Welcome! This blog is designed as a compendium site to the Tengu Sake shop on this website. The blog is written and maintained by me, Oliver Hilton-Johnson – Tengu Sake’s Director and Sake Specialist, and I hope it answers all your sake questions (or at least grabs your interest)!
Please check out my pages via the horizontal navigation bar above for reference material and general information on sake. The blogs on this feed are categorised for your convenience (on r-h-s) and contain anything and everything from my random musings to detailed posts on sake brewing techniques, industry stats, awesome facts, food pairings and much more.
If you like what you see please do pop on over to our shop where you can buy sake online and have it delivered anywhere in the UK. If you like Japanese sake or are at all curious about it I’m pretty sure you’ll find something for you!
Finally, the best way to keep in touch is by following us on Twitter and Facebook and also signing up to our newsletter where you’ll hear about exclusive offers, events, news and more besides. Check out the contact us page for details.
Happy sake drinking!
Often I get asked the best way to store sake, this is particularly important during the festive or other gift-giving seasons as sake can often sit around for a while. I guess the first thing to address is how long sake lasts, so please read my How Long Sake Lasts blog post.
Now that’s cleared up it’s very simple, sake has two enemies: heat and light.
It is amazing how storing sake at a warm temperature can really affect the quality of the sake. The ideal conditions are refrigerated so, if you have the fridge space, you can keep your sake nice and chilled and fresh. The next ideal location would be in a wine cooler with a constant temperature below 15 deg C. Ultimately, any place with a constant temperature, below 15 deg C will be ok. The longer you want to keep the sake for (and we’re talking months here, not years!) the cooler you’re going to want to keep your sake. In Japan, most sake is matured at temperatures below 5 deg C.
Changes in temperature really upset sake too. The worst place to keep sake would be, therefore, somewhere like the kitchen where the temperature goes up and down the whole time.
Of course with namazake (unpasteurised sake) it is imperative you keep your sake refrigerated the whole time!
There is also a question of orientation – do you store sake horizontally (like wine) or vertically? Ideally, you’d store it vertically to avoid contact with the cap – and thus any possibility of rusting/corrosion tainting the sake – but in practise it’s really not going to make too much of a difference, unless you’re laying down your sake for an experiment in long-term aging then definitely store it vertically.
Sunlight is the worst but even long-term exposure to light from the fridge can be bad! I once tried a sake that had been (purposefully) exposed to sunlight for only two weeks, the degradation in quality was most apparent.
If you don’t have a dark (cold) place to store your sake then I suggest you wrap each bottle in newspaper to eliminate any light getting in.
If you store your sake in a cold, dark place you should have no problem with quality degradation. Remember: sake is a low intervention, delicate product – please handle with care! And, if you are buying it for a gift, best not to pop it under the Christmas tree for a week!
Sake will, of course, last longer when it is stored correctly.
The question of how long sake lasts is actually quite difficult to answer and, certainly, there are a few breweries experimenting with ageing and maturing sake longer than what we traditionally consider a ‘safe’ or ‘wise’ period. This process is distinct from koshu (intentionally aged sake for longer than three years) which tends to have rich and deep umami-led flavours, often they are quite sweet too. What I’m talking about here are brewers who are either maturing their sake themselves for prolonged periods of time (but generally less than three years) or designing the sake to be sold ‘fresh’ and then develop over time. Some brewers are even doing this with namazake (unpasteurised sake), some Muroka Nama Genshu (unfiltered, unpasteurised & undiluted) rather suit a bit of maturation! Read more…
Their Junmai Daiginjo (Black Face) and Yamahai Junmai (Purple Warrior) from part of our core portfolio. The brewery have, however, a bunch of other sake in the lineup, mostly Junmai Ginjo, and we’ve brought a few to the UK for you to enjoy, each at £22:
When I started Tengu Sake I set some guiding principles:
I am delighted that the International Wine Challenge has seen fit to award Tengu Sake Specialist Merchant of the Year for the second time running, specifically for playing a “vital role in raising the profile of sake in Britain.”
As ever it was a fun night at the awards ceremony. Great company and amazing to be recognised along with the breweries who did so well this year, here’s to next 😉
We’re, once again, delighted to be shortlisted for this prestigious award. Last year we were lucky enough to win (maybe two years in a row is too much to hope for!)
The awards dinner is on 6th July in London – we’ll find out then.
I thought I’d start a series of very brief posts where I show my experiences of trying various sake pairings with the sakes we offer in our shop.
I’m a big fan of trying sake with non-Japanese foods and I encourage everyone to try!
This sake paring was a big win. Gentle Breeze is a great balance between aroma and flavour so the fruitiness of the sake calmed the fishiness of the herring, and the umami in the tomato and sake complemented each other beautifully. Finally the gentle acidity in the sake was more than enough to deal with the creamy mozzarella without overwhelming it.
On 15th May the British Sake Association hosted a sake dinner for their members and guests at London’s Anzu restaurant. Our Director, Oliver, was invited along to present a selection of sakes, all paired with Anzu’s excellent food. The event was sold out and we welcomed 22 people for dinner.
And the party starts here! A selection of sakes to try by the glass, sake cocktails, bar snacks on order and awesome tunes!
Free entry, no reservations needed. Party starts 1st October from 9:30pm ’til late.
If you’re interested in our paired dinner beforehand, starting at 7pm, check this out!
