entire bottle at some point. Uh, what about you, Tim? What did you, uh, bring along.
Timothy Sullivan: 4:15
Well found a sake that is clocking in at $138. So that’s, that’s on the high end for a sake It really is, but I was able to pick up Otokoyama, Junmai Daiginjo. This is a sake that’s been produced for. About 50 years. So it’s got a long history and it is an award-winning sake it’s from Hokkaido and from the OtokoYama brewery. That means man’s mountain.
John Puma: 4:50
Yeah. Um, Otokoyama kind of known for making dryer stuff. So it was be interesting to see how this, how this pans out and what we got out of this one.
Timothy Sullivan: 5:01
Now when you think ultra premium. sake John, what do you think of like, what’s your quintessential ultra premium sake for $100 or more? What’s your expectation?
John Puma: 5:12
my thought immediately goes to we’re going to see some weird milling percentages. Like you’re going to see things that are kind of low. Um, another thing that I thought of, and this was something that I had considered after last week’s episode is is that not all rice is created equal. so last week, my Tatsumigura was a 50% milled Gohyakumangoku, but it was still a bottle of sake that was only costing me $22. How can this be? Uh, and there are, you know, there’s more than one grade of rice field. And so for these. More premium, uh, rice fields. You may pay more for it or you will pay more for it. So I’m in my head. Maybe I’m thinking that for this Tatsumigura they got some, maybe lower grade gohyakumangoku and milled it down to 50% to kind of offset it. And boom, you’ve got this really reasonably priced. Very, very delicious sake. again, that’s, that’s my thought. I’m trying to try to piece together. What could have possibly happened to bring the price down so low? what do we know about, about the grades of these rice fields?
Timothy Sullivan: 6:28
yeah, that’s a really good question. so first of all, It must be graded. And what they do is they look at a thousand grains and they check how many of those grains are cracked. How many of the grains are malformed or green, not fully grown. And then they can assign a grade to that batch of sake rice. And as a brewer, you can buy, go Yakima, Goku, or Yamada. Nishiki at different grades. And for premium sake there’s three major grades. So you can think of it as top class middle-class and entry-level class for three different grades of premium sake rice.
John Puma: 7:05
and I imagine that you’re very super premium. Daiginjos like we’re going to be tasting today. Uh, almost certainly are using those, those very high-end, uh, rice fields.
Timothy Sullivan: 7:19
yeah the big kahuna is Yamadanishiki that is grown in. Hyogo prefecture. Hyogo. Is the Homebase. Ground zero for the most expensive sake rice you can buy. So chances are when I think of premium sake I’m thinking of a brewery that’s going to be using wherever they are in Japan. I mean, my brewery is, is for today is in Hokkaido, which is in the far, far North. And I happen to know that this Otokoyama Junmai Daiginjo, that I’m tasting today uses a hundred percent, top grade Yamada nishiki from Hyogo
John Puma: 8:00
I actually looked up, uh let me rephrase that. Actually try to look up the source of the rice for mine, both on the English and Japanese sites for dewazakura and their importer. But unfortunately I was not able to track down the, uh, The origin of the, of the rice that’s used here found a whole lot of awards though. We’ll get into that a little bit. When I started tasting though.
Timothy Sullivan: 8:27
Right. Well, I think that when people do get their hands on a super, super expensive, Junmai daiginjo. I know that for me, my expectations have been a little bit too high in the past. Has that ever happened to you?
John Puma: 8:46
uh, I probably because you want to. Justify that cost. So you’re expecting it to be like, or the greatest thing that you’ve ever tasted. Uh, you know, I do expect one of the major factors to be, um, mouthfeel. No, I think it’s going to be, I always think of something really seen silky and luxurious on the, on the palate that just kind of lingers a little bit longer than a regular sake would. that’s that’s kind of the idea that I have going into this sort of thing.
Timothy Sullivan: 9:20
Um, yeah, I’ve had been in the sake business. I’ve had the good fortune of going to a lot of. Restaurants in Japan and special dinners and things like that. And sometimes I’ve been served a sake where I’ve been told, Oh, this is so exclusive. This is a sake that, you can only get once a year. They only make 20 bottles and it’s, $5,000 a bottle and we’re going to give you a taste and you taste it. And you’re like, you expect your life to change from that one sip. And you’re like, Oh, it tastes really good. But would I pay $5,000 a bottle? I don’t know if I could do that.
