Episode 80 Show Notes
Episode 80. It’s time to get wild again! Wild about sake rice, that is. This week we zero in on a premium sake rice that is elegant and a true workhorse: Gohyakumangoku. This is not a sake rice name that rolls off the tongue on first glance, but it is well worth getting to know. Once you’ve conquered the pronunciation, the rest is pure enjoyment. Gohyakumangoku is the second most produced premium sake rice in Japan and comes from the land of clean, crisp and dry sake: Niigata Prefecture. As you might expect, this rice produces sake that tends to be lighter, cleaner and more airy – perfect for Niigata’s regional style. We’ll be tasting a classic Niigata sake to examine these characteristics a bit deeper and to see what Gohyakumangoku sake rice brings to the party. Join us as we go a bit gaga for Gohyaku!
Skip to: 00:19
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy.
Skip to: 01:55
Gohyakumangoku is a rice grown specifically for sake making (shuzokotekimai). It ranks second in terms of volume for sake specific rice grown in Japan. Known to produce sakes that are cleaner and generally lighter.
First produced in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, Gohyakumangoku was registered in 1957 and is a cross between Kikusui(菊水) and Shin-200-go(新200号) rices.
Koshi no Kanchubai Gold Junmai Ginjo
Brewery: Niigata Meijo
Classification: Junmai Ginjo
Rice Type: Gohyakumangoku
Importer: Mutual Trading (NY)
Brand: Koshi No Kanchubai (越の寒中梅)
NOTE: Use Discount Code “REVOLUTION” for 10% off your first order with Tippsy Sake.
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Episode 80 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. I’m also the administrator over at the internet sake discord and around these parts. I’m the sake nerd guy. I’m not the sake samurai guy
Timothy Sullivan: 0:43
I am your cohost 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 here tasting and chatting about all things, sake and doing our best to make it fun and easy to understand.
John Puma: 1:02
So Tim, I think we’re, we’re overdue now for our wild rice series. And I also feel like today’s rice is one that we hear kind of often on the show.
Timothy Sullivan: 1:18
And it’s not easy to say either.
John Puma: 1:21
No, it was a quite, quite a challenge. I remember when I first encountered it, I usually kind of just saw it in writing. It was a word I’d never heard out loud and I thought it was, you know, interesting. And I would never actually have to say it out loud. And then I started doing a sake podcast and it came up alarmingly quickly and alarmingly often.
Timothy Sullivan: 1:47
put me out of my misery and, uh, dazzle me with your pronunciation. What, what rice are we going to be tackling today?
John Puma: 1:55
today is Gohyakumangoku
Timothy Sullivan: 1:57
Oh my God. That was perfect.
John Puma: 1:59
I want to say that, uh, you know, back in April. of 20, 20? Not nearly as good sounding. I don’t think that nearly, I don’t think that goes quite as well. I think I have probably said a lot of go Haku mom or something. I don’t know. My just looked at all those syllables and just was paralyzed with fear. I don’t know. Oh my God gohyakumangoku.
Timothy Sullivan: 2:22
Yes, it’s a mouthful.
John Puma: 2:25
Timothy Sullivan: 2:25
John Puma: 2:27
Yeah. So tim what does that mean? Anyway? It’s a lot of words I’m assuming. So what’s it mean?
Timothy Sullivan: 2:33
Oh gosh. Well, it’s, it’s an interesting name because it does actually have like an origin story to it. Uh, I’ll give you the literal translation first. Gohyaku means 500. man means a unit of 10,000 and then Goku means it’s a measurement of weight of rice. So means “5 million koku”. So you take 500 times, 10,000 and then you get a 5 million koku. And a koku is a measurement of rice. That’s about 300 pounds, a little bit more than 300 pounds.
John Puma: 3:15
Okay, so this word actually, has you doing. And it’s a measurement of rice.
