Underdog is a great example of the Japanese principle of mottainai or ‘no waste’. It is a seasonal (released in December in Japan) namazake (unpasteurised sake) with a restrained but fresh, juicy & round character with bright acidity.
For a few years now Tsuji Honten, along with other Okayama breweries, have been working with local farmers under the “Tokujo Omachi Project” to grow the best omachi rice possible. The pinnacle of these efforts so far, from the Gozenshu brand, is Gozenshu Tokuto Omachi 2.2, a simply fabulous sake. This sake is brewed using the best possible omachi rice, grown and harvested in the Seto region of Okayama Prefecture, the best place for omachi rice.
Of course, whilst this project yields some simply fabulous quality rice not all of it meets the lofty requirements of shuzo kotekimai (the special level of rice required to make premium sake). Rice that does not conform to the standards (minimum weight, minimum % of ‘flawless’ grains, etc.) is called tougai-mai and cannot be used to make premium sake. Any resulting sake must, therefore, be classified as futsu-shu (non-premium sake). There are, however, a growing number of brewers who recognise the value in brewing with tougai-mai and have been brewing some pretty fabulous sakes from it! Underdog is one such sake (I just love the fact they use this ‘failed’ rice to make such a great sake!).
Underdog has a mild aroma of sour plum, green banana, rhubarb, custard, strawberry & lemon sherbet with some herbal and nutty notes. Medium-bodied with a plump & juicy texture, it is actually quite restrained for a namazake with an rustic vibe to it, which the mouthwatering acidity adds to and helps tie the various elements together.
Pear, apple skin, watermelon, plum and grapefruit flavours make this a very tasty sake, and the rustic qualities and bright acidity encourage it to pair well with fatty & meaty dishes. Personally, the ideal vessel to enjoy this from was a generous sized guinomi and I really liked it in the 10-15oC range or warmed up to around 40oC.
NB – namazake must be kept cold; please refrigerate until finished.
Ingredients: water, rice, koji, yeast
Another great collection of sakes, made from Omachi rice grown around Okayama Prefecture is the Gozenshu Omachi Trilogy 2021.