John Puma: 9:56
I have a story about this, or I’ve had a similar experience to this. I was in a, in a bar in, Tokyo one year I was on vacation and, uh, they had a very exclusive, very special sake that I, I thought I would never be able to taste again. And one glass of it was, uh, 6,300 yen, at the time was about $60. And I was like, I’m on vacation. I’m gonna live. However, you know, I’m gonna go for it. And I drank it and I was like, this is to date, the best sake I’ve ever had. It is also very much not worth $60 for this class that I’m drinking out of it. Like it was those two. Those two thoughts, at the same time, uh, you know, you might think that they’re conflicting, but they’re very complimentary and very much like, you know, you can have the best sake you’ve ever had and say, this is still way too much. For normal consumption.
Timothy Sullivan: 11:01
Yeah, well, I, I think it really boils down to wanting to have good experiences and sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more, have a great experience and have that special occasion. I’m all for that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It is also important to remember that compared to the wine world. Like, I don’t know if you’ve looked at a high end wine list in a, in an upscale restaurant recently, but there are bottles that go for $10,000 and up, and, they might laugh at $60 a glass as like nothing. So compared to the wine world, I think you get an incredible bargain when you get expensive sakes. Would you agree with that? Or am I
John Puma: 11:48
I don’t, well, I don’t dip into that part of the wine world too much because I, my appreciation for wine is not. What my appreciation for sake is. Um, but I’ve definitely, you know, in the before times I’ve definitely seen wine lists that were, uh, impressive with the number of digits that they can fit into a bottle price.
Timothy Sullivan: 12:08
Yes. Yeah. And there’s a market for that
John Puma: 12:12
Oh, I’m sure. I’ll say wouldn’t be on the menu. Like there I’ve been to places where there’s like sections of like, you know, multi thousand dollar bottles and I’m like, that’s great for somebody else. Um, what’s the house wine.
Timothy Sullivan: 12:27
you know, the market needs. Both extremes, they need affordable. sakes for people just getting started. They need middle of the road. sakes, and there’s a demand for specialized small batch, very expensive sakes as well. And I don’t think there’s any thing wrong. I don’t want to pass any judgment about sake at any level of the price range, but it’s really fun to taste the expensive ones.
John Puma: 12:55
Right. Or at least that that’s what we’re expecting in a few minutes.
Timothy Sullivan: 13:01
That’s what we’re expecting
John Puma: 13:03
so Tim let’s, uh, let’s open up that, that Hokkaido treat of yours
Timothy Sullivan: 13:07
yes, let’s go up North. Okay. So I’m drinking the. Otokoyama Junmai Daiginjo. This is from Otokoyama sake brewery in Hokkaido. The alcohol is 16%. Our rice milling rate, the amount that we Polish the rice down is 38% remaining. Our SMV is plus five and the acidity is 1.3. So this Junmai Daiginjo is going to be really interesting to taste.
John Puma: 13:36
Yeah. And at 38% is like it’s it’s in that super premium area. That’s nice.
Timothy Sullivan: 13:42
Yep. And again, our cost here was $138 U S. going to open this up. All right. And let’s pour this into the glass.
John Puma: 14:02
is that a box?