Timothy Sullivan: 3:23
John Puma: 3:24
Timothy Sullivan: 3:25
the. sake rice gohyakumangoku was registered in Niigata Prefecture in 1957. And in that year Niigata, which is a center for eating rice production. They had a bumper crop and they had a great amount of rice produced in 1957 and the farmers of Niigata collectively produced 5 million koku. And again, koku was a measurement of weight of rice. And this was such an achievement that they named this sake rice after that achievement. So gohyakumangoku means 5 million, 300 pound bags of eating rice.
John Puma: 4:12
So me get this
Timothy Sullivan: 4:13
does that stir your emotions
John Puma: 4:15
around and they’re like, oh my God, we made so much rice. We have so many rice fields and our yields are incredible. Also. We’re about to name a new rice. I’ve got it so much rice, which is basically the name of this one.
Timothy Sullivan: 4:31
Yeah. So that is the, kind of the background of where the, this name comes from. And it’s a basic nod to niigata being a Homebase, a center for rice production, I think in, in, in the popular imagination in Japan. Niigata is seen as the land of, uh, plentiful rice. So I think it’s a nod to that idea. That Niigata is a real place for, for rice to be grown.
John Puma: 4:59
You know, it’s interesting as a, as a sake lover. The thing that I think about when I think of Niigata is so many sake breweries, but I guess if you have so much rice, it’s kind of natural that you’re also going to have so many sake brewery.
Timothy Sullivan: 5:15
yeah. Niigata has the most sake breweries of any Prefecture and they clock in about 89 or 90. So about 90 breweries.
John Puma: 5:24
Timothy Sullivan: 5:24
Yeah. That’s a lot.
John Puma: 5:25
that’s quite, quite a bit, so. All right. So we’ve got this bizarrely named rice. Uh,
Timothy Sullivan: 5:32
It’s not bizarre. It’s perfectly logical. When you think about it.
John Puma: 5:36
I’m still thinking about it is still the logics escaping me, but, uh, but that’s not important. the important thing is, you know, what’s the story with it. Is this a, uh, is this a, is this an heirloom rice or is this with a crossbreed? This
Timothy Sullivan: 5:51
let’s look at some of the details about the development of this rice. It’s a, it is a crossbreed. It is a mix of a rice called Kikusui. And. know that name Kikusui is the name of a sake brand in Niigata, but it also had a, it’s also the name of a sake rice. And then there’s another sake rice shin, 200 go. Shin nihyaku go in Japanese. And these two sake rice strains. Cross bred in 1938, they created this rice and because of world war two happening, uh, it wasn’t really put into use until the post-war period. And as I mentioned before, it was finally registered in 1957. And it slowly. Gained prominence, but the origin Prefecture, this is important. The origin Prefecture for gohyakumangoku sake rice is Niigata. So they claim ownership over this rice. It’s grown. Another Prefecture is now, but it really is identified with Niigata.
John Puma: 7:04
It’s definitely one that when I hear the word, I, I always think, oh, Niigata all right. You know, it’s purely now because I associated it with Niigata in it. Cause it was actually from there. What are we looking at as far as like, what’s it bringing to the table from a, uh, I guess from a flavor and aroma standpoint.
Timothy Sullivan: 7:24
Yeah. Well, this sake rice is really well known for producing the classic Niigata profile. Pretty logically. It produces a light and clean sake and pretty mild aroma. And the overall word I’ve heard, used to describe sakes made with gohyakumangoku is a little bit airy, like not dense, not concentrated, but more airy, light and clean. And you know, it’s a classic sake rice in that it does produce. Large rice grains, compared to eating rice, sake rice is grown. It has a little bit of a larger grain size, a little bit of a taller stock usually. And these are hallmarks for things you really want to look for. When you’re selecting a sake rice to use for your sake and gohyakumangoku really has that.
