Premium sake is rapidly intoxicating the world, and plenty of it is pouring into Singapore. As the resounding success of events like Sake Matsuri and Sake Festival Singapore can attest – not to mention our growing clutch of izakayas stocking artisanal sakes – we’ve got quite the appetite for this delicate tipple.
Riding the wave of local fondness for nihonshu, some of Japan’s most venerable breweries are making their way to our shores. Enter Takanami Sake Brewery (高波, or high wave), one of Nagano’s oldest breweries specialising in handcrafted, small-batch sake. Helmed by seventh-generation President Motoharu Nagahara and his family, this 148-year-old bastion of tradition has chosen Singapore for its first overseas venture.
You might know Nagano for its ski resorts, but this snowy wonderland is also the celebrated cradle of over 80 sake breweries – the second highest number among Japan’s prefectures. Here the winters are glacial and the waters nurtured by the pristine Japanese Alps, offering wonderful conditions to draw out rich flavours from each rice grain. Takanami’s brewing process makes use of these soft mountain waters and Nagano’s original strain of yeast, and a long winter fermentation yields six exquisite expressions.
The pride and joy of Takanami Brewery is, unquestionably, its award-winning Daiginjo, which recently bagged the Gold Prize at the Japan Sake Awards 2019. It’s the only Takanami expression to use Yamadanishiki rice (sometimes dubbed the ‘king of sake rice’), which has been painstakingly polished to an exceptional 39%. Fruity on the nose, this elegant tipple unfolds complex notes of apples and peaches before ending in a light, clean finish. Its gentle sweetness pairs beautifully with sashimi or seafood canapés.
Takanami’s two other ginjo offerings, the Junmaidaiginjo (49% rice polishing rate) and Junmaiginjo (55% rice polishing rate), are equally fruit-forward. Crafted from Miyamanishiki rice, these brews have a smidge more acidity and yield intricate flavours of melon and pineapple on the palate.
While highly-polished ginjos and daiginjos tend to get most of the spotlight in the sake world, Takanami’s more rustic expressions were the ones that stole our hearts. The Gensyu Namazake (translating to ‘undiluted’ and ‘unpasteurized’) is a fresh, feisty brew, boasting a creamy mouthfeel and heady fumes thanks to its 19% alcohol content. On the rocks, its sharpness gives way to deliciously chocolatey shades.
For those who like it dry, the Tanrei Karakuchi is marvellously light and crisp, with earthier, rice-centric tones that emerge as it warms. And to round off any meal, the fuller-bodied Junmaishu will work nicely. Smooth, dry, and subtly acidic, this palate-cleanser makes a lovely foil to your sweet dessert of choice.
Hankering for a taste of this sake already? For now, Takanami Sake will be available in select Singapore dining destinations, including CURE, Preludio (from December 2019), Xi Yan Maxwell, Don Quijote Spanish Restaurant & Bar, and Bar A Vin.