Timothy Sullivan: 14:03
is that a box? Oh, is it a box? Let me show you. And for those of you listening in, please check our show notes. SakeRevolution.com. So John, look at the box. This came in, this is a cloth covered. Display box. Very beautiful. It has chrysanthemum kind of like a silk fabric cover to it. And when you open it up, it’s got this red fabric lining and there’s a number of brochures in here as
John Puma: 14:33
That is luxurious. Tim
Timothy Sullivan: 14:35
Yes. It’s got a list of all the awards. It’s one from 1977, up until 2019. And there’s a history of brewery here, all in Japanese, got some woodblock prints in there. And this looks like a formal letter, Japanese style letter, which I believe says thank you for buying this sake signed Otokoyama brewery. Well, I’ve got this in the glass. It looks very lovely and silky in the glass. I’m using a nice wine glass so I can appreciate all the different color and sparkle of this sake Let’s give it a smell. All right. Interesting. I have to be honest with you. I was expecting this to be a super fruity extravaganza, but, the aromas I’m getting are actually more floral. Like I’m getting some lilac, maybe some white flower a little bit of fruitiness, but it’s really restrained. So it’s like kind of a floral bouquet type of smell, really lovely and not common in sake at all. so let me give this a taste. Hmm. Okay. No doubt about it. This ultra premium sake is very silky smooth. Again, not a fruit bomb, not a fruit explosion. The finish actually lingers quite a bit, but it’s a drier finish. So it’s, we’re not getting the sweetness and that richness. So I think this is a very unique ultra premium sake And it’s important to remember that this one its first award in 1977. Yes.
John Puma: 16:24
Look, what kind of sake awards are we doing in 1977.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:27
well, there’s this, uh, comp not a competition, but there’s this organization called the Mond selection, M-O-N-D Mond selection. And you can submit products and wines and foods and beverages to this organization and they will judge quality and they won a gold prize in 1977 was actually the first sake to ever be awarded at this Mon selection.
John Puma: 16:51
Oh, that sounds interesting. That sounds, that sounds bougie. That sounds appropriate. That’s on brand for what we’re doing today
Timothy Sullivan: 16:57
So this has been around since 1977.
John Puma: 17:00
at the least.
Timothy Sullivan: 17:02
at least yes, I would imagine that this is not the modern style of. Ultra premium sake. This is more of a traditional drier style. And it’s absolutely delicious, but I have to be honest, I was prejudice thinking if you spend. Over a hundred dollars over $130 on a sake They’re going to hand you that fruit salad in the face. Boom. You know, like it’s just going to be overtly, fruity, super velvety, super rich, that kind of like classic idea of what a super premium sake is all about. But this, this kind of tricked me a little bit. It’s very lovely, light balanced, but the finish is drier than I expected. I have to be honest. Really nice though, and really engaging aroma, but it’s, it’s delicate. It’s delicate for sure.
John Puma: 17:57
Nice. Very interesting. Very cool.
Timothy Sullivan: 18:00
Well, that’s a little bit about my man’s mountain. My Otoko Yama over to you, John. I am so curious about this Dewazakura
John Puma: 18:10
this is the Dewazakura Junmai Daiginjo Genshu captain’s table. It’s using the Yamadanishiki milled down to 45%. So not too low. Uh, the alcohol percentage is 17%. As I mentioned this as Genshu, uh, acidity is 1.3 and the sake meter value is plus four. bear with me a moment. We’ve got a bit of a ribbon to untie here. Um, I don’t have a fancy box, but I do have a nice fancy ribbon,
Timothy Sullivan: 18:43
Is that a gold tassel? I
John Puma: 18:45
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the tassel and then a paper cover over the cap and I opened that up and, um, right away. I’m getting that fruit bomb.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:02
all right. We have fruit bomb, ladies and gentlemen
John Puma: 19:05
So yeah, the, the bottle isn’t particularly close to my nose, but I can still detect the aroma from, uh, from here. And I remember we talked about aroma on the show a while back, and that was one that’s. One of the things is how far back can you be? And still get that aroma? The answer here is very. and it’s lovely. it’s that ripe fruit aroma that you expect from, from a nice sake like this and in, in Dewazakura fashion, it favors cherry a little bit, yeah. So, you know, as mentioned and now kind of bringing my nose closer to the class, it definitely has that going on in spades. There is a little bit of a tiny bit alcohol on the nose also, but that’s not too surprising because we are dealing with a 17% Genshu. You you’ve got a very unusual, but it’s really balanced out by the fruitiness of the aroma. So the taste is definitely fruity. It’s not as bomb as, uh, as some other ones I’ve had, it’s not as overt.
Timothy Sullivan: 20:07
John Puma: 20:08
the taste is actually a little bit lighter than I was expecting. balanced out Out nicely with the fruit and then has an, a bit of a, a little bit of a bite on the finish. Yeah. But the rock star here is the texture.
