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Excellent kanzake!
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This is the fourth or fifth time we have bought Hakkaisan's Tokubetsu Junmai, but it was the first time we heated it. It is well-suited for kanzake; when heated, it develops an impeccably smooth and savoury character without being too spicy.
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We received this Tokubetsu Junmai along with a Daiginjo as a set from our Coop. I could not find any mention on the brewery's website, so I assume it's a limited release. This is excellent food sake with a nose of chestnuts and dried fruits. Very light body and mild in taste; with refreshing dryness and notes of nuts. Clean finish. It goes well with food of subtle flavour or hot pots. It becomes smoother and sweeter at room temperature and reveals an ever-tastier character.

Chikumanishiki Tokubetsu Junmai
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Sansha's Kininjosen Karakuchi is the local staple in Hida Takayama. If there were a premium futsū-shu category, Sansha would rule it. It has a nose of dried fruits and narazuke. It is full-bodied, and at room temperature, well-rounded and surprisingly smooth for a karakuchi. However, it trumps as a prized kanzake. Warmed, it gets smoother but keeps its liveliness and spicy finish.

Harada Sansha Kininjōsen Karakuchi (原田酒造場 山車 金印 上撰辛口)

Harada Sansha Kininjōsen Karakuchi (原田酒造場 山車 金印 上撰辛口)
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Daishinshū's Betsugakoi Junmai Ginjō Bangaihin Nama is absolutely divine. We had no second thoughts when awarding it five stars. Bangaihin is a blend of Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjo, which explains why there are no detailed specifications on the back label.
It has a phenomenal nose of blueberries and white grapes: smooth texture, almost creamy, well-rounded, sweet mid-palate with slight acidity and subtle notes of alcohol; it boasts a wide range of flavours. Elegant and slightly peppery finish. Utterly impressed!

We bought it directly at the brewery. The staff was very accommodating and patiently presented their entire product line. In hindsight, we should have bought a second bottle.

Daishinshū Betsugakoi Junmai Ginjō Bangaihin Nam
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Henpei is part of Fukucho's "Satake series", for which the brewery uses Satake's cutting-edge rice miller that removes proteins and lipids while polishing the rice down to only 60 per cent, a procedure that would traditionally require a milling rate of 40 per cent. The henpei method results in a flat oval shape closely matching that of the shinpaku, the starchy white centre of the rice grain.

Therefore, the Satake milling allows the Hattansou rice to keep its natural flavour. Henpei is full-bodied and refreshing. It has a fruity nose (figs, strawberries, banana) and a delicate balance of sweetness and refreshing acidity. It is not as crisp as the Genkei and not effervescent and boasts a wonderfully spicy finish.

Fukuchō Hattansō Satake Series HENPEI (富久長 八反草 サタケシリーズ HENPEI)
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We have already had the pleasure to degust Endo's range of domuroku (yes, it's called doMuroku) and were looking forward to trying more doburoku. Nakano Shuzo's is a different sort of 'bootleg' altogether: it has a nose of lemon, yuzu and yoghurt. It's rich, creamy, and sweet but with refreshing citric notes. Higher acidity than usual doburoku and very little effervescence. Very refreshing. The dregs are thick and creamy, like okayu or nutmeg. Heavenly.

Nakano Kunizakari Junmai Doburoku (國盛 純米どぶろく) Nakano Kunizakari Junmai Doburoku (國盛 純米どぶろく) Nakano Kunizakari Junmai Doburoku (國盛 純米どぶろく)
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We revisited the Hojun, and although there is not much to be added to our first review, we believe it deserves four stars. Excellent food sake.

Hojun
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This is one for the fans of karakuchi! Mild nose of dried fruits. Extremely dry with refreshing acidity. Surprisingly, overall quite mild with a clean finish. Excellent food sake!

Takashimizu Karakuchi Junmai
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While most people feel revulsion when spotting a centipede, I have always been attracted by these fascinating creatures. Except for the two instances when we had them in our futon at night. Anyhow, the image of a mukade on a sake bottle leaves a powerful impression. The brewery describes them as poisonous yet caring critters and uses the Chinese characters 無風 (mukaze, "no wind") in a wordplay on mukade, Japanese for "centipede".

Junmai Mukaze Betsukoshirae is made of Hidahonmare rice grown in Gifu Prefecture. Registered in 1982, this variety has large grains and low protein content. The Mukaze has a sweet nose of banana and pineapple. The first sip reveals an intense flavour of banana and strawberry, followed by a sweet alcoholic aroma and a herbal, earthy-tangy aftertaste with a spicy tingle. It is moderately dry and turns even sweeter as the temperature rises, with more fruits and umami emerging. It is exceptionally smooth and pleasing and deserves its stars.

