Do you know the story of the revenge of the forty-seven ronin, also known as “Chushingura”? The story tells of a group of ronin (leaderless samurai) that avenge the death of their master. This is a very popular story among Japanese people and has been retold in everything from stage to film. Genzo Akagaki is one of the ronin and happens to be a sake lover. He always carries a round bottle with him and this bottle is well known by the name of Genzo Tokkuri.
By the way, you can find this traditional Genzo Tokkuri at grocery stores near you. This sake is Black & Gold by Gekkeikan, a long-selling sake released before Gekkeikan Sake USA was established in Folsom over 30 years ago. Black & Gold also won Best in Class at the LA wine competition, where Japanese sake breweries also compete. This is a classic sake, yet is no longer available in Japan.
What’s inside the black bottle? It’s a unique blend of two sakes at a ratio of 1 to 1, their flagship product Traditional from the Junmai category and their premium sake Haiku that can be ranked as the ginjo category. Black & Gold is very rich and savoy, having a fruity nose of apple and pear. At a glance, this combination seems to be contradictory, but it creates the perfect balance of flavor and aroma.
To find out “The best way to enjoy Black & Gold,” I carried out some experiments with followings:
1. A saucepan and a thermometer
2. Different shapes of glasses
3. Seasonings (vinegar, salt, soy sauce, etc)
Here are my findings through the experiments:
The best way to enjoy this sake is by warming it up, particularly to the nurukan zone of 100-110°F. It is the best temperature to bring out its flavor. It gives a smooth, rich and creamy texture, a sweet and savory flavor like roasted nuts, and a comfortably sour aftertaste.
Should you warm up this sake, I recommend trying the yukan method of warming it carefully in a hot bath with a thermometer to avoid spoiling the original taste. Heated in a microwave, it may come out too hot or unevenly heated.
Black & Gold is tasty at low temperatures as well, but has a drier, spicier finish. If you drink it in a wine or a straight glass, you may not like its brightness or bitterness.
If so, I recommend trying a trumpet-shaped glass like a cocktail glass instead. This makes the flavor and taste milder and you will hardly feel the brightness or bitterness. A round texture that reminds you of Sierra Nevada’s snowmelt, the ingredient of this sake fills in your mouth.
Don’t have a trumpet-shaped glass? No problem! There is another way to enjoy this sake, which is “pairing”.
I usually use seasonings such as salt or mustard to find out the best pairing. My method of experimentation is simply to taste the seasoning and then sip the sake. Ultimately, at this time, soy sauce proved the best seasoning to bring out the umami of Black & Gold! Which means that Black & Gold and Japanese traditional dishes such as sushi and sashimi create the best combination.
Other than soy sauce, vinegar also brought out sake’s umami and made its taste milder. Please enjoy Black & Gold with vinegar-flavored dishes, such as salad or marinades as well.
More than 100 years ago, Gekkeikan succeeded in developing Japan’s first bottled sake with no preservatives. Their tradition of technological achievement continues today with many widespread technologies in the Japanese sake industry.
31-year-old brewmaster Yosuke Kawase, a young leader of Gekkeikan Sake USA, is also a technical expert who is pursuing better quality, essential flavors and the taste of sake in following with that tradition. Black & Gold exactly reflects his technique as a blender.
Black & Gold conceals histories, techniques and various stories in a simple round bottle. Please try various ways to enjoy this sake and enjoy the stories contained in the black bottle.