312 King’s Road,
London SW3 5UH
Kurobuta takes its inspiration from the Izakayas of Japan, where tapas-style plates are served to accompany drinks in a casual setting and to mark World Sake Day 2016 on 1st October, owner and chef Scott Hallsworth will be putting on a sake dinner and after party like no other at his Chelsea restaurant.
With Scott at the helm, the food is going to be out of this world and will be paired with epic sake samplers carefully selected by Tengu Sake, who supply incredible sake from multiple award-winning Japanese breweries.
This one-off evening will kick off in Kurobuta Chelsea’s basement at 7pm, where guests will be welcomed with amazing Japanese inspired canapés alongside killer sake cocktails.
This will be closely followed by a six-course, sake paired feast with all dishes being cooked in front of guests by Scott himself. Culinary theatre at its very best!
Oliver Hilton-Johnson from Tengu Sake will also be in the house, serving up his excellent sake and giving guests the lowdown on each pour.
Then from 9.30 onwards there will be a DJ getting everyone in the mood to party Kurobuta style, plenty more sake cocktails available to buy. Check out the party!
To book your tickets for the Sake dinner and/or place on the after party guest list please email Chelsea@kurobuta-london.com or call 0207 920 6442 mentioning WORLD SAKE DAY DINNER. Tickets are £50 per person and are very limited!
312 King’s Road,
London SW3 5UH
A while back I wrote a post detailing which types of sake you can expect to be gluten free and which might contain some. In that post we learnt that some types of sake have a little added, distilled alcohol (often listed as “brewers’ alcohol” on the bottle). Naturally, this begs the question why? Why does sake have added alcohol? Read more…
To ensure an intimate setting the dinner was strictly limited to 10 places. Chef Ishii prepared a sublime six course meal with delicious green tea and delicate pastries to finish. Each course was paired with a different sake from our portfolio and Honami-san carefully selected exquisite sake cups and other service wares to enhance the experience. Overall it really was a night to remember.
A big, big thanks to all those who came and, of course, to Ryosuke Mashio the Head Sommelier at Umu for his wonderful service. Read more…
If your dad’s as cool as James Bond he’s going to want some sake this Father’s Day. Even if he’s not, sake will help. A lot. So why not take advantage of our super Father’s Day sale which we’re running until the day itself (Sunday 19th June)?
Our Gift Vouchers are proving super popular, and this Father’s Day we are offering an extra 10% free! For example, spend £50 on a gift voucher and get an extra 10% on us bringing it up to £60!!! Not sure what your Dad might like? No worries, leave the decisions up to him!
We’ve discounted seven of our most popular sakes (up to 20%) so there’s something for everyone. Take a look:
A beautiful, sparkling Junmai Daiginjo
|Konishi Silver (720ml)
Light, delicate, refreshing
|Tatenokawa 50 (720ml)
Fruity, expressive & crisp
|Autumn Leaves (1.8l)
|Mountain Stream (1.8l)
Super fresh, zippy namazake
|Golden Amber (720ml)
Deep oaky, rich, aged 12 years
|Nirvana – Fresh in! Winner of 6 consectutive Gold Medals, limited stock
The International Wine Challenge has been judging wine for 33 years and is accepted as the world’s finest and most meticulously judged wine competition. The IWC receives entries from every corner of the globe and employs a vast number of international wine experts to judge the competition. The results of the IWC are covered by the world’s media, reaching over 1.2 billion people worldwide.
It is a great honour to have been shortlisted in these prestigious awards. In 2014 we were shortlisted for “Innovator of the Year” but, unfortunately missed out on the grand prize. This year we hope to bring it home! We’ll find out at the glitzy awards dinner on 7th July.
Of course, a huge thank you must go out to all our customers. Without you we would be nothing.
Incidentally, the IWC has been judging sake – alongside wine – for 10 years now. I am lucky enough to have been a sake judge for three years and this year, to celebrate 10 years, the judging was in Japan (as opposed to the usual London venue). More on this is a later blog.
I was recently asked is sake gluten free or not (some of you may have noticed that on some of our bottles gluten is indeed listed as an allergen). The answer, in a word, is complicated.
So, last week I made some mulled sake for a Christmas drinks party. I have to confess to being a little dubious about the whole idea but, actually, it worked really well and was heartily guzzled by my guests. Credit for the recipe must go to Ali over at Kurobuta Marble Arch; he is, of course, using Tengu Sake in the recipe!
Toast all the spices first, then add to tea, peels & sake. Leave the brew over a low heat for 1.5 hours (ish). Leave to cool, then strain (straining is important otherwise the brew gets too spicy)
The photo above is actually for Ali’s Christingle Cocktail, which uses the above mulled sake recipe as the base but adds some embellishes. It is available NOW at Kurobuta Marble Arch
Kurobuta Marble Arch
17-20 Kendal Street
The nights are getting longer and there’s a definite chill in the air! Perhaps you’ve put your heating on or are burrowed deep in a blanket, keeping warm. Have no fear, remedy is at hand! WINTER = WARM SAKE! (read our guide to sake & temperature). Here are some recommendations for best sakes for winter 2015 from the Tengu Sake range (click on the images to take you to the product).
|Black Samurai – rich & funky yamahai!||Rocky Mountain – rustic, raw and earthy||Morning Dew – dry, peppery & well-structured|
|Waning Moon – smooth, easy-drinking||Ancient Mountain – warming, rich & creamy||Signature Brew – dry everyday sake, big bottle|
It’s always nice to have a cracking Junmai Daiginjo to hand: try a glass of Tatenokawa 50 by the fire. Aperitif is a beautiful aged sake, one to be savoured or served with pud! If you just can’t decide, our Full & Funky Selection is great to explore too – lots of interesting flavours and types of sake.
|Tatenokawa 50 – fruity, expressive & crisp||Aperitif – aged, rich, malty & sophisticated||Full & Funky Selection – exciting & unique sake|
Snuggle up warm this winter with some delicious warm sake!