John Puma: 8:18
and where does this guy fit in? As far as It’s a volume of sake, rice. I think we talked about, uh, a somewhat dominant position that, uh, Yamahai Shiki has. Where does gohyakumangoku fit into
Timothy Sullivan: 8:32
We have to differentiate here between sake produced, encompassing eating rice and sake rice. But if we just look at sake rice alone, Yamada Nishiki, which there’s a king of sake rice, that accounts for changes every year, but you know, roughly between 33 and 36% of all sake rice produced, it is the most grown sake rice. There’s about a hundred varieties that are grown specifically just for sake of those hundred Yamada Nishiki is the big kahuna and about 33 to 36% or so. And our Gohyakumangoku the star of today’s episode. It comes in number two. So.
John Puma: 9:21
Timothy Sullivan: 9:22
So about 24% of those hundred varieties is dedicated, exclusively to gohyakumangoku. So this comes in number two and the volume of rice grown. Yeah.
John Puma: 9:35
that’s, uh, that’s pretty impressive.
Timothy Sullivan: 9:38
Yeah. It’s no slouch.
John Puma: 9:40
our little gohyakumangoku is making good. Number two in the world.
Timothy Sullivan: 9:45
Yeah. So it’s number two. Yeah. And I did some research for gohyakumangoku for today’s episode. And I heard it referred to as the yokozuna of the east.
John Puma: 10:00
yokozuna of east. Uh yokozuna is, like a, a rank in sumo.
Timothy Sullivan: 10:08
Yes. So it’s, it’s, uh, it’s like some top like champion of Sumo. I
John Puma: 10:15
Timothy Sullivan: 10:15
any listeners who are Sumo experts, please let us know. So yokozuna of the east is kind of like the champion of the east and there’s also yokozuna of the west. And. When you’re referring to sake rice. So Yamada Nishiki is grown in Hyogo, which is in the far west of Japan and the gohyakumangoku is from Niigata, which is on the Eastern side comparatively. So they I’ve heard it referred to as like the big kahuna of the east versus the big kahuna of the west Yamada. Nishiki kind of funny.
John Puma: 10:51
all right. Yeah. I can see that. And then the two of them can, can collide in the middle and battle one another for dominance.
Timothy Sullivan: 10:59
Yeah. So gohyakumangoku is the number two sake rice in Japan. So I’ve been waiting for gohyaku to have its day on our, on our show.
John Puma: 11:10
Excellent today is that day. And Tim, we have a sake that uses gohyakumangoku. today.
Timothy Sullivan: 11:19
John Puma: 11:20
And because gohyakumangoku, despite being available and, and being, uh, utilizing in a lot of different sakes and a lot of different parts of Japan was born in Niigata, as you pointed out so that the sake we’re going to be drinking today is from Niigata.
Timothy Sullivan: 11:40
Yes. Do you want to give us an intro to our sake for today? Ourgohyaku superstar.
John Puma: 11:47
Sure our gohyaku superstar. is Koshi no Kanchubai gold, junmai ginjo uh, using gohyakumangoku rice from Niigata is polished down to 55% of its original size sake meter value that measurement of dry to sweet is plus three. So just north of neutral, I want to say, uh, acidity is 1.6. and this is interesting. The alcohol by volume is only 14%. So might be something a little lighter. Uh, Tim, I don’t know if I’ve ever had this. Are you personally familiar with the sake?
Timothy Sullivan: 12:29
I am not. So we’re both going to have a fresh reaction to the sake. All right. So she’s we get it open and in the glass.
John Puma: 12:40
Let’s do that. I do love it when we have the same. If we can’t be in the same room, at least we have the same beverage.
Timothy Sullivan: 12:58
Yes. Yes, that’s right. So we are drinking the same sake. We’re going to focus on this. Koshi no Kanchubai for today’s gohyakumangokus episode. And if, uh, the God of Sake is on our side, this is going to be a really good representation of that Niigata Style.
John Puma: 13:20
All right. So. Um, speaking of Niigata style, this. is pretty clear,
Timothy Sullivan: 13:26
Yup. Really clear.
John Puma: 13:29
very crystal clear,
Timothy Sullivan: 13:30
And we had our, we had our episode on charcoal filtering and we talked about how popular that is in Niigata, so I would take, uh, guess that this sake has been charcoal filtered.
