Episode 41 Show Notes
Season 1. Episode 41. The word “futsu” in Japanese means regular or ordinary. In the sake industry, Futsushu is the word we use to refer to NON-premium sake. That is regular, ordinary or what some might call “table” sake. However, Futsushu is not one size fits all. What makes ordinary sake ordinary? Often it comes down to the rules and regulations for how premium sake is defined in Japan. With the exception of distilled alcohol, no additives are allowed in premium sake. Rules for so-called regular sake are not as strict – we are talking about the additions of acids, sugar or flavorings – none of these make the cut for premium sake. There are however some sakes that qualify for premium grades that are sold as table sake. So, once size does not fit all when it comes to the extraordinary world of regular sake!
Skip to: 00:19
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy
Kirinzan Classic Futsushu
Brewery: Kirinzan Shuzo
Rice Type: Gohyakumangoku, Koshiibuki
Brand: Kirinzan (麒麟山)
Tozai Typhoon Futsushu
Brewery: Kizakura Brewery
Sake Name English: Typhoon
This is it! Join us next time for another episode of Sake Revolution!
Episode 41 Transcript
John Puma: 0:22
Hello everybody. And welcome to Sake Revolution. This is America’s first sake podcast. And I’m your host, John Puma from the Sake Notes. Also the administrator over at the internet sake discord and our lead admin over at Reddit’s it’s r/sake community.
Timothy Sullivan: 0:39
And I am your host, Timothy Sullivan. I am a sake samurai. I’m 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: 0:57
that, is right Tim. And, uh, as we do this every single week, what do we have in store for our listeners this week?
Timothy Sullivan: 1:07
I think everyone can agree. It’s been a little bit of a involved, uh, crazy time, so much going on in the world. No doubt about that. You know, it makes me long for things that are just easy and regular, you know what I mean?
John Puma: 1:24
I think I know what you mean. We, we do long, for normalcy.
Timothy Sullivan: 1:28
Yes. Yeah. And when in the world of sake there’s things that are super fancy and out there and complicated, but then there’s also things that are super simple and basic as well.
John Puma: 1:42
So does that mean that we’re going to be talking about the one major sake category that I don’t think we’ve really dove in on
Timothy Sullivan: 1:50
That’s right. We’re going to be talking about regular sake And by that, I mean, non-premium sake is what we’re going to tackle today.
John Puma: 2:01
Hm, would this be the, the, the, uh, the futsushu,
Timothy Sullivan: 2:05
John Puma: 2:09
for a moment that I didn’t pronounce that. Right. But I’m glad I got
Timothy Sullivan: 2:12
You got it. Let’s break that down a little bit. So first, the first part of futsushu is Futsu Futsu. So futsu in Japanese means regular or ordinary. So it’s just regular every day sake And then shu is the ending. That means sake So. futsushu literally translated means regular sake or ordinary sake.
John Puma: 2:41
Oh, wow. So it literally, wow. All right. It literally does mean, okay. Um,
Timothy Sullivan: 2:48
Yeah. The definition of futsushu, according to the law is a little different from premium sake So there’s a few things that differentiate futsushu or this. Regular sake. And you know, some people might even refer to this as table sake I’m sure John you’ve heard of table wine before, right? Yeah. It was just like everyday drinking wine, not fancy, not expensive, not premium might come in a box might come in a bag, you know, just to.
John Puma: 3:21
Uh, Oh, so, this is the sake equivalent of boxed wine. Is that what you’re telling me?
Timothy Sullivan: 3:25
It can be, it’s important to, it’s important to understand that even among futsu-shu or ordinary non-premium sake there’s a range of quality levels. So there are some that really tastes good. You can’t put them all in one basket, basically. Yeah.
John Puma: 3:45
So if I’m remembering correctly, when we were talking about junmai, there was no polishing ratio requirement. So everything, that is pure rice sake is inherently not futsushu. Is that right then?