I held a Masterclass beforehand for around 25 people; the theme was sake & temperature and we tried three different sakes, both cold and warm: Rocky Mountain, Silent Forest & Morning Dew. Since it was World Sake Day we also had a toast with Tatenokawa 18!
The party kicked off with aplomb around 8pm with 4 sake cocktails to choose from by the masters at Pimpshuei as well as 5 sakes by the glass.
Check out some photos from this year’s party; see you next year!
There’s a great little video from a series called “Folktales from Japan” in which sake and Tengus are featured in one of the short episodes. It’s made for kids but it’s a lot of fun and gives an insight into the Tengu legend!
Click on the image above to watch the video. Skip to 8m 30s to get to the relevant story or, if you’ve got some time on your hands, check out the whole video!
My gracious host for this two-week period was Rieko Hayashi, an inspirational lady and the President of Hayashi Honten. Hayashi-san generously opened her home to me and had me to stay with her and her family, whilst I spent the two weeks ‘in the thick of it’, elbow deep in sake under the watchful eye of Master Brewer, Sakai-san.
It was, needless to say, a fascinating and eye-opening experience – one I’ve vowed to repeat!
Making sake is a hugely complicated process. They say (I’m not sure who ‘they’ are but they do say, nonetheless) that with wine – because growing grapes is so arduous – 80% of the work is done once the grapes are picked. With sake, about 10% of the work is done once the rice is harvested; 90% therefore remains and it is down to the skill of the toji (Master Brewer) and the kurabito (brewery workers) to turn this white grain into the sublime drink we know and love.
You can read my overview of sake making on this website on our How Sake is Made page
I was asked to write an article for internet-based sake magazine ‘Museum of Sake Journal’ and I wanted to share that with the readers of this blog. Please click here or on the image below to read the article and discover what my two weeks at Hayashi Honten were like. Do check out the rest of the magazine too, it’s great!
The sun is out, summer has arrived and it’s picnic time! But what is the best sake for summer? Here are our top suggestions from the Tengu Sake range.
It’s fresh out of the press, bottled and shipped without going through any pasteurisation. Namazake is super fresh, zippy, zesty and refreshing. You can check out our namazakes individually or go right ahead and get our Nama Selection!
|NAMAZAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Mountain Stream – layered, complex, fresh & young||Dancing Geisha – fresh, zesty & fruity|
|Namazake Selection – all our namazakes in one place for you to order|
Here are some other stunning choices to enjoy on a warm summer’s day.
|Gozenshu Yuzushu – Simply delicious, try with tonic!||Pearl – our new slightly sparkling Daiginjo sake|
|Konishi Gold – crisp, light, fruity Daiginjo||Premium Brew – subtle, dry & light|
|Tatenokawa 33 “Brook” – from the masters of Junmai Daiginjo, Tatenokawa – elegant & expressive fruit flavours|
We hope this helps you choose your best sake for summer!
A good question if I’ve ever heard one, and there are a lot of – some well-defined – answers. However, an interesting aspect is whether, in order to be called sake, it has to be made in Japan or not (for the purposes of this article I’m referring to Japanese sake and emulations thereof). Indeed the Japanese do not even refer to what we call ‘sake‘ as sake at all; instead, they call it nihonshu (日本酒) meaning ‘Japanese alcohol’. Read more…
Discount on sake in our sake shop, see below for details.
Right now it’s hanami season in Japan. Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, usually cherry blossom, it is also an opportunity for everyone to cut loose, get together with friends, throw a blanket under the trees, grab some sake and have some fun!
The picture below is of the Shin-Sakai River in Kakamigahara City, Gifu Prefecture where Hayashi Honten brewery are based. The Kabuki actor, Hyakujuro, donated 1000 cherry blossom trees (sakura) to the city; they now line the river and when they bloom – as you can imagine – it is a spectacular site to behold, if you were there you’d want to have a party too! To commemorate this Hayashi Honten brew Black Face, a cracking junmai daiginjo, with Hyakujuro’s kabuki mask decorating the front label.
We wanted to bring some of the hanami festival fun to you here in the UK! Perhaps you are lucky enough to have some cherry blossom near you – you might have seen it burst in to bloom recently (or maybe it’s soon to come) – at any rate, it’s definitely getting warmer so grab a blanket, get some friends together and have yourself a hanami party!
We’ll help by offering – to all newsletter subscribers – 15% discount on ALL orders, AND free delivery on any orders over £60. If you’re a subscriber you will receive your discount code, if not all you need to do is sign up here!
If you’re wondering where you can enjoy hanami in the UK:
There are a lot of sake myths and mis-information out there so here are a few facts we hope will clear things up!
In summary the rough, boiling-hot gut-rot of yore is no more! Instead, as interest has grown and technology (both manufacturing and transportation) has improved, the quality of sake available in the UK has improved immeasurably.
