Binks’ Sake

Once again my plans to waste the evening doing something more or less productive were thwarted by an impromptu invitation for a sake tasting event. Opportunism kicked in immediately. As for this post, it is published a week later than the actual occurrence. I really need to get it out now in order to be able to focus on other things, such as Juhannus.

Considering the tickets for a large tasting event offering 450 different brands of nihonshu from all over Japan normally cost ¥3500, free tickets were gladly accepted and put to good use. With a fellowship comprising of 6 Finnish trainees we made our way to Ikebukuro to Sunshine City, and ventured deeper into the labyrinth until we found the designated tasting area. We were all given small sake cups with a nice smiley face drawn on the inner bottom. Whether inner bottom is a universal concept or only exists in my imagination is a matter of debate.

I smile for your sake!

Liquor & Guessing

The layout of the tasting hall was incredibly plain, yet practical and very efficient. Long tables housing dozens of bottles of sake each were laid out by region around the exhibition area. We were given pamphlets naming all regions and sakes. Unfortunately, even with our combined efforts we only managed to decipher the readings for about 20% of the text offered to us.

Tasting factory

Near the entrance, a young attendant overheard us speaking demonic and made a vague attempt to help us, enthusiastically pointing at Kyushu bottle number 2 while yelling “zwanzig!” in my face. Clearly he had lost his mind. Later on, I attempted to gain insight to which of the sakes were supposed to be better than the rest. I asked one of the most connoisseur-like (read: tipsy) looking people and he pointed me to a sake brand from Yamagata prefecture, called the Juuyondai (十四代), one of the few names I could actually read. Unfortunately, as it genuinely was one of the more famous brands at the show, all the bottles were empty.

As with all self-respecting wine tastings, there were spit buckets available. Unfortunately, using those equals immediate relinquishment of Finnish citizenship, so we needed to stomach all the content we tried. This wasn’t too hard as the instrument used to measure sake into the cup was a pipette.

It's super effective!

No matter how hard I tried finding subtle taste differences between brands or even regions, a task that became more an more difficult upon ingesting a significant amount of alcohol, the only thing I could be certain of at the end of the journey was that they were all, in-fact, sake. I need more practice. After having had our share and tried everything we collectively could, we decided to continue the evening at a nearby izakaya. Kokutou umeshu was involved. Fin.

-Antti

  1. Hah, nicely done. I don’t know the first thing about sake either, other than the fact that I dislike most of it, but love Nanburyu Junmai, which I have only found at one particularly snooty sake bar in Hartford. If you come across it and care to let it come in contact with your sophisticated sake palette, let me know what you think. Cheers

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