I hope you all have started enjoying the sake from last month. If you missed out, here’s the offer again.
For this month, let’s explore the 2nd most common brewing method--Yamahai. Yes it’s the 2nd most common but it’s also relatively rare.
How are Yamahai made?
Sake needs acid to help control the two fermentation processes: 1) the koji mold converting starches to sugars and 2) the yeast converting sugars to alcohol. Acidity helps make sure bad stuff doesn’t take over during this many month process. Most commonly, acid is just added by hand at the beginning of fermentation but in Yamahai, the temperature of the room is actually raised high enough to kick off a bacterial fermentation. This results in lactic and succinic acid production.
What does Yamahai taste like?
Many Yamahai method sake are typically high in umami like good Parmesan. Similarly they have complex oxidative notes like a sherry. They take on lactic or dairy aromas that run the gamut from nutty butterscotch to warm milk or even fresh cream. Because of the brewing process even if they are labeled Ginjo, they typically don’t have big fruity aromas and are instead more savory. While the acidity is typically higher than more mass produced sake, it’s still rather low compared to a wine or sour beer. The finish can be long and complex.
Who might like Yamahai Sake?
Fans of Jura whites and Farmhouse Saison
$85 for all 3
Kiminoi “Emperor’s Well” Yamahai Junmai Ginjo ($30) -- This Sake is from Niigata which is famous for their incredibly soft water from snow melt. Here, the character of the yamahai method is mild--a nice introduction. The nose has chalk and minerals with a pleasant softness. The mouthfeel is relatively rich, making it a nice pairing for pork or heavier seafood like halibut. The finish is relatively long with vanilla and more minerality. 58% polish.
Hiraizumi “Splashing Water” Yamahai Tokubetsu Junmai ($32) -- From a brewery founded in 1487(!) in Akita, this is one of the most beautifully aromatic sake I’ve ever had. If you love sticking your nose deep into grower champagne, this is for you. It pours a light yellow color common of Yamahai. On the nose, there’s cold granite and fresh grass. On the palate, there’s herbaceous notes of almonds, fennel and cilantro transitioning into beautiful cleansing acidity. Drink this with sausage and sauerkraut, or literally anything that’s difficult to pair with wine. 58% polish, 1.9% total acidity.
Housui “Fragrant Water” Yamahai Tokubetsu Junmai ($25 for 720ml or $7 for 180ml) This is the big boy of Yamahai showing off all the incredible funky aromas. You have to taste this to believe it. It pours a yellow color with giant aromas of horse mane and fresh venison urine (in a good way, trust me). In the mouth, there’s fresh venison meat coated in powdered sugar. You’ll notice some leather then a warm steel on the finish reminiscent of the alkaline and salinity of Laphroaig minus the peat. Have you ever noticed aged and funky cheeses can overwhelm a wine? This sake is your answer. The cheese actually improves the sake, adding even more richness. 60% polish from the island of Shikoku.
All three for $85 or sold separately.
Thank you so much! Please feel free to ask any questions or here’s a FAQ.