We hope that has cleared up some of the sake myths and encouraged you to give it a go! Pop on over to our shop to see what you can find.
In our shop we quote a series of ‘Master Specs’ for all our sake. These are not special Tengu Sake Master Specs in so much as we didn’t come up with the system, these are metrics given by most brewers. As the name suggest you kind of have to be an expert to really understand what they mean and how they’ll affect you experience. I can’t fully explain them all here but what I can give you is an insight into what they mean, future blog entries will expand (under master specs tag), and tastings I host will help your understanding so do pop along!
The last thing I want is for these specs to be intimidating. Sake is a very involved subject and the rabbit-hole goes very deep! These specs are design for those that already know a lot about sake. However, the more you drink it and the more you learn about it (this blog is a good place to start) the more you’ll begin to understand what these stats mean.
Limited offer – 25% off!!! See below for details!
Now I know you’ve been checking and you’re quite right, the Tengu Sake website has been down for the past couple of days. Why? Because TODAY we’re launching a super-awesome, new version!
“But it looks the same!”, I hear you say. Well, yes, but things behind the scenes are a hell of a lot simpler, plus, there’s some seriously cool new features:
All this whilst retaining the ‘filtering by characteristic’ functionality you love so much on the Sake Shop pages.
To celebrate the launch of the new site I’m running a 25% sale on all sake and sake selections until midnight on 14th December! Just use coupon code xmas25 to claim your 25% discount!
Happy sake drinking,
Tengu Sake is featured in Aga Living this Autumn! One of the best things to do with an Aga, surely, is to warm your sake on a cold day, so being featured in the Autumn addition is perfectly apt! If you want to learn more about which sakes should be warmed and how to do it, check out this blog post.
Otherwise click on the image to see the full article.
The full magazine can be found on the Aga Living website.
It’s a bonafide date in the Japanese calendar but why should 1st October in particular be Sake Day? As ever, it’s complicated but here goes… Read more…
This is going to be awesome. Last time we did a party in Kurobuta it rocked and this time we’re dreaming up some amazing sake and food pairings for you to try.
Not sure about sake? Want to discover the basics? Want to try a few and get your bearings?
If so then please join me for an introduction to sake at the Japan Foundation, London on 24 September 2014 from 6.30pm. Admission free.
The accolades keep rolling in!
Rocky Mountain has been voted “Best Sake with British Food” at this year’s Sake Experience at Hyper Japan. Over 1100 people visited the Sake Experience (a 44% increase on last year).
To celebrate our award I’m offering a 10% discount and free delivery for a half case (6 bottles+) of Rocky Mountain!
Rustic, raw and earthy
JAPANESE NAME OF SAKE: Gozenshu 9 Regular
TYPE OF SAKE: Junmai Bodaimoto
BREWERY: Tsuji Honten
This is a rustic, raw and earthy sake with malt, caramel and cereal all present on the nose. The flavours are smoothly presented, well-balanced, rich and deep. Again, caramel, malt and cereal are the predominant flavours and, when warmed (30°C – 45°C), Rocky Mountain favours the sweeter caramel notes.
Full umami in this sake means it’s a wonderful pair with richer flavours. Think cheese burger, think BBQ, think anti pasti, roasts, game, cheese, tomato sauces…
So, next time you’re reaching for a full-bodied red to go with your summer BBQ, why not grab a bottle of Rocky Mountain, wow your friends and experience umami matching like never before.
Hope to see you there! If you don’t have tickets yet there still some available at hyperjapan.co.uk
Hyper Japan is the UK’s biggest Japan culture festival held over three days (25th – 27th July) at London’s Earl’s Court. It’s a lot of fun but kind of crazy! Lot’s of food, anime, cosplay, art, budo, clothing, you name it! Every year they run the Sake Experience, it always proves extremely popular with almost 800 people attending last year.
All you have to do is answer this simple question to be entered into our prize draw for one free ticket to the Sake Experience:
Q: What is my favourite vessel to drink sake from? (clue: look around this blog!)
Wednesday 30th July 2014, 7:30pm – £35 – limited places
Off the back of being shortlisted for Innovator of the Year, Harpers Wine & Spirit (the must read publication for the UK wine and spirits trade) wanted an interview.
Offer valid until end of 11th June.
Order any combination of these great sake and, as long as you order 2 or more bottles, we’ll deliver them straight to your door, free of charge!
Clicking the link above will take you to the ‘Discover Our Sake’ page on the Tengu Sake website. You’ll find all our Junami Daiginjo and Daiginjo sakes on the top row, Golden Amber is a little further down, in the Junmai section (or just filter by clicking the “Aged” pictogram).
Happy sake drinking!
I am absolutely thrilled that Tengu Sake has been nominated for this prestigious award. I started this company about a year ago because I wanted to bring fantastic sake into the UK and make it available and accessible to a non-Japanese-speaking audience. I had lost count of the number of times I had been frustrated with the lack of clear descriptions, tasting notes, etc. available for sake – you literally had to be a expert to understand what the sake you were holding in your hand might taste like – to me that just seemed crazy! I started Tengu Sake to address this (and other!) issues and it is reassuringly awesome that by being shortlisted for this award, other’s recognise our efforts. This the first time a sake company has ever been shortlisted (these things, naturally, are dominated by the wine trade) so I’m delighted we’re in there, reppin’ the sake industry!
