Pure and rich, Hokko Junmai is a creamy drink with delicious undertones of floral bouquets and ripe melon.

Located in Iiyama city, the “little Kyoto of Snow Country,” nestled among the mountains in the far northern Nagano Prefecture, lives Kadoguchi Sake Brewery. Winters in northern Nagano see heavy snowfalls of three metres or more, and are often harsh and cold, while in summers the mountainous terrain makes it a popular spot for hikers. Kadoguchi Sake Brewery was established here in 1869, and is now in its fifth generation of brewers.

P14_sake2Among the brewery’s specialties is Hokko Junmai sake, a dry sake that can be enjoyed chilled, at room temperature or warmed. White rice grown locally (Hitogokochi) is used to make Kadoguchi’s Hokko Junmai. Junmai sakes are considered to be the purest of sakes, not containing any added distilled alcohol and not made with added sugars or starches. Like with wines, there are many categories of sake; however, unlike with wines, which are classified by the type of grape, sakes are classified by the percentage that the rice has been milled (seimai-buai) as well as by the method of brewing. Junmai sakes are made with rice that has been milled to at least 70%, meaning that the rice has been polished to the point where no more than 70% of the original size of the grain remains (so, at least 30% of the outer layer of each rice grain has been ground away).

The taste of Hokko Junmai contains hints of sweet melon, pear, fennel and mellow floral bouquets that add richness and smoothness. When enjoyed chilled, the taste is creamy and coconut-y, with a pleasing, slightly bitter aftertaste. One might describe chilled Hokko Junmai to be heavy in umami. When consumed warm (though not hot), the flavours are more muted, though the sake is still satisfying and delicious. Hokko Junmai appears clear in a glass, with only a slight tinge of yellow-green chartreuse, and has good clarity.

Hokko Junmai sake is a perfect accompaniment for sushi or sashimi, but also pairs nicely with less-traditional options such as smoked salmon, gamey meats, steaks, foie gras and ricotta cheese with dill. The alcohol content of Hokko Junmai is 15.2% and, like other Junmai sakes, it is fuller and richer than the average sake, with a higher acidity level (1.4).

Starting in April, Hokko Junmai sake will be available at your local LCBO.