Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sake Tasting at Le Caveau - April 23rd, 2014

Sake Tasting with Savannah Distributing at Le Caveau Fine Wines

Timothy Sullivan is the founder of, the 2007 Sake Samurai (Japan Sake Brewer’s Association) and an International Sake Sommelier (Sake Service Institute|SSI). He is also the Official Brand Ambassador of Hakkaisan Sake Brewery.  Timothy used to be a web developer for Barnes & Noble, but one night at dinner, he tasted a sake that changed his life.

Koji Aoto is long time resident of Atlanta, Georgia, Koji Aoto was born in Tottori Prefecture in west Japan. In 1990, Koji came to the United States as an intern teacher to teach Japanese culture to the American children in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1997, Koji joined one of the oldest liquor distributors in Georgia, Savannah Distributing Company, as one of the start-up members of its Atlanta office. At that time, Koji was the only Japanese in the industry.  
To further enrich his career, he returned to Japan in 2005 and visited more than twenty sake breweries experiencing the sake making process first hand. In 2006, Koji received a visa as a sake expert from the U.S., and returned to Atlanta, Georgia. He became the Asian Account Manager of Savannah Distributing Company, where he serves the most popular Sushi bars.

*Not pictured is Lisa Allen of Savannah Distributing, who also helped with the tasting this evening.

Abbie from TWITs with Timothy Sullivan, Brand Ambassador of Hakkaisan Brewery

1) Hakkaisan Junmai Sparkling Nigori Sake
With refreshing acidity and gorgeous aroma, Hakkaisan Sparkling Nigori is certainly enjoyable as an aperitif, but this popular sake can be enjoyed many ways. Try pairing this beautiful brew with rich or spicy dishes as well as fruits and dessert. 

2) Hakkaisan Junmai Ginjo Sake
It’s a touch dry with tremendous balance and a crisp refreshing finish. 

3) Hakkaisan Honjyozo Sake
Delicious and slightly rich honjozo. On the dry side with plenty of body to stand up to hearty food.

4) Kotsuzumi Tokubetsu Junmai Sake
100% Kita Nishiki, a unique rice from Oku Tanba is used. Only limited breweries use this rare rice. Full bodied and clear tasting.

5) Kotsuzumi 'Draft' Junmai Ginjo Nama Sake
The softest water in Japan, locally grown rare rice Kita Nishiki and unique yeast No.10 makes this sake so elegant, fresh, lively and pure. This is a rare Nama Sake (freshly pressed sake), which is bottled un-pasteurized to maintain the original delicate flavor of “newborn sake”.

6) Amabuki Junmai Ginjo Nama Strawberry Yeast Sake
Brewed using yeast cultivated off the flowers of strawberry plants, this sake is characterized by a refreshing crispness and almost reminiscent of fresh strawberries.

*If you keep the lid on the Sake bottle, and keep it cool, the bottle could last for several days.

What is Sake?

Is it a wine, a beer, a spirit?  Actually it is none of these things.  Sake is a "brewed alcohol", it converts start to sugar and sugar to alcohol at the same time and in the same tank.


Sake rice is not the same as the rice we eat.  The starch in the core of the sake rice grain.  The grain is made up of starch, fat, and proteins.  the grain is milled down to the center.  When you see a milling rate for sake, the lower the number means the higher the quality, as it is a finer starch.  For example, the Hakkaisan sparkling wine from the tasting has a 60% millage rate.  The highest millage rate sake that Hakkaisan produces is 30%.


Elsewhere, in Japan, there's a sake called Super 8, which has an 8% millage rate and retails for around $3000 / bottle. 


The unfermented rice solids, called Kasu (Kah-soo) that are not needed for Sake-making, are sold and used in cooking and pickling


In the 1960s and 70s, when Japan sent the USA Sake, it was bottom-of-the-barrel, quality-wise.  It was cheap table sake.  A lot of people have had hot sake (typically not a good quality) as a first experience, and thus decide they do not like Sake.  However, you wouldn't give up on Wine just because you had one bad glass, would you?  I wouldn't.


There are 47 prefectures (like regions or states) in Japan.  All but 1 of them makes Sake.  Hakkaisan Brewery is located in the Niigata Prefecture.

Unlike wine, Sake is not terroir driven.  It is better to categorize sake by the quality and characteristics of the brewing water used to make it.  Soft water might give you a cleaner, softer, more feminine sake vs. a harder water might give you a more masculine, robust, dryer sake.

Sake Rice shown at various millage percentages

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