Sake Experience Japan launches new sake blends

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22nd June, 2020 by Phoebe French

Sake specialist and consultancy Sake Experience Japan has released two new blended sakes as part of its Hokusai Assemblage range.

Following on from the successful launch of its first blended sake in 2018, Sake Experience Japan has now released two new expressions:  Hokusai Assemblage 2019 Red and Hokusai Assemblage 2019 Blue.

The 17% ABV sakes have been produced in a limited run of 320 bottles each, priced at €250.

Hokusai Assemblage 2019 Red is a blend of three different types of sake made by the Fujitasakago Brewery. Fujitakasago, which uses water sourced from Mt Fuji to make its sakes, was founded in 1830. It is a leading producer of yamahai sakes – a style which is said to have a wilder, gamier flavour – and is also known for the number of sake masters, or toji, it has helped to create.

The blend is comprised of two undiluted yamahai sakes, with two different levels of complexity. These are then mixed with an aged sake (koshu). According to the producer, the resulting sake has aromas of white lily and peach, with a “three-dimensional and complex structure with attractive length”.

The Hokusai Assemblage 2019 Blue, meanwhile, is made using four different sakes produced by Ide Brewery. Located at an altitude of 860 metres, Ide is the only sake brewery in the Yamanashi Prefecture, and like Fujitakasago, uses water from Mt Fuji in the brewing process.

An aromatic and a full-bodied sake are blended with an aged expression, which has matured for over 20 years in a temperature-controlled cellar. According to Sake Experience Japan, the expression has aromas of ripe melon and pear, with umami on the palate and an “elegant length”.

Sake Experience Japan first launched the Hokusai Assemblage range after drawing inspiration from the whisky and wine industries. The company said that historically, as in winemaking and whisky distilling, sake brewers understood the potential and quality of blended sake. However, as the sector has evolved, brewers have concentrated on the pursuit of a pure, clean tasting sakes, and have forgotten the value and art of blending.

Having conducted consumer research using people from 20 countries, Sake Experience Japan revealed there was a large gap between expectation and reality. Despite efforts to broaden knowledge of the sake category, it found that many brewers were using highly polished rice to create aromatic notes, often at the expense of body, complexity and flavour.

Sake Experience Japan launched its Hokusai Assemblage blending project to recover these lost features of sake. Just as whisky distillers and winemakers create complexity and balance when blending, Sake Experience Japan believes that combining sakes with contrasting weights and flavour profiles can produce a more expressive product.

Having teamed up with quality-focused producers, the company also believes its blended sake range has the potential to bring new customers to the category, generate interest from existing drinkers, and create “a fairer pricing structure” that promotes better quality examples.

The sakes at Le Jardin des Plumes.

The range is named after celebrated Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, best known for his woodblock print series called the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the famous print The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The artwork used in the packaging is from his Dotouzu ceiling panels, and the two waves from these pieces have been combined, alluding to the blending process.

Since early 2020, both the red and blue expressions have been listed at Michelin-starred Le Jardin des Plumes. The restaurant is in the commune of Giverny, a place made famous by its connection to Impressionist artist Claude Monet. Monet was known to have admired the work of Hokusai, and owned 23 of his prints. Chef David Gallienne will display the sake bottles at his restaurant in honour of the connection.

Sake Experience Japan is a multi-faceted company. It acts as a consultant for several sake breweries, and also for companies including Santa Rita. It provides an advisory service on topics including new product development and marketing strategies. Hokusai Assemblage, which was launched in 2018, marked its first foray into sake production.

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