I have to admit it’s been a while since I had a daiginjo. Despite their status at the top of the sake totem pole, I tend to go for more of the regular drinkin styles of sake rather than the high flying elegance of the daiginjo. Don’t get me wrong, I love daiginjo but I kind of think of them as a sake for special occasions rather than everyday drinking.
Which is why it was kind of ironic that I was at a casual dinner drinking several different sake in a lively environment when I first came across Onna Nakase Junmai Daiginjo. Although the sake on offer that evening were all of different styles and grades, there was something about this particular sake and its clean, fresh flavour that seemed to wake my palate with each sip drawing me back. Fast forward a couple of years and it was on a recent trip to Japan that I happened to spot it in a bottle shop and the memories came flooding back. So, of course I grabbed a bottle.
Onna Nakase translates as “make the girls cry”. Makers Oomuraya Brewery in Shizuoka (south-west of Tokyo by the sea, home of Mt Fuji!) have a bit of a knack for coming up with memorable names for their sake. Their Wakatake Onikoroshi Junmai (Demon Slayer) is an immensely popular sake in North America and Japan that I recently spotted on the list at O-Sushi prompting me to check up on the bottle of Onna Nakase I had stashed away. (Incidentally, there are quite a few sake in Japan that bear the Onikoroshi name. Since years gone by it has been popular as a name for sake so dry and easy to drink it would kill a demon. There is at least one other available in Australia from Kyoto brewery Kizakura).
Oomuraya have been brewing since 1832 and source their soft-water from the Southern Alps of Shizuoka. Proudly Shizuoka, about half of the rice used in production is grown locally as well as using yeast strains developed by Shizuoka breweries.
While I’m careful not to make too broad a generalisation, I find there is something summery about Shizuoka sake I can’t quite put my finger on but it is often clean, light and well suited to light foods. Upon revisiting this sake it’s easy to remember why it stood out so much that evening. Quite a show-stopper; flamboyant aromas of melon, pine, banana, watermelon are all over the place. On the palate it hits with a bold, fresh slap; there’s considerable body behind it and obvious koji presence. Umami laden, this would be fantastic with sea urchin or maybe eggplant grilled with white miso. As I said, I don’t think of daiginjo as everyday drinking style of sake and Onna Nakase proves the theory. Quite lavish and over the top, a couple of glasses and I’m wearing out. Not from the alcohol but from the decadent richness.
I’m yet to confirm that Onna Nakase is available in Australia, but the fact that Wakatake Onikoroshi is here is a good sign that we might see it soon.
Onna Nakase おんな泣かせJunmai Daiginjo
Seimaibuai: 50% Rice: Gohyakumangoku (Shizuoka) Yamadanishiki (Hyogo)