The Mukaze brand features three other sake, all of them on our shortlist.

Mukaze
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Though I am sceptical when I see manga labels on sake, Koikawa's Beppin is one to go for! The fruity nose of fresh apricots, and melon, with a touch of vanilla, won us over from the first sip. The Dewa33 is mild, reserved, elegant, medium-dry and well-rounded and boasts an exquisite balance of refreshing acidity and sweetness. Smooth and clear finish.

Koikawa Beppin Dewa33 Junmai Ginjo
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I cannot commend Sagaminada enough for this year's Shiboritate! Shiboritate is the fresh sake of the year, squeezed until the end of November and usually on sale by the beginning of December. Sagaminada's Shiboritate has a sweet fruity nose of strawberries with almost white Chablis-like qualities. It is well-balanced and has a refreshing acidity and dryness with a spicy tingle. Just beneath its marvellous flavour of strawberries, also present is Sagaminada's characteristic herb taste and a slight effervescence. To us on par with their Yamadanishiki Junmai Ginjo--splendid!

Sagaminada Shiboritate
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A nose of dried fruits and alcohol; pleasant ginjoka aroma is present; herbal and spicy with a slight sweetness and notes of dried fruits and gingerbread. Dry and smooth finish. Mikunihare offers a Maboroshinotaki Junmai Ginjo with a different label on its website. This one was produced for Mitsubishi Foods and was slightly cheaper.

Mikunihare Maboroshinotaki Junmai Ginjō (幻の瀧 純米吟醸酒)
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Gentle ginjo aroma with hints of dried fruits and caramel and intense notes of alcohol. Smooth mouthfeel, medium body, slightly viscous with lovely umami and an earthy sweetness that melts into refreshing acidity and tanginess. We also heated it (to around 45 degrees), and it was smooth as satin.

Shōtoku Karaku Junmai Ginjō
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In the past, thirteen breweries existed in Kurose, Higashihiroshima; today, Kanemitsu remains the last. Sakurafubuki has a yellow hue, and a nose of green apples and pears, caramel and pudding. Fruity flavours of plum and dried apricot, perfectly harmonious with slight acidity and tardiness--clean finish. Kanemitsu will remain on our radar.

Kanemitsu Sakurafubuki Junmai Ginjō (金光 桜吹雪 純米吟醸)
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Fresh and mildly cloudy. Very refreshing and mild, with no effervescence and little acidity, but with a distinctive herbal layer that makes Sagaminada's sake unique. We had it over dinner and didn't put it back into the fridge. Brilliant!

Kubota Sagaminada Nigorizake
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This sake was produced on behalf of Mitsubishi Food in what is known as their Junmai Daiginjo series. Previous breweries tasked by MF were Asabiraki and Fukumitsuya. The Keiryu has a nose of fruits, pudding, and vanilla. Medium textured, medium dry and light-bodied, it has good characteristics but was a little thin for our liking. Decent and reasonably priced.

Endo Keiryu Junmai Daiginjo (Mitsubishi Shohinken)
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This is the spiciest jewel in Sagaminadas trove: it has the sharp and herbal nose typical of Sagaminada. Herbal aroma, a great balance of spicy junmai and acidity, and a sharp finish; however, a light and refreshing body. Slight lingering acidity. A highlight for karakuchi lovers.

Kubota Sagaminada Tokubetsu Junmai Karakuchi
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Pouring the "Water of Desire" unleashes whirling impressions of a fruit basket: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and grapefruit peel are just some of the hints we could gather. And some green and minerals, too. The flavour is as overwhelming as the aroma: berries, apples, honey, caramel, and all more reminiscent of white wine than sake. What stands out is its superb balance of elegant sweetness, ripe umami of fruits, and refreshing acidity. It's elegant but not pretentious. It's one of those bottles you simply cannot put back into the refrigerator. Without a doubt, one of our top three this year!

Kuheiji Eau du Désir 2021 Junmai Daiginjō
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Gold
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Don't be fooled by the old-fashioned and inconspicuous label: this is a first-class junmai ginjo: with a yellowish appearance and a pleasantly sweet nose of fruits (plums) and narazuke. The first sip unleashes fireworks of mellow sweetness that transform into a harmony of soft acidity and umami from the Yamadanishiki. Lingering spiciness. A very refreshing sake with a fruity mouthfeel.

Tenpōichi Junmai Ginjō (天寶一純米吟醸)
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Natsu no Nigori Katafune is a sweet nigorizake and - as its name implies - brewed especially for summer. It is best consumed cold or on the rocks. Pasteurised once, it has an intense flavour and maintains a powerful umami—clean and refreshing aftertaste.
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