Timothy Sullivan: 4:00
that’s right. So if you do not add distilled alcohol to your sake Then you can sell it as a junmai category, sake regardless of the milling rate. So one thing that defines what futsushu is, is the fact that it does have distilled alcohol added. So they’re all fortified with distilled alcohol. So it’s the alcohol added style also known as arutenshu and. The one major difference between Futsushu, ordinary sake, and premium grades of sake Is that the rules and regulations about additives is different. So with, yeah, so with, with premium alcohol added sake you can add distilled alcohol to the mash, but there’s a limit to how much you can add.
John Puma: 4:56
All right. And, uh, do we know what that limit is?
Timothy Sullivan: 4:58
Yes, we’re getting, and in the weeds here, the glow
John Puma: 5:02
All right. All right. All
Timothy Sullivan: 5:04
tip. The limit is 10% of the weight of the rice used to make the mash. So you imagine all the rice that’s used to make the batch of sake and you weigh it and you take 10% of that. And the weight of the added alcohol can be up to that weight. So. Normally you think of putting in the added alcohol in a liquid volume, but they do it by weight actually. So the 10% of the weight of the rice used is the upper limit of what you can add for premium sake and for alcohol added sake that is usually not that high for the premium category. So most, most breweries don’t add the actual upper limit of what they can, but for the futsushu or table sake the bets are kind of off when it comes to, you know, those more. Restrained levels of fortification or adding alcohol. And the other thing is that you can add sugars. You can add acids, you can add other additives flavorings.
John Puma: 6:06
Oh, so, so if I added, like a lychie sort of syrup, then that would make it futushu sort of, and it would cause it’s no longer, it’s no longer premium sake It’s all of our premium Nihonshu is now got something else in it. So it’s that other category and this is that other category.
Timothy Sullivan: 6:21
John Puma: 6:22
All right. Okay.
Timothy Sullivan: 6:24
And the milling rate also comes into play here because to qualify for honjozo, which is the first level of alcohol added premium, you have to be 70% or less remaining. So if I mill the rice to let’s say 75% remaining. I don’t qualify for honjozo So I have to sell it in the futsushu category. So there is when you get to the alcohol added side of the spectrum, there is that cutoff for rice milling. So 70% or less gets you into the premium leagues. And, if your rice grain is more robust than 70% remaining, then you are forced into the table. sake Category,
John Puma: 7:06
All right. All right. That’s okay. Yeah, I always, I always thought it was really interesting that the, that the aruten side has a somewhat different rules to follow than the junmai side. But given the, uh, the wildcard nature of adding the alcohol, like how much are you adding and what, what’s the nature of this alcohol? Uh, I guess that really does open up a lot of, a lot of. Possibility for variants. And therefore they’ve got to lock that down a little bit more than they do on the junmai side where it’s just like rice milling and we’re off to the races.
Timothy Sullivan: 7:40
well, one interesting point is that. Previously junmai and honjozo used to line up with 70% or less remaining, but they changed the law a few years back to make junmai any milling rate. So the chart used to line up very neatly, orderly,
John Puma: 8:02
Now you’ve got all these, all these brewers making amazing, junmai sake with 80% milled rice, and they had to change everything.
Timothy Sullivan: 8:09
Yes, everyone had to change their charts. Now I, I alluded to this a moment ago. There are some futsushu that are really good quality. And they have really respectable low milling rates. So you can’t say all futsushu is bad, horrible, avoided, like the plague, but there are some futsushu in Japan that are pretty rough around the edges. Have a lot of added alcohol, maybe some added acids and maybe some sugars and glucose and things like that. And they can be pretty rough, but there are some premium makers who make a really solid, delicious futsushu So you can’t write off the whole category. You’d have to evaluate them one by one.
John Puma: 8:59
I will, I’ll try my best. Not to, not to write off all futsushu. Now, if I’m not mistaken, uh, I’m on sake revolution and on sake revolution, we always tastes some of the sake we’re talking about. So we’ve got, some futsushu with us today to taste, Tim, please tell me that you got some of the, you got to some of the good stuff, right?
