// you're reading...


Cyber Tasting II

The Second Trans Pacific Cyber Tasting was organized by Tim @ UrbanSake, Valerie @ The Sake Diaries, Rick and Hiroko @ Itadakimasu, in the US and Melinda @ Tokyo through the drinking glass, Robert-Gilles @ Shizuoka Sake in Japan. Hiroko was kind enough to do the research on availability in the US and presented excellent options to the group, from which we picked two kura: Hananomai from Hamamatsu and Suigei from Kochi.

cyber tasting sake

Hometown memories

I can’t remember when I started to notice this. Whenever, I go home to visit my parents in Hamamatsu, I spot bottles of Hananomai. They buy some occasionally, but it is often sent as present or part of a gift package that people give out at family ceremonies like weddings or funerals. So, I guess I can say Hananomai has been truly jizake-local sake for my family. That does not mean I know it well, though. On the contrary, knowing it’s always there, made me take it for granted so I was almost completely ignorant of this kura. When the group picked Hananomai for our second cyber tasting, I had one of those thoughts, “Great, it’s from Hamamatsu. Oh, but what if people don’t like it?” like all of a sudden the pressure was upon me as a representative of Hamamatsu. Ridiculous thoughts.

What did we taste?


(1) Ginjo vs. (2) Junmai Daiginjo

Same rice, same yeast, a slightly different brewing process and rice milling percentage

Sake hananomai ginjo vs. sake hananomai


(3) Junmai Ginjo vs. (4) Tokubetsu Junmai

Again same rice, same yeast, different rice milling percentage

sake Suigei jyunmai ginjyo vs. sake suigei tokubetsu jyunmai

How did it go?

First, we tasted all 4 without food, cold, fresh out from fridge.

  • (1) Hananamai Ginjo vs. (2) Hananomai Junmai Daiginjyo
  • Guys voted for Ginjo and girls voted for Junmai Daiginjyo. So, another guys vs. girls.


    (1) Ginjo – slight bitterness at the finish, masculine, strong impact at the beginning and drops off

    (2) Junmai Daiginjo – smooth finish, fruity, pear, more depth than Ginjo, yasashii (soft, easy to drink), lighter than (1) but slightly more bitter aftertaste, fruity up front, banana

  • (3) Suigei Junmai Ginjo vs. (4) Suigei Tokubetsu Junmai

  • Another split vote, but this time, no girls vs guys. two liked (3), 2 liked (4), one person had the same rating for both.


    (3) Junmai Ginjyo – Fruity, smooth, flowery, similar taste to awamori, more acidity than (4), has complex taste than (4), more depth than (4), sharper than (4)

    (4) Tokubetsu Junmai – 1st sip has very strong impact but quiets down afterwards, banana aroma, fruity, easy to drink but need more complex flavor, taste rice, sharp acid, no bitterness. When Miwa had her first sip, after a quiet second, she simply said “oishiiiii” with long lasting “iiiii” sound to emphasize just how good.

    As we chatted away with the first set of sake, sake started to warm up a little bit. We nibbled some dumplings made with fish paste and bamboo shoots or gobou(burdock). Does not sound good, but tasted good. To match today’s sake, I ordered katsuo-no-tataki(lightly seared Bonito Tuna) from Kochi, caught near where Suigei is the previous day and seared, vacuum packed and shipped to arrive on the day of our tasting. When I first traveled to Kochi in March, which was the beginning of katsuo season, I could not forget how katsuo-no-tataki tasted so different there, meaty and fresh. For dinner for the tasting, I imitated the style I had in Kochi, with lots and lots of thinly sliced garlic, myoga, onions, shiso, lemon, and chives-sort of seared katsuo totally covered by herb salad with salty dark soy sauce and citrus dressing. As you can imagine, this dish has so many strong flavors.


    What did everyone think with katsuo?

    So, as sake temperature goes up a little bit everyone’s view changed. Oh, and off course, with food, it made such a difference.