Timothy Sullivan: 20:28
John Puma: 20:30
so. Silky smooth through, through all of it. again, it is light. It is fruity. It is, has a little bit of a, almost a richness that, that that’s in the finish. That’s that, that bite I was mentioning and. It you know lingers longer than,, uh, but it doesn’t overstay. Its welcome it’s again. That is also really nicely balanced. It all feels very purposeful. Like they constructed this flavor as tasting experience and I mean it’s, this is, this is very nice, this feels like experiencial. This feels very, purposeful, uh, like there was a beginning and middle and end that they had in mind, this is sipping sake This is not, I don’t think I would put this in front of food. especially not at the price point. Let me just very, very nice. I don’t think I mentioned though this is actually, uh aged also at I believe, um, minus five degrees centigrade for about a year. So that’s going to bring some, you know, a little more little mellowness to it also. It’s probably why it’s not as overtly, fruity as a lot of their other stuff. This is very nice. And speaking of awards this sake won, the 2019 Kura master platinum.
Timothy Sullivan: 21:46
Yeah. The interesting thing about Kura master is that it’s French sommeliers who judge. Yeah. They’re all French sommeliers. so who judge. The sakes as if they’re wines. So it’s a, it’s a different type of competition.
John Puma: 22:04
Timothy Sullivan: 22:05
So John, let me ask you this, this is just something that popped into my head. I was just thinking what. Do you think your reaction would be if you had one of these ultra premium $100, plus sakes as your first sake
John Puma: 22:25
all right. Um, the question, do I know the cost?
Timothy Sullivan: 22:31
No. And you’re not paying for it. Someone just slides a glass across the bar and says, try this. And here you’re being treated. And this is the first sake you ever have? Something like what we’re drinking today? What do you think your reaction?
John Puma: 22:45
Well, um, it probably would have accelerated my entry into sake nerdom, uh, for sure, the first sake I ever had was hakatsuru draft, which is a very much on the other end of the spectrum. Uh, I believe that’s a futsushu and I wonder if it would have discouraged me. Because it’s because I eventually would have found out how much this is. And in my head I might get like an anchor pricing. Cause this would be an anchor taste, right. It was telling me like, this is what sake is, was taste like. And then I go, okay, this is what sake is supposed to taste like what sake is supposed to cost $110. Hmm, maybe this isn’t the hobby for me. That might’ve been something that came out of that, but it’s hard. It’s so hard to know what would happen if you went back. Well, what about you?
Timothy Sullivan: 23:37
I think that my experience back then, if I had had a sake like this. I would have compared it immediately to wine, it has that little bit of fruitiness. It has that texture. It has that longer finish. I think my brain would have tried to compute what I was tasting and it would have said, Oh, this is like a wine. And I don’t think I would have been as. Blown away by it. The first sake I did end up having was a dry, clean, smooth sake And what caught my attention, I remember very distinctly is that my brain didn’t know where to go with it. It was a taste I had never had before. And I was like, Oh, it does not compute what’s going on. This is amazing. And that really grabbed my attention. So I’m kind of glad I didn’t have a super ultra premium. Fruit bomb sake as my first
John Puma: 24:35
Hmm. So yeah, yours does have that wine light quality, which I could imagine you gravitating towards comparing it to wine. Uh, for me, this, this fruitiness is something that is unique to sake and th th in the manner that it appears in, in, in, in high fruit sakes So I don’t know if I, I obviously wouldn’t have made that, that wine connection. I might have just been sad that something that’s delicious is so expensive.
Timothy Sullivan: 25:05
Does it set you up for disappointment for the rest of your life? If nothing measures up to
John Puma: 25:09
that would be, that would have been really unfortunate, but it’s entirely possible also that I would have been, it would have led me to trying to find affordable. sake that can give, that can deliver an experience like that. and you know, while you can’t, I don’t think you can quite get to this, uh, flavor at that lower price point. Uh, it definitely would’ve, would’ve been a challenge might’ve been up for trying to do, but, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know if you have this thing, if you have this amazing sake game and every other sake he is going to be trying to chase that. Is that, is that a bad thing? Does that, is that discouraging or is that encouraging? What kind of effect does that have on somebody? We need to find somebody who’s never had sake before and do that. Just give them do an experiment where we have one person futsushu and the other person, uh, like super premium, Daiginjo, and see what, and just send them out into the world and see what happens.