Timothy Sullivan: 9:21
Gosh, darn it. I hope so. I hope we got the good stuff. I brought a futsushu from a brand called tozai, and this is, yeah, this is kizakura brewery out of Kyoto. And they make a wide range of sakes a lot of premium sakes. And the one I brought today was their futsushu and the English name for this is called typhoon. And the rice milling rate here is 70% remaining and the alcohol is 14.9%. And honestly, that’s all the information I could find about this sake So they don’t have a lot. Listed online about the acidity and SMV and all that stuff. So we’re just, we’re going to have to taste it and judge for ourselves. But I brought this a tozai typhoon to taste as an example of futushu today. So John, why don’t you tell us what, uh, what you picked up in the futsushu category?
John Puma: 10:22
I have a sake from a prefecture, your very familiar with, uh, Niigata. And it is from a brewery called kirinzan shuzo and it is the kirinzan classic. Uh, and this is their, this is their futsushu They do also, this company also makes, some very, super premium and other premium sakes. I’m sure you’re familiar with them. I’ve had them a couple of times myself and. I was able to find some good information about this one though. It uses, gohyakumangoku and, uh, I’ve rice called up Koshi Ibuki, which I am not familiar with. And it’s milled down to 65%. So right there is you’re, you’re mentioning that some Futsushu does not have, a really unpolished rice all the time. This is an example of that 65%. If this were on the other side of the spectrum would easily qualify as a Junmai. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is under 70, this qualifies, as a honjozo by rice milling percentage alone. So there’s must be other things going on to, uh, to have it be represented as futsushu I imagine, unfortunately, those details, I don’t have. What else do we need to know about, uh, futsushu before we start tasting sake I know it’s out of character for me to delay the drinking, but, I was curious, I just want to make sure, that we got our sake education coroner requirements completely out of the way.
Timothy Sullivan: 11:47
Yeah, I think there’s a few considerations you can think of when you’re talking about futsushu So the futsushu that we’re going to get, if it’s made in Japan over here in the American market, this would be the top tier of the futsushu category. So those rough around the edges, highly fortified. Factory made futsushu that are really equivalent to box wine. Those. Don’t make economic sense to export because they can not be sold for a high price. And the cost of shipping them over here would be very high. So those don’t get export in much, but the futsushu that we do get in the U S market from Japan tends to be produced by these. High-end premium producers. And they usually like in both of our cases, mine’s milled to 70% versus milled to 65%. These could pass for premium sakes there’s different reasons they may sell it in the futsushu category, but we’re one thing to be aware of is we’re going to get the higher end of the futsushu spectrum here in the U S.
John Puma: 12:51
Mm. Okay. But if you’re in Japan, maybe all bets are off.
Timothy Sullivan: 12:57
Yes. Who knows what you’ll get,
John Puma: 12:59
All right. I will say that I’ve had some. lets say questionable, convenience store sake that fell into that category. And, uh, Tim, I didn’t love it. I didn’t love it.
Timothy Sullivan: 13:15
you have a type.
John Puma: 13:16
Yeah, I definitely do. This was outside of my bounds,
Timothy Sullivan: 13:20
yeah. The sakes that fill that area in the domestic us market are the domestically produced more inexpensive sakes So there’s, we don’t have the same rules and regulations as far as junmai honjozo., the regulations that they have in Japan do not really apply here. A lot of people use those classification names, but when you get right down to it, we’re not bound by the same laws and regulations. So I think if you imagine some of the sakes that are produced in the U S that are more mass market, really inexpensive, highly fortified. That’s the type of sake we’re talking about. When you talk about true table sake non-premium sake So you can get that style of sake here, but it tends not to be exported from Japan.
John Puma: 14:13
Sounds good. Well, on that note, I think it’s time for us to dive head first into the world of futsushu
Timothy Sullivan: 14:22
Yeah, well, I have a surprise for you, John. I was digging around the back of my fridge and I found a cup of Kirinzan classic. So I actually have the same sake as you, so we can taste one together on air, which is kind of rare for us.
John Puma: 14:42
Yeah, very rare. I kind of wished I used one of my empty one cup glasses Now for this, would have been a
Timothy Sullivan: 14:49
you, you got to talk about the label on this one.