For those of you that don’t know, The International Wine Challenge is the world’s most rigorously judged wine competition and has long been a champion of giving sake the recognition it deserves. They introduced sake judging in 2007 and, since then, it has grown to become the biggest sake competition outside Japan, attracting over 700 entries in 2014 (I actually judged for the first time this year but more on that in another blog!).
They also run awards for merchants, there are 16 award categories open to retailers and wholesalers alike. You can find the full shortlist, us included, for all the awards here.
As you can see we’re up against serious competition – some ‘big boys’ in wine – as I said, this is the first time a sake company has been up for an award (possibly the first time any non-wine company has been) but fingers crossed: who knows.
The results are all announced at an awards dinner on 16th July. Wish me luck!
I’ve been working with the team over at Kurobuta for some time now; most noticeably the mighty Head Chef, Scott Hallsworth. Kurobuta started off as a small pop-up on the Kings Road in Chelsea and now, 6 months later and after spectacular reviews, that site’s gone permanent and they’ve opened a new, bigger joint near Marble Arch.
Their food is the business and – according to the Telegraph – so’s their sake (“cracking” actually!) This is just as well since I’m proud to say that both Kurobuta restaurants are supplied, exclusively, by Tengu Sake!
Apparently, we’re cool enough for our sake to be selected to appear in uber-cool design magazine, Wallpaper*
Check it out:
Very chuffed with the write-up Tengu Sake received in the FT’s ‘How to spend it‘ section on 20th February!
They liked the search functionality on the website:
“A nifty tool also allows shoppers to select bottles by criteria such as light, rich, fragrant, dry, with food or for enjoyment “by itself”.”
They liked our pre-selected cases:
“Knowledgeable sake connoisseurs and lay-Itsu-eaters alike will enjoy the top-flight Ichiban Selection…”
And they liked me:
“Tengu Sake is clearly a labour of love and Hilton-Johnson has carefully curated from the light and fruity to extremely bold offerings.”
As they said…
“I’ll drink to that.”
Read the full article here.
Very exciting news! Hayashi-san, head of Hayashi Honten brewery, is visiting the UK at the end of this month. So, we thought it was a good excuse for a party! We’ve teamed up with the ever-amazing Kurobuta restaurant on the King’s Road to run an exclusive, rock-and-roll, Kurobuta-style sake event.
Tengu Sake is currently running a competition on the At Home Magazine website, offering a lucky reader the chance to win one of our Brewery Selections!!!
Head on over to the At Home Magazine competition page to enter
if you can’t wait that long and simply HAVE to get a case NOW then we’re currently offering the Brewery Selection at a special discounted price and with free delivery at tengusake.com
Happy sake drinking.
Exciting times! We just rolled out an updated version of our website www.tengusake.com.
How’s it different, you say?! Check it out:
You can now create a profile, place an order, and pay for it all via the website. No more paying over the phone or by bank transfer.
Simply create an account when you checkout and, next time you login, all your delivery preferences will be there!
Most awesomely, finding the perfect sake for you just got easier! How? You can now filter your sake choices using our unique pictogram system, simply by clicking on the pictograms at the top of the page.
You can do this on both our Discover Our Sake page and our All Products page. Go on, try it now! NB – these two pages have now been combined into one, our Sake Shop.
More information is now detailed about each sake on the sake‘s product page. The right-hand column now details:
We’ve done all this to make it easier for you to find and order the sake you want. As ever, if you’re struggling do not hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email, we’re always happy to give advice!
Head on over to the events page to see the events we have lined up, so far, for 2014!
Browse (Junmai) ginjo on our sake shop
Junmai Ginjo and ginjo are both made with rice polished rice to remove at least 40% of the outer layer of the grain (reminder of sake classifications). It accounts for only 3% of all sake produced, and is celebrated for its pronounced fruity flavours and fragrance.
The defining characteristic of this class of sake is the fabulous fruity and floral scents. Common scents include apple, melon, pear, strawberry, banana, lychee, and citrus fruits. Flavours are generally light and delicate , they can also be highly nuanced but not as much as the more refined (junmai) daiginjo class.
Junmai ginjo (made without added alcohol) is generally deeper in flavour with a slightly more muted nose than it’s ginjo counterpart, which tends to emphasis the fruity notes and produces a lighter, more delicate sake.
|JUNMAI GINJO SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Blue Dragon – Delicious, fresh, fruity & light||Silent Forest – rich honey, melon & dried apricot; good cold & warm|
|GINJO SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Konishi Silver – Gold Medal winning sake. Light, delicate, refreshing with lower alcohol|
You have more leeway with ginjo and junmai ginjo than you do with their more milled daiginjo brothers. The more fruity types generally are best drunk colder but you can experiment at warmer temperatures with others. Silent Forest, for example, is fabulous at 30-35°C.
This category of sake can be drunk on its own but also goes very well with food. Junmai ginjo tend to have more umami tasting amino acids than (junmai) daiginjo so pair well with fuller flavours. A fabulous grilled steak is a good example; although, unless they have ample acidity they will not benefit from the addition of a creamy Bearnaise sauce!
Konishi Silver is a great match for meaty seafood (scallops, etc.), Silent Forest is fabulous with salty foods, creamy cheeses or meats, and Blue Label pairs well with hard cheeses and stews.