John Puma: 13:43
I would say so too. If I had a hazardous.
Timothy Sullivan: 13:46
let’s, give it a smell. Can I do it a swirl in my wineglass?
John Puma: 13:50
That’s kind of pleasant. A little bit light
Timothy Sullivan: 13:54
a little bit
John Puma: 13:55
Timothy Sullivan: 13:56
and I, I’m also picking up on a, uh, very light rice-y note as well.
John Puma: 14:02
It’s there us almost like a sweet rice.
Timothy Sullivan: 14:06
Yeah. And I, when I’m talking to people about rice aromas, I often think like, oh, if you have a rice cooker at home, or if you have, if you’ve cooked rice in a pot and you take the lid off after it’s done cooking and you get that wafting aroma of freshly steamed rice, like that is an aroma. We look for a lot when tasting sake and smelling sake. And I get just a hint of that. Like maybe a wafting steaming rice from the other. Yeah, so a very gentle rice aroma. I think that restrained as the only way to describe this aroma
John Puma: 14:44
definitely restrained. It’s not, um, it’s not overwhelming in any way. Uh, it is, you do have to look for it. It’s um,
Timothy Sullivan: 14:50
It’s really light.
John Puma: 14:52
our noses are in these lasses trying to pick it up and it is very, very light.
Timothy Sullivan: 14:56
but it’s. I don’t view that as a defect, like a light aroma for me is really enjoyable and it doesn’t have to like slap me in the face to make me take notice of it. So I,
John Puma: 15:07
No. No. Yeah.
Timothy Sullivan: 15:09
I really enjoy this aroma a lot.
John Puma: 15:12
Yeah. So shall we sip? No. I want to say this keeps up pretty well with the, with the aroma.
Timothy Sullivan: 15:28
for me, it’s even more rice focused on the, on the palate.
John Puma: 15:33
Timothy Sullivan: 15:33
flavor is dry and kind of rice forward, steamed rice, maybe a little bit of mochi rice and just a hint of umami. Like there’s a little savory note on the finish. I don’t know if you pick up on that at all, John.
John Puma: 15:50
I’m getting my, my savory and it’s a little bit earlier and I’m getting like a little bit of a, a residual tiny bitter fruit that linger. That I find I’m finding very pleasant. I’m kind of really liking that aspect of it, but it is, this is a little bit more, a little bit more rice driven than, than your typical junmai ginjo.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:16
Right. And it’s interesting. We’ve talked a lot about Yamagata sake. So Yamagata is a Prefecture, a little bit north of Niigata and their style is very fruity and more exuberant. And this is really a classic Niigata sake in a lot of ways. It’s lighter, it’s cleaner. It has a very gentle rice-y notes on the palate and it finishes dry. I find the aftertaste is really crisp and dry as well. do you agree.
John Puma: 16:47
I do. I do. And it’s it’s nice. I remember recently we were talking about, how on a sake that we thought was going to kind of bowl us over because of one of the numbers was particularly high and I’ll let people who have been listening, go back and remember what we’re talking about. We commented how these things really didn’t stand out because the sake really well in balance.
Timothy Sullivan: 17:10
John Puma: 17:11
this is also very well balanced. Like all of these things that we’re talking about are present, but none of them are really taking command of, of your experience here. It’s all just these nice little things you get to experience in this very pleasant, somewhat light crisp sake.
Timothy Sullivan: 17:31
Yeah. I remember that sake, we were looking at it on paper and it, the numbers said, oh, this might be sweet. And it did not come across sweet at all because it had that balance you’re talking about. And I agree that we have this here as well. It’s really interesting. You know, I, one thing I’ve heard from a lot of sake brewers in Niigata, some of those 90 breweries that are in this Prefecture is that they like their sake, obviously to be more restrained. And one of the ideas behind that style of sake, this regional style is that they want to put the focus on the food on the cuisine, and they want clean light sake to be a palate cleanser and support the dish. But not take center stage or, grab your attention away from the food. So this is really a sake, a probably designed from the ground up to be, you know, really, uh, supportive type of sake food pairing.