John Puma: 14:53
So this is if I’m not mistaken, this brand underwent a relatively recent label change because I’ve seen their old labeling. It’s very. I want to say 19, it evokes like a 1960s, 1970s style. Um, whereas this new label is very modern. It’s got this, very artsy looking. What do you want to call us a, a Fox or something like that? Or a
Timothy Sullivan: 15:17
I think it’s a lion dog, a lion dog. It’s a
John Puma: 15:21
just like kirin the beer has the lion dog in their logo and kirinzan. Although, I think this will be a Mount, a Mount Kirin
Timothy Sullivan: 15:32
Mountain Mount kirin Yeah, but this is a mythical lion dog. Beautiful illustration on the label. Really
John Puma: 15:41
is a really, it’s very nice, very modern. I think it’s a cool looking like I would, if I saw this on the shelf, I’d probably give it a second look and, I would be tempted to try it. Branding is important. Branding is very important.
Timothy Sullivan: 15:56
So why don’t you go ahead and open up yours and get it in the glass and we’ll taste together?
John Puma: 16:00
Okay. So one thing I’m noticing as I’m pouring this is, it looks like I’m pouring water into my glass. It’s so, uh, so clear and, and light, in weight.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:20
Well, that would be very much like a Niigata thing. You know, they’re very light, clean and crisp water likes sake So that, that checks out.
John Puma: 16:31
um, on the nose. This is very minerally. Um, it’s honestly, it’s, it’s not a lot to smell here. I do get a bit of minerally. I get a little bit of the, I get the booze a little bit. It’s a little boozy on the nose. It’s a futsushu So I’m not shocked at that. Tim. This is pretty good.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:57
Yeah, it’s kind of clean. Light bodied.
John Puma: 17:04
Well balanced. Um, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s rice forward still, but it’s clean. It’s crisp. This should be, I should, I should really warm this up a little bit sometime
Timothy Sullivan: 17:17
I couldn’t agree with you more. I think there’s some riceyness going on here and it’s got. Overall really good balance on the lighter side, but I do get a hint of the ethanol too. So there’s a little hint of, alcohol aroma, a little bit of alcohol taste. So it’s not shy and retiring by any stretch of the imagination,
John Puma: 17:37
but this is, this is, it sound like faint praise, but this is completely, drinkable. It’s tasty. Like I imagined that this would pair well with stronger foods because it’s crisp and because it’s kind of. It’s not delicate by any stretch of imagination., this reminds me a lot of, of, honjozos that I’ve had before. It kind of fits into that, into my, my head space in that area. And, you know, it’s, futsushu. It gets kind of a bad rap, probably because of that wild West attitude of it in Japan, where it can be anything. But as you mentioned, the stuff we get here tends to be a little bit better. And this is a great example of something that’s that’s really good. Like this is like, people should be aware of the sake. They shouldn’t be tasting it.
Timothy Sullivan: 18:24
And it could be a honjozo, we have to keep that in mind. And, uh, I think that you also, as you mentioned a moment ago, you, you can’t walk away from the, the warm sake Story here. I mean, serving this, this style of sake warm is really one of the key ways to enjoy this style. I think it’s good when it’s chilled, but when it warms up, you really bring out a different texture, a different weight in the sake, and it becomes enjoyable on a different level, I think.
John Puma: 18:58
Hmm. And what about, what about food? What are you thinking?
Timothy Sullivan: 19:01
Mm. Super versatile, but I would stay away from kind of the lighter styles of food, like sushi, sashimi, maybe vegetable, appetizers, those types of things. I may stay away from. If you get more into yakitori grilled meats, ramen, I love ramen with futsushu ramen, you know, noodley and greasy and rich and a little bit fatty. And I find that a dry. But structured futsushu is really good with ramen. So that’s something I really enjoy a lot.
John Puma: 19:39
Hi. Could not agree more on the ramen part, like I’m, as I’m sipping this, I’m like, Oh, where’s the, I need some, some nice thick Milky tonkotsu ramen with this. This is what I want. And I feel like the two of them would just, uh, would compliment each other and bring out the best in one another.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:59
For me, it’s especially the saltiness in ramen or tonkotsu for that matter. Like if you have tonkotsu sauce, it’s got a little bit of saltiness to it. Ramen is quite salty and that. Really picks up on the minerality in this type of dryer honjozo. and I love that interplay right there. That’s what I really look for.
