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Hitakami: A fascinating first kura from Miyagi at our benkyokai

Sorry, it’s been a while since last update at our site, but we have been away for a holiday to tropical islands where it is too hot to enjoy sake. Instead, our daily beer consumption went up during August and September. It is now perfect time of the year to get back into sake, and with many sake events lined up for October and November.

This note is from the August benkyokai.
Company Name: Hiraktaka Shuzo
Prefecture: Miyagi
URL: (J) N/A

Located near the ocean in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Hirataka Shuzo, producer of Hitakami, has been making sake to accompany seafood since 1861. The featured sake at the August benkyokai was Hitakami and we had a chance to hear what Mr. Hirai has to say about their sake. I thought the tasting was one of the most interesting we have attended. Also, it is worth noting that Hitakami was the first kura from Miyagi at the benkyokai at Mitsuya since it started! So, kind of special tasting.

Before Mr. Hirai talked about sake making, he simply made two points for us to take away from the benkyokai:

1. Their brand (日高見) is Hi-ta-kami, not Hi-da-kami.
2. If you drink sake with seafood, pick Hitakami.

Short and clear messages–even I can remember these messages after having sake.

So, why is Hitakami best with seafood? Ishinomaki residents enjoy fresh local seafood each season: oysters, sole, sea urchin, etc. This JAL site lists some of the local specialties.

During the tasting, we had ample chance to confirm that seafood and Hitakami complement each other and bring out the best in each other. Here aree a few other interesting points of the tasting. Mr. Hirai went on to explain where Yamadanishiki, the most popular rice for sake, came from, sort of a “family tree” of rice. He even went into explaining Yamadanishiki’s children. To explain the three generations of the Yamadanishiki rice family, he brought three kinds of sake. Well, we won’t be able to consume the entire “family tree” until next year, but at least, we tasted three generation of rice. So, on with the tasting!

1.日高見中取り大吟醸 山田錦 (Hitakami nakatori daiginjo yamadanishiki)
Clean, clear daiginjyo

2.日高見天竺純米吟醸 愛山 (Hitakami tenjiku junmaiginjo aiyama)
Yamadanishi was developed by mixing 2 rice varieties: Aiyama and Wataribune. Hirai-san was curious how sake made with Aiyama and Wataribune taste, so he went out of his way to find seeds and succeeded at growing Aiyama after 7 years. He will be harvesting his first crop of Wataribune this year for the next sake brewing season. That’s why the complete “family tree” tasting is not possible until next year.

This sake alone had a slightly bitter aftertaste. With food, though, the aftertaste went away and formed a very interesting, good, taste. It was interesting to find three guys around me all liked the first one, daiginjyo better, but three ladies all liked this Aiyama junmai ginjyo better than daiginjyo. I wondered if this is why Hirai-san kept on saying Aiyama is Yamadanishiki’s “mother”. Is there some kind of deeper female connection with Aiyama?

3.日高見天竺純米吟醸 山田穂 (Hitakami tenjiku junmaiginjo yamadao)
Yamadao is a mix of Yamadanishiki and something else. So, during the tasting we kept on referring to this sake as “Yamadanishiki’s child”. This had a very floral aroma compared to number 1 or 2. Hirai-san himself was tasting this for the first time with us that day, and he said the aroma must be from a good match between the yeast and the rice.

sake Hitakami from three generations of rice
Three generations of rice.

4.日高見山田錦純米  山田錦 (Hitakami yamadanishiki junmai)
This is probably least aromatic of the four, and still maintains a very clean taste. Considering the price (about 2700 yen for 1.8L) and how well this goes with the food, this was my pick. That, and the fact that they do not make other three in 720ml bottle, means I would have to vote for this one to take home.

Shochu, too
This rice “family tree” tasting alone was very interesting, but, there were two more special shochus for tasting. Shochu at a sake tasting? It sounds odd, but makes perfect sense as these were both made from kasu=sake lees.

5.日高見柱焼酎仕込み (Hitakami hashira shochu jikomi)

This is close to how sake is made around Genroku(Edo) period. From Hirai-san’s explanation, Hshirashochu is the method developed during the Edo period to add high alcohol content shocyu to sake to keep the sake longer before pasteurizing comes in place. They made shochu out of Junmaishu with Ginjo kasu shochu.

I have to admit by the time we got to this bottle, my sake notes are not quite readable. So, I just post some pictures of hashira shochu jikomi sake.

sake Hitakami hashira shochu jikomi
Hitakami hashira shochu
Explanation on the back of the bottle.

6.日高見粕取り焼酎(Hitakami kasutori shochu)
This is another schochu, but it is intended to be closer to grappa. Alcohol from junmai and junmai jinjyo kasu, are distilled and made into a very grappa-like shochu. This was served really cold.
Hitakami kasutori shochu

Hitakami review at sake-world.

Hirai-san-talking passionately about his sake.

Food we had with Hitakami.


2 Responses to “Hitakami: A fascinating first kura from Miyagi at our benkyokai”

  1. Wow, it sounds like you guys had a really educational, as well as intoxicating, evening! I really hope that I’ll be able to tag along for the…October or November benkyoukai. So interesting!

    Posted by melinda | September 30, 2006, 10:13 am
  2. It was a good one. Next one is on November 18 and hope you can make it!

    Posted by Et-chan | October 1, 2006, 9:46 am

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