John Puma: 18:29
Could be, could be. are your things could be not, very likely, very likely. No. No. I think, I think very likely, having just heard you say that, what kind of food?
Timothy Sullivan: 18:43
Um, well, one of the advantages of this, in the background type of sakes is that you can pair it very broadly. It’s not going to clash with many styles of food. I think one of the primary things to keep in mind when pairing with this style of sake is the weight of the food. This is a 14% alcohol. It’s a little bit on the quiet and lighter side, which is common for Niigata. So you just want to keep in mind that, you know, barbecue ribs and deep fried, whatever may not be the best match for this.
John Puma: 19:23
That might be a little too much.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:26
those Cajun fries might not be a good choice with this.
John Puma: 19:30
no, but, but I think that like most, Mild flavored foods are going to go very well with this. mild flavored sake.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:42
yeah, I’ll tell you what popped into my mind. It is now autumn autumn of 2021. And. It is starting to get chilly today was like our first really chilly day. And I loved it.
John Puma: 19:54
It was nice. I bust out my, my coat today. Not no jacket. Today was a coat.
Timothy Sullivan: 20:01
well, one of the very popular foods in Japan in the autumn is called oden. I think we’ve talked about oden on the show before.
John Puma: 20:09
I am a certain, we’ve talked and other show before.
Timothy Sullivan: 20:12
Yes. So oden is different cuts of vegetables and fish cakes and things that are simmered in a soy sauce broth,
John Puma: 20:21
Timothy Sullivan: 20:21
and it is savory. And it’s interesting because the foods are kind of neutral, like think about daikon radish, and you simmer it for a long time in this very delicious dashi, soy sauce broth. And it, it absorbs all those flavors and you eat it warm and that type of warming, but kind of light dish is something that I really think goes well with this. it’s a very, uh, delicious, but gentle kind of stewed veggies, and you can have a little more liquid or a little less liquid depending on how you want to enjoy it. But that, that flavor profile is something that really came to me. And I said, that would go well with this. Now, let me ask you a question, John, what do you think about serving this sake Koshi no kanchubai gold again it’s a Junmai Ginjo, what do you think about serving this warm?
John Puma: 21:14
ya know, i’d give it a shot. I’d give it to, and I am people at home who probably know this already. I am not somebody who usually jumps on warming up sake. It, I feel like it takes a certain, it takes the right drink to make me jump onto that idea. And. I can do this. I would give this a shot.
Timothy Sullivan: 21:37
So it’s not an absolute no for you.
John Puma: 21:39
Timothy Sullivan: 21:40
John Puma: 21:42
No, it’s absolutely not a no, uh, I would get this and to think like, oh, I’m going to warm up a Junmai Ginjo just sounds wrong to me, but
Timothy Sullivan: 21:51
yeah, we got a break those stereotypes.
John Puma: 21:53
break. Those stereotypes. go out of my comfort zone. Maybe that’ll be my Sake Revolution resolution for next year. Maybe I will go outside of my comfort zone and I will start by warming this sake. In January, I will grab some Koshi no Kanchubai Gold and I will warm it up. Or maybe I’ll just get a head. Start on.
Timothy Sullivan: 22:16
yeah. Well, I have a prediction. If you did warm this. I think that that little umami note that we picked up on the palate,
John Puma: 22:25
going to be so little anymore.
Timothy Sullivan: 22:26
as right. It’s a little quiet right now, but I think if you warmed this up, it would become more pronounced and really pair well with warm oden, even So I am onboard with recommending this to warm. So, uh, this has gohyakumangoku in it. So the sake rice for today, And what I pick up on is that lighter edge to this. This is not a heavy, rich or concentrated sake in and I think that that sake, rice gohyakumangoku lends that airiness, that lightness to it.
John Puma: 23:05
Totally. Um, and it, it. just, this works and this is as much as I am open to having this warm, this is an absolute treat chilled. It is really, really nice.