John Puma: 20:23
I didn’t think about the salt being the key here, but that could very well be it. So, um, now that we’ve both tasted one, I don’t, I don’t have yours. So you’re going to be on your own for this, for the second
Timothy Sullivan: 20:36
I’m on my own. Well,
John Puma: 20:37
your own. It’s the elephant. Just tell me everything. I’m just paint me a word picture. Uh, yeah. And you’re opening up the, the tozai, typhoon futsushu from, Kizakura brewery.
Timothy Sullivan: 20:56
Hm. So this has we, we don’t, they don’t tell us on the website, what the rice is. So we don’t know what rice we’re using here. My guess would be that they’re using a table rice or an eating rice to make this. And know, this is going to sound crazy. I, I read the tasting note before. We got on the air and it said something about, it’s not cheating. It’s it’s called research, John.
John Puma: 21:26
Timothy Sullivan: 21:28
And they said that there was a hint of banana bread in the aroma. And I’m like banana bread. I love banana bread,
John Puma: 21:36
that’s oddly specific.
Timothy Sullivan: 21:38
it, but O M G it smells like banana bread. Like no joke.
John Puma: 21:46
Timothy Sullivan: 21:47
this, like this mature kind of overripe banana smell and a little bit of nuttiness, a little bit of spice. It is amazing how I really do not think this is the power of suggestion because, uh, well it maybe, but no, it really does smell like banana bread, like amazing. Really really interesting. Okay. I’m going to give it a sip now. Hm. So this is fuller bodied than the Kirinzan. So it has more weight to it. And there’s actually a little bit of bitterness on the finish of this sake which is not something we talk about very often, but I think some sakes can bring a little bit of a bitter note to the finish, which is not, not a bad thing. It balances out sweetness and this has a much more, rich medium body texture compared to the Niigata sake Again, this is from Kyoto and Kyoto is a little bit more well-known for making sakes that have just a hint of sweetness to them. And I think that really comes through here. You got the banana bread and the aroma and more weight on the palate and, there’s just, just a hint more sweetness here than we had with the dryer sake Your. SMV or sake meter value that measurement of sweetness or dryness? Yours was a plus six for the Kirinzan classic. And the tozai, that I’m drinking is it’s not noted on the website, what their SMV is. So I would guess this is much closer to zero than yours, the weight, the density, and the sweetness all indicates to me that there’s more residual sugar here than you have in yours.
John Puma: 23:38
I mean, that makes that sense. The reason this was pretty dry.
Timothy Sullivan: 23:41
Yeah. And I have to say, even though this has a little bit of sweetness to it, I would definitely try warming this up, serving this warm as well. And this is also the type of sake that I might use in a sake cocktail, or, if you needed something for. experimenting with mixing with, uh, making a sauce or making a cocktail. You know, this, this is the type of sake that I think has enough body to impart just a touch of its own flavor, into cooking or into cocktail or drinking straight or drinking warm, you know, it’s, it’s really versatile in that way.
John Puma: 24:21
nice. That sounds, it sounds like we’ve Oh, stuff like I’ve learned a few things about futsushu today because I’m, hands-on things. We don’t, we just don’t get a lot of it here. I think it was, it was a little tricky trying to find a futsushu for me to try for the show., not that many places really carry them.
Timothy Sullivan: 24:39
Yeah. It, it really is not a common variety of sake defined when you’re talking about imported from Japan. So John, let, let me ask you something. So having tasted a futsushu, where do you think it fits into your arsenal? As far as you know, what you might want to pick up, do you think you would consider futsushu If you saw it on the shelf for, online in the future, do you think you’d be more likely to order a futsushu now or less likely? What do you think.
John Puma: 25:14
well, I think I would be more likely, but I still would be, somewhat cautious because there’s a, as you mentioned, especially in Japan, there’s a wide range of where this can be., in this case, I got a futsushu from a very reputable brand that makes excellent sake, uh, and, you know, this is a sake that. Technically could also be a honjozo., now that I’ve tasted it, I am I’m very much, Oh my God. I need to have this with some salty foods or some ramen or something like that. And I think I’m going to have a great time with it.