Browse (junmai) daiginjo in our sake shop
Both junmai daiginjo and daiginjo are made with highly polished rice from which at least 50% of the outer layer of the grain has been removed (reminder of sake classifications). It accounts for the top 3% of all sake produced, and represents the pinnacle of the brewers’ craft.
Building on the wonderful fruity and floral scents you get with (junmai) ginjo sake, at this level (the zenith of sake brewing), the brewer is aiming for delicate sophistication and nuanced, layered flavours. One of the real joys of the (junmai) daiginjo category is sitting back, taking your time and discovering a new fragrance or flavour with each raise of the glass: bliss!
Junmai daiginjo (made without added alcohol) is generally deeper in flavour with a slightly more muted nose than its daiginjo counterpart, which tends to emphasis the fruity notes and produces a lighter, more nuanced sake.
|JUNMAI DAIGINJO SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Pearl – a silky & elegant, finely sparkling sake||Black Face – flavourful & exciting||Rare Brew – clear, dry & refreshing|
|Tatenokawa 50 “Stream” – fruity, expressive & crisp||Tatenokawa 33 “Brook” – elegant & expressive fruit flavours||Tatenokawa 18 “Spring” – ultra premium, superbly fruity|
|DAIGINJO SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Snow Blossom – fresh & zesty fruit salad||White Dragon – smooth sipping umami fruits||Special White Dragon – sweet, complex & fragrant|
|Konishi Gold – fruity aroma with light flavour; for wine lovers|
Both daiginjo and junmai daiginjo are best drunk cold. Their delicate flavours and scents become unbalanced and overwhelming if allowed to warm.
Due to their delicate and nuanced characteristics, (junmai) daiginjo can be fabulous enjoyed on their own, perhaps to unwind at the end of the day or before a meal as an apéritif.
There are, however, some that have enough acidity & structure – such as Hayashi Honten’s Black Face – to go superbly with clean tasting, oilier dishes such as fatty sashimi/sushi or paté. Yamatogawa Shuzo’s Snow Blossom has slightly more alcohol and so will work similarly. White Dragon goes especially well with creamy flavours (e.g. mayonnaise), deep fried foods and a bit of chilli!
There are many different methods in which to brew sake, which can result in plenty of other styles of sake, supplementary to the main types. Some of the brewing methods are deeply complicated, and some a secret known only to the toji (Master Brewer) of the brewery; however, the main types can be brewed in a number of different ‘styles’. These ‘styles’ greatly affect the sake’s characteristics and can transform a mild-mannered junmai, for example, into a full-bodied heavyweight using one ‘style’ or into a light and fruity tipple if brewed in another.
Rather than give a detailed description of each and every other style of sake this post will serve as a general reference with further blog posts providing additional detail.
Namazake is unpasteurised sake (nama meaning ‘raw’ or ‘fresh’). Sake usually goes through a two-step pasteurisation process to stop fermentation, stabilise the brew and increase longevity, namazake does not. This results in a brew which is fresh, lively and zingy in character with ripe fruit flavours – such as banana, apples and watermelon – and notes of freshly cut grass or wood. Due to it’s fresh and fruity profile it is very popular in the West; however, due to its unpasteurised nature it must be kept refrigerated at all times to stop it from spoiling. Fresh, ripe, fruity, zesty and refreshing are the watchwords here.
|NAMAZAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Mountain Stream – layered, complex, fresh & young||Snow Blossom – super fresh & zesty with fruit salad flavours|
Kimoto and yamahai are two of the oldest styles of sake brewing. The nature of the brewing process allows airborne organisms (wild yeasts, fungi, bacteria, etc.) to enter the brew at a very early stage. Before all these organisms die off naturally, as part of the brewing process, they have an opportunity to leave their mark. This results in wilder, gamier, fuller and often rougher-edged flavours that are exciting and intriguing. Often yamahai has bigger gamy, rich and wild flavours than kimoto, with more pronounced acidity.
|KIMOTO & YAMAHAI SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Black Samurai – rich & full bodied with buckets of umami|
Bodaimoto is, to my knowledge, the oldest style of brewing method still used today; its roots extend back to the 14th century. Like both the kimoto and yamahai techniques wild organisms have time to make their mark, thus sake made with the bodaimoto technique is similarly funky and wild in character but, due to the particulars of the technique, also tends to result in sake with a slightly sour quality that brilliantly offsets and mellows the gamier and rougher notes.
|BODAIMOTO SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Rocky Mountain – rustic, raw & earthy||Misty Mountain – cloudy, zesty & exciting||Mountain Stream – layered, complex, fresh & young|
Koshu or aged sake is becoming increasingly popular in the West. It represents a tiny, tiny percentage of all the sake produced and so can be highly sought after. Generally, sake is not designed to be aged and the methods employed to do so vary wildly; thus, koshu‘s flavours and characteristics also vary wildly. In general, when aged, sake tends to become heavier, mustier, more acidic and the flavours more concentrated and rounded. Aged sake is often likened to sherry in its flavour profiles and generally savoured on its own, after a meal.
|KOSHU AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Golden Amber – superb 12-year aged sake with beguiling notes of toffee & oak||Aperitif – aged 8 years, similar to an oaked, sweet sherry|
Nigori-zake is ‘cloudy’ sake or, more specifically, sake with some rice lees (particles of rice) left in when bottled. On the whole, nigori-zake is less refined, fuller and thicker textured – due to the suspended lees – than its filtered counterparts. Usu-nigori is a type of nigori-zake that has only a very small amount of lees remaining in suspension. Usu-nigori results in a much more subtle brew but still retains the funkier, thicker flavours associated with nigori-zake.
|NIGORIZAKE SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Misty Mountain – cloudy, zesty & exciting|
Our sparkling sake is also an usu-nigori (see below)
There are a number of less well known styles of sake, some of which are available in the UK.