  • (1) Hananamai Ginjo vs. (2) Hananomai Junmai Daiginjyo
  • With food, everyone voted for (1), but (2) had nicer profile closer to room temperature.

    Comments about (1)- Food brings out more bitterness, but good balance. Good with food.

  • (3) Suigei Junmai Ginjyo vs. (4) Suigei Tokubetsu Junmai
  • Everyone agreed (3) is the group’s pick with food.

    Comments about (3) – Becomes really sweet with Katsuo, but really good balance. Type of sake you can sip for a long time with food.

    I personally felt relieved and rediscovered Hananomai which was really nice by itself or to match with katsuo. Robert-Gilles, you may disagree with me, but I have to say, katsuo from Kochi was better than the one my brother caught on the boat off of Numazu, Shizuoka. Could be the same fish, but where it was caught matters!

    Please find out what everyone else’s group thought about the two sets of sake.

    Our group photo– by Et-chan

    sake Cyber Tasting


    6 Responses to “Cyber Tasting II”

    1. Again, Etsuko, it’s a funny, funny coincidence! My group had similar picks. But, which was the overall favorite?

      The katsuo you made sounds really good! I’m a little surprised that the Hana no Mai Daigin did so well with all those in-your-face flavors b/c it’s such a delicate thing. Although, I didn’t mention this in my post, but we had some left a couple of days later and had it with some fried geso. it turned out to be a very nice combination.

      So I hope you can hold you head high the next time someone brings out the sake from Hamamatsu. Represent!!

      Posted by melinda | May 20, 2007, 4:50 pm
    2. I did not ask specifically, Before dinner, all over the map. With dinner, I believe everyone picked Suigei Junmai Ginjo, but Hananomai Ginjo did so well with food, too.

      I was expecting Suigei Tokubetsu Junmai to go well with katsuo-no-tataki, but surprisingly, the match wasn’t that good. I remembered when I had the same food in Kochi, Fujimusume Junmai Daigin was the best match, so really, hard to predict, I guess.

      Fried geso? Sounds good and I can see that matched with Hananomai Junmai Daigin or Suigei Junmai.

      So any of the Shizuoka mystery sake from Hamamatsu????

      Posted by Et-chan | May 21, 2007, 7:14 am
    3. I thought that the Suigei Ginjo would be the best match for food, too, but felt the same thing. Hana no Mai was a lot better in that dept., as long as the food’s not spicy.

      No, no Mystery Sake this time! We’re going to have that on Saturday, remember!!

      Posted by melinda | May 23, 2007, 6:54 am
    4. Funny, the Suigei Junmai was the big hit for us in NYC. We all loved that stuff across age and gender lines!

      I had all of the 4 sakes as “left overs” this past week. they are good sipping sakes, but nothing really grabbed me in this lot.

      Posted by Timothy | May 24, 2007, 3:13 pm
    5. I have to agree with you there, Tim. These sake were all really, really subtle (almost too much so)! But, I think it was an interesting experiment.

      The Suigei (both junmai and JG) got even drier when I tried them as leftovers! When we first opened them, I thought, “Kochi sake isn’t so dry after all.” But the next day – whoa – it did a 180 on me!

      Posted by melinda | May 24, 2007, 6:27 pm
    6. Hi Tim & Melinda,
      I agree. Both kura were really subtle. Also, Suigei Junmai had exceptionally lighter profile for Junmai. As I was sipping left over Suigei Junmai the other day, I said, “if it were at blind tasting to match to category, I would not have gotten this right.” I would not have guessed it was Junmai. Thought good value, though. (Melinda, I can hear you laugh at this comment)

      I had Suigei Junmai vs Nagano Shinanotsuru Junmai as comparison. I don’t know if they are good representation of each region, but Suigei was definitely drier.

      Posted by Et-chan | May 25, 2007, 1:18 pm

    Post a comment

    Sake Tourism

    Sake World Sake Brewery Tours

    Older stuff

    Organized stuff