Timothy Sullivan: 25:48
So you’re basically saying that your futsushu is like premium sake and futsushu drag. Is that, is that what I’m hearing? Sashay. Oh way.
John Puma: 26:02
I mean, you know, it is, uh, it. Wow. Okay. Uh, I don’t know what to say to that. Um,
Timothy Sullivan: 26:14
he’s speechless ladies and gentlemen.
John Puma: 26:16
Uh, I’m going to say, yeah, kind of, I mean, also., I know the brand and I know they may, you know, I know they make some top shelf, sake I’ve had their Junmai daiginjo before, like I’m familiar with them. And when this company puts out a futsushu you’re going okay. Like they have a pedigree, so let’s, let’s taste this and see where it goes. Uh, I would be less inclined if I didn’t recognize the brand because
Timothy Sullivan: 26:41
sense. That makes sense. Yeah, I think from a Brewer’s point of view, it’s all about accessibility, like making things accessible to people. And if you’re known as a premium top tier sake maker, and you want to make a more affordable, a lower price sake you can still keep it in that premium zone, but market it and sell it. As something that people who, may be looking for that more affordable option can, uh, you know, connect with more easily. So I think that’s another factor., they want to make something that has a wide and broad reach in Japan and marketing something as a futsushu allows them to take it down a notch and really make it. Available and accessible to a wide range of people. And when you’re trying to do that outreach and get good sake you know premium sake in drag, you’re trying to get that out to as many people as you can. And I think that’s one reason that these premium really awesome, well known breweries, do this kind of outreach with their futsushu
John Puma: 27:45
Great. And what about you? What do you think about, how yours fits in and, would this impact your decisions when buying futsushu
Timothy Sullivan: 27:54
Well, you know, this, this definitely goes along with my new year’s revolution resolution too. Drink more outside my comfort zone. futsushu is not something I usually gravitate towards. And what I want to do is experiment. This might be an idea for a future episode to experiment with, making sake cocktails, using a futsushu cooking, using a futsushu or a warm sake using a futsushu. Why not? And there’s, no risk and it’s not as, precious as the premium, super premium grades. So it kind of gives you a freedom that you may not have with other types of sake
John Puma: 28:36
Right. So you say, you’re saying that in the future, we need to. Revisit the old warm sake theme that we did many, many moons ago and maybe have the same sake chilled room, temperature warmed, and see what, what changes that brings to it. I think that’s a, I think that’s a fun idea.
Timothy Sullivan: 28:57
Yeah. Well, you know, this was a lot of fun, John. I think this was not. A futsushu episode. This was a very special futsushu episode,
John Puma: 29:07
This is a very special regular episode.
Timothy Sullivan: 29:10
a very special futsushu episode. No, a very
John Puma: 29:14
uh, the puns, like they, they, they come out of nowhere sometimes, so,
Timothy Sullivan: 29:19
Well, we’re, we’re keeping it. We’re keeping it real, keeping it futsu, I like that. Okay. Well, thank you so much to all of our listeners for tuning in. We really hoped you enjoyed our futsushu show. And if you are interested in supporting sake revolution, there’s one way you can really help us out. And that would be to take a couple of minutes and leave us a written review on Apple podcasts. It’s a great way for us to get the word out about our show.
John Puma: 29:50
uh, yes. And if you’re like me and you don’t have access to Apple podcasts. Please tell a friend and then be sure to subscribe wherever you download your podcasts. So that every week when we upload a new show, it shows up on your device. No fuss, no muss. And you won’t miss a single episode.
Timothy Sullivan: 30:08
and as always to learn more about any of the topics or sakes that we talked about in today’s episode, be sure to visit our website. sake revolution.com for all the detailed show notes.
John Puma: 30:20
I have a sake question burning sake questions that you need answered. If you want us to try and warm up some futsushu um, and then compare it to the room, temperature or chilled version, please reach out to us. The email address is. [email protected] So until next time, please remember to keep drinking futsushu kanpai Okay.
Timothy Sullivan: 30:47
keep drinking sake and.
John Puma: 30:52
I put a little twist in there.