Sparkling sake is usually low in alcohol and, as the name suggests, sparkling!
|SPARKLING SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Pearl – silky & elegant, finely sparkling sake|
Taruzake is sake that has been stored in a wooden cask of Japanese cedar. The sake draws out the flavours of the wood and gives a fresh, lively and often peppery cedar flavour that tends to drown out any other flavours the sake may have! Traditionally drunk at New Year this sake is a lot of fun but lacks subtlety.
Kijoushu is a ‘fortified’ sake where some of the water used in the brewing process is substituted for already brewed sake. It is a rich, desert-like beverage that is often aged too. Kijoushu can be deliciously alluring but only a handful of breweries make it so it’s difficult to get hold of (and expensive!)
There are others but they are quite niche and their peculiarities rather specific! If you’re really interested, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to fill you in.
Browse futsushu in our sake shop.
Futsushu sake is the most popular type of sake in Japan, it accounts for about 75% of all sake produced (reminder of sake classifications), it is the equivalent of an everyday ‘table wine’. Abroad, futsushu is often overlooked in favour of the more polished ‘special designation’ sake. This is a mistake! Whilst there are some pretty rough and ready futsushu out there (because it is not as tightly regulated as ‘special designation’ sake) there are also some fabulous, easy drinking and inexpensive ones too. We highly recommend you experiment and try them out for yourself!
As there are so many different futsushu it is difficult to generalise. However, since the rice used to make this style of sake is (generally) not highly polished, we can say that both the fragrance and flavour are likely to emphasise the the rice and the koji notes.
Cheap and nasty futsushu will be unbalanced, unsubtle, taste strongly alcoholic and might be a bit of a chore to drink! By contrast, good quality futsushu is deliciously flavourful, smooth yet rich and incredibly easy to drink.
|FUTSUSHU SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Ancient Mountain – great warm on winter days!||Signature Brew – dry, simple & smooth. A good session sake!|
Tengu Sake has two fabulous futsushu in its range. Signature Brew enjoys a nose of banana and melon (quite unusual for a futsushu) followed by the more expected cereal, rice and caramel flavours. It is dry, rich and smooth; highly drinkable!
Ancient Mountain is a wonderfully warming sake, good for those cold winter days! It has notes of sweet cereal, soy and mushrooms on the nose and then smooth & creamy rice flavours that melt in the mouth. Both are fantastic everyday sake that never fail to make you smile!
If there was any type of sake that best suits being heated, futsushu is it. If well made the flavours will open up, mellow and harmonise resulting in a sake that is an absolute joy to drink. That’s not to say that futsushu cannot be enjoyed at room temperature too; however, generally speaking, you might mute the flavour and thereby be missing out if you drank it any colder.
Both Signature Brew and Ancient Mountain can be enjoyed from room temperature all the way up to 50-55°C.
As futsushu has quite a robust flavour profile it is wise to pair it with foods that have fuller flavours. Both of Tengu Sake’s futsushu have sweet notes to their flavours and so pair well with sweeter sauces: BBQ ribs, yakitori, etc. Rice and mushroom notes can find friendly foods too – a mushroom risotto pairs especially well with Ancient Mountain.
Junmai & Honjozo sakes are generally made with rice polished to remove at least 30% of the outer layer of the grain (reminder of sake classifications) although junmai can be less polished. They account for about 18% of all sake produced, and tend to have a richer and fuller flavour profile than ginjo sake. They are also more tolerant of being heated and therefore, generally, can be enjoyed across a wider temperature range.
Junmai sake is usually full of character and has rich, earthy and umami flavours in abundance. The body tends to be bit heavier and fuller than other types, and the acidity is generally more pronounced. Unlike the more refined ginjo classes, one thing you tend not to get is a big, floral/fruity bouquet; rather, earthy notes that highlight the flavours and qualities of the rice are the norm.
Due to the addition of a little bit of brewers alcohol, honjozo sake is usually smoother, lighter and dryer with a more pronounced bouquet and less ricey elements than junmai.
Both types are designed for easy drinking and are wonderful when enjoyed at a leisurely pace over a long evening, either with or without food and are delicious over a range of temperatures.
|JUNMAI SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Rocky Mountain – rustic, raw & earthy||Misty Mountain – cloudy, zesty & exciting||Special Red Dragon – eweet rice & bamboo notes||Waning Moon – easy drinking with good umami||Black Samurai – rich with buckets of umami|
|HONJOZO SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Autumn Leaves – warming with caramel & creamed rice||Heavenly Brew – smooth, crisp & bone dry||Sky Conqueror – peppery, zesty & dry; versatile|
One of the joys of drinking junmai and honjozo is the ability to enjoy these fabulously drinkable sake at a variety of temperatures. Experimenting by trying to find the various ‘sweet spots’ is half the fun! Tengu Sake always provides recommendations with each sake. The junmai Morning Dew, for example is smooth and mellow at 40-45°C but dry and crisp straight from the fridge.