Timothy Sullivan: 26:05
Something just popped into my mind. I’ve had that same sake many times The first sake that I ever had, I’ve had it many times and it, it never is exactly the same because your location is different. Your mood is different. What you’re eating is different. You just, if you have a great first sake experience, I think it’s really hard to recapture that moment. No matter what you’re drinking, you know?
John Puma: 26:30
Timothy Sullivan: 26:33
Let me ask you this. what do you think about. The cost of these sakes, are they worth it compared to the bargain brews that we had last week? What’s your thought on the cost
John Puma: 26:45
Oh, Tim. All right. So this is, this is really, this is the $110 question.
Timothy Sullivan: 26:52
or the $138 question?
John Puma: 26:54
question. Um, I could buy five bottles of Tatsumigura. For the cost of this sake and this sake is wonderful. It is, uh, I, it’s hard for me to express, uh, that is special. It is a different, unique experience. Is it worth 500% more than this sake that. I tasted last week, that was light, delicious, easy drinking on paper, all the things I want in a sake Okay. Ah, probably, probably not. I’d say it’s probably not worth five bottles of, of something else. that’s really delicious. Now these are extremes, right? We’re dealing with something that was very inexpensive versus something that is very expensive. And in my life, I tend to try to find the happy middle ground. I try to find the balance between price. And, and for lack of a better term performance. And I think that this, this dewazakura it’s wonderful, amazing sake for a very high price point. You get diminishing returns. At a certain point. And I, and I don’t know if I’m the kind of person that’s going to be like, Oh, I need to, I need to spend $110 every time I want to have the experience, I might try to find something I’m definitely going to try find something lower. Um, I try to find something somewhere in the middle.
Timothy Sullivan: 28:20
Yeah, I think we can both agree though, that for a special occasion, this is a really compared to wine. This is a tremendous value. At at fine dining restaurants in Manhattan, you can without batting an eye, you can spend $500 on a bottle of wine. No. Yeah. And. Uh, I think that for 20% of that cost spending a hundred dollars instead on a bottle of sake like you or I have today, that is a tremendous value compared to where the wine world can go, as far as cost is concerned. So if you look at it that way, we’re both getting the super
John Puma: 29:03
Yeah, it’s not so bad.
Timothy Sullivan: 29:04
So I think we can both say that expensive sakes tastes pretty darn good as a rule. Don’t you think?
John Puma: 29:13
Yes. That’s. I love that our takeaways. Hey, expensive. sakes are delicious. They’re wonderful.
Timothy Sullivan: 29:21
Well, for a special occasion, I think it’s really worth it. You don’t have to drink. sakes like this every day. But to have a special experience, if it brings value to your dinner, to your time with friends and you take the time to really savor an expensive sake with people you care about really enjoy the experience. I think it’s absolutely worth it.
John Puma: 29:46
I think on occasion. I think you’re absolutely right. I think, uh, I can’t let this become too much of a habit because it’s an expensive habit. Uh, but a delicious one to be sure.
Timothy Sullivan: 30:00
Well, it was fun. It was pricey. It was fun.
John Puma: 30:04
Definitely both of those things.
Timothy Sullivan: 30:07
I want to thank our listeners so much for tuning in. We really do hope that you’re enjoying our show. Now, if you’d like to show your support for 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: 30:25
And also make sure that you please tell your friends about our show, uh, get them to subscribe on their podcast platform of choice. Make sure you subscribe on your podcast platform of choice, but I know you already do. Uh, and this way, every episode that we do every week will magically show up on your device of choice. Cause we don’t want you missing a single episode.
Timothy Sullivan: 30:47
And as always, if you’d like 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: 30:58
If you have a sake question that you need answered, we want to hear from you reach out to us. The email address is feedback at sakerevolution.com. So until next time. Please remember to keep drinking all that bougie, sake kanpai