Friday, May 9, 2014
I was recently given the opportunity to check out two premium sakes craft brewed by Ty Ku Sake in Nara, Japan. As a "Sake Rookie," I was pretty happy to be given the chance. I received two 330mL bottles, their Silver and Coconut Sakes. I was thinking that it would take forever to get through two highly potent bottles, but upon further research found that sake is not really a high alcohol beverage at all. That's just a myth. These sakes were 15% and 12% alcohol, respectively.
And that's not the only thing I learned about these Ty Ku sakes and sake in general. Sake is naturally low in calories due to its ingredients. In addition, it is gluten free and contains no tannins and no sulfites, all traits that make it attractive to health conscious drinkers that may steer away from beer and wine because of that.
Sakes are classified based on how much of each rice grain is polished away. <30% is called Futsu, >30% Junmai, >40% Junmai Ginjo, and >50% Junmai Daiginjo. Ty Ku Sake Silver is a premium Junmai over 30% and Ty Ku Coconut is classified as a Nigori (Cloudy) Sake. Ty Ku has a Black at 45% and a White over 60% in the ultra premium categories, not seen here.
I was instructed by the bottles to drink this sake chilled, then refrigerate and drink the rest soon afterward. But sake can also be used in food preparations, paired with a menu, or used in cocktails. Chef Ming Tsai (yeah that guy from Food Network and Cooking Channel that's always winning those competitions) is a proponent of the Ty Ku Sake brand and uses it frequently in his restaurant. He has created several dishes that both incorporate the sakes into the food as well as pair well with the final preparation.
I was given a recipe to consider trying but decided I might need Chef Tsai to help me shop for the ingredients. So I went with the chilled neat route. What did the sake rookie think about this beverage? Well, let me tell you.
I started with the Ty Ku Silver. It had a fruity sweet yet very subtle aroma. And the flavors were sweet as well, with huge amounts of pear flavors and bananas to a lesser extent. Floral, grainy rice. Exceptionally smooth with a dry finish. And it wasn't until after I finished my glass that I realized that this beverage screams "drink me with food!" So next up for me is some food pairing and perhaps a cocktail.
I tried the Ty Ku Coconut next, which I already mentioned is classified as Nigori (meaning cloudy). And cloudy it was. The bottle even told me to shake well before opening and serving. To me, everything about this was identical to the Silver except that there was a very prominent coconut role in every sip. So I'm guessing that's probably what the brewer had in mind. The coconut was very fresh tasting and made the beverage more appealing to me.
Listen. I'm not ready to give up my beer for sake's sake, but I love trying new things and maybe you should check this out for yourself too! I'm going to keep experimenting with what I have left from these two bottles and may report back!