Both junmai & honjozo are gifted all-rounders. They are great session tipples: great for sharing with friends or relaxing at the end of the day. They also pair fabulously with a good range of foods. The richness and high umami content of junmai makes them particularly good with slow-cooked foods such as roasts or stews or with other textured and umami-rich dishes like cured meats, tomato dishes, cheeses, etc. (please see our page on food pairing to discover more). A sake with a lot of umami and a particularly rich, deep flavour is Rocky Mountain, which works perfectly with blue cheese, for example.
Honjozo, being lighter, tends to pair with flavours that are not as rich and thick and it can be a great match with Chinese or Thai food that has a little bit of a kick. Sky Conqueror from Hayashi Honten is a good example as its peppery and zesty qualities match well. On the other hand Yamatogawa’s Autumn Leaves is richer, creamy and textured so works well with patés and other richer meat dishes. Honjozo sakes are also, generally, a good match with sushi.
Come and enjoy our Christmas Show! We’ve got together a group of like-minded individuals to put on a fantastic show. Fabulous jewellery, beautifully bound books, stunning dresses and, of course, delicious sake! Pop in any time between 11am and 9pm for a glass of sake/wine and perhaps you’ll find that perfect gift!
Three of our sake will be available to buy with up to 15% off:
Gift wrapping available, hope to see you there!
Order any sake in advance and collect on the day (no shipping charge!)
If you would like any other sake from our website you can order in advance, have it delivered to our show and then collect it on either the 4th or the 5th December. If you would like to order any sake for collection, please email email@example.com with your request. Gift wrapping available at an additional £5 per bottle.
Deadline for collection orders is Monday 2nd December
We’re currently running a competition in ‘at home’ magazine for a lucky reader to win a bottle of our superb, 12-year aged sake – Golden Amber.
Golden Amber was voted “best sake for a gift” in 2012 and received a Silver Medal at the prestigious International Wine Challenge in 2013. The sake comes in a presentation gift box.
If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning head on over to ‘at home’ mag’s website and enter the competition!
There’s a new exhibition in London’s east end that sounds very interesting. From the blurb:
‘Visitors to Hokusai Exposed will be immersed in the works of the great Japanese Master, Katsushika Hokusai, “re-created” using state-of the-art digital technology, as well as the vibrant 3D streets and pleasure districts of Edo, 18th century Tokyo. The world of ukiyo-e style woodblock prints will be brought to life in a unique event which engages all the senses and is the first showcase of the “re-create” concept outside of Japan.’
There’s also a Hokusai Exposed sake bar (3-6pm Sun-Th/3-9pm F-Sat) featuring three of Tengu Sake’s selections. A glass starts at £2 and it’s a great way to enjoy what looks to be a very cool re-imagining of Hokusai’s works (he’s the guy who did the Great Wave, amongst other famous prints).
Check out www.hokusaiexposed.com
NB – I’ve now been to this exhibition and it’s well worth a visit. They have some stunning recreations of Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mt Fuji” – a series of classic prints. Some people have suggested that digitally printing these works of art de-values them. The Guardian, in particular, seem to have got a bee in their bonnet about this one saying, “Decay is part of the life of art. Of course we can’t see Jackson Pollock’s Lavender Mist, or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, or Hokusai’s Great Wave, as they looked the day they were made – but why would we want to?”
Unfortunately they seemed to have missed the point; if there’s any medium that this technique is suited to it’s woodblock printing. An artist’s carving might be printed any number of times by different printers using different inks. There is no ‘definitive’ version of a print (some are more famous than others, though) so it seems to me a perfectly valid expression of the work. New printing techniques, different result. Different but not invalid.
Anyway, go check it out for yourself!
Book by clicking the image above
On 28th August Tonkotsu Bar and Ramen on Dean St, London launched their sake specials menu with sake supplied exclusively by Tengu Sake. I went along to deliver training to eager staff members and then help out for a few hours whilst the new menu settled in. Read more…
Tengu Sake has teamed up with Tonkotsu Ramen on Dean Street, Soho, London to bring you an exclusive sake specials menu. The menu runs from 22nd but I’ll be at Tonkotsu on the day so pop on in and say hi!
I’ve been invited back to the Science Museum in South Kensington for a Food & Drink event they’re holding as part of their Lates series in the evening of 28/08/13. Entry is free and you’ll be able to try three different sake. Further details on my Events Page.
Everyone welcome, please come along!
Last Saturday evening I had the pleasure of doing what I love: talking to and engaging people with sake at the second “Sake Pop” event. Sake Pop is a pop-up sake and Japanese food event, the brainchild of Japanese chef extraordinaire, Tom Dean. Tom is from a sake brewing family – his cousins own and run Tsuji Honten brewery in Okayama, Japan (one of the breweries I represent in UK). Having visited Katsuyama in Okayama where Tsuji Honten brews and, having met the Japan-based part of the family, I felt privileged to be able to join the UK-arm and support this great event.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce the launch of the new Tengu Sake website.
Order now at tengusake.com
A pop up sake event in Brick Lane, London on Saturday 27th July 2013. Tickets selling fast (only 5 left!)
Details on the events page.
In April of every year the International Wine Challenge judges thousands of wines and hundreds of sake. This year attracted 583 entries into the sake category making it, by far, the largest sake competition outside of Japan and the most internationally renowned. 2013 is our first year of entering the competition (hell, it’s the first year we’ve had any sake!)
Tengu Sake entered 10 sake and won 9 awards!