Timothy Sullivan: 23:17
So you’re enjoying it even though it’s not a tropical fruit bomb.
John Puma: 23:21
Absolutely. Um, you know, there’s more to life Tim. is more to life. I may be number one, ginjo fan sometimes, but, uh, but I do think this is really, I do like my light. sake is to, you know, those are the ones that I can sit on the couch. So, all right, but where whereabouts in Niigata is, uh, Niigata Mayo.
Timothy Sullivan: 23:43
This brewery is in central Niigata. So it is not in the north, not in the south. It’s right in the center of the Prefecture. And it’s a very snowy region and I’m sure they have lots of oden so
John Puma: 24:01
It gets nice and chilly over there. in the wintertime
Timothy Sullivan: 24:03
Sure does. Yeah. So I think they might’ve had that. We need a sake. That would be good with warmed up food. I think they had that on their mind when they were imagining this sake.
John Puma: 24:14
Nice. I can go for that. I can do some of that. All right.
Timothy Sullivan: 24:18
So, John, do you feel that you have learned something about the number two kahuna of sake rice gohyakumangoku?
John Puma: 24:27
I feel like it’s a rice that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Like I N I know, you know, people when they’re sake nerds, when they’re talking about their sake rice, that they, like, they talk about the amount of Shiki. they love talking about omachi. They talk about their kind of, uh, you know, weird little rices from here and there. But they don’t talk about the number two sake rice. And I think that it might be, as you pointed out that the Prefecture responsible for it kind of likes to use this as a rice and a sake. They want to be understated and they want to be, uh, complimentary to a dish that shines and if the sake isn’t shining, then people aren’t thinking about the sake. They’re just thinking that the food was really good And it’s like, well, the sake is playing a really nice supporting role that they’re maybe not noticing.
Timothy Sullivan: 25:19
Yeah. And I think we could describe gohyakumangoku as a work horse sake rice.
John Puma: 25:26
Yes. I think that’s fair. It’s a word.
Timothy Sullivan: 25:29
Uh, a lot of breweries buy Yamada Nishiki for their super premium Junmai Daiginjo and gohyakumangoku fills this role with your junmais and your junmai ginjos and your honjozos as well, where you need something that will be stable, reliable, not too showy. And I think gohyakumangoku really fills that void there.
John Puma: 25:53
Excellent. this is one of my favorite series. I cannot wait for the next one because I love going deep into these rices and finding out all the little things about them that I didn’t know.
Timothy Sullivan: 26:04
Yeah. Yeah. You like getting wild.
John Puma: 26:08
Apparently rice gone
Timothy Sullivan: 26:10
mean, when it comes to rice, of course.
John Puma: 26:12
rat yeah when to rice. Sure, absolutely
Timothy Sullivan: 26:15
All right, John, I’m craving oden now and ready for dinner. All right. Well, thanks to you, John. And thanks to all our listeners for tuning in. We really do hope that you’re enjoying our show. Now, if you would like to show your support for Sake Revolution, the best way to help us out is to join us on Patreon. We’re a listener supported show and we rely on. Contributions from our patrons to help bring you Sake Revolution every week.
John Puma: 26:44
That’s right. And, uh, on top of that, uh, please be sure to subscribe and leave us a review wherever you download your podcasts. It really does make a huge difference. And we do appreciate everybody who does listen and everything that you do to, uh, to get the word out about our show.
Timothy Sullivan: 27:02
Yeah, we do appreciate that. And as always, if you would like to learn more about any of the topics, sake, rice, or sakes that we talked about in today’s episode, please visit our website SakeRevolution.com. And there you can check out all the detailed show notes.
John Puma: 27:20
And for you, all of your sake question needs, we have an email address that you should be sending them to. That email address is [email protected] This is kind of where we get our ideas for shows and a lot of cases, guys. So if you want to be a part of the experience, sending those ideas, sending those questions. So until next time, please remember to keep drinking all that sake and Kanpai!