Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 9, 2009

Horin Gekkeikan Sake

I’ve been meaning to get to this for a while, but have been unfortunately busy with other work and neglecting my reviews. I’ve long been a fan of sake, though in the same sort of way that I’m a fan of riesling or anejo tequila – which is to say that while I like it and wish I knew more about it, I’ve never bothered to pursue expertise in it, in part out of the breadth of the subject. Horin Gekkeikan Sake is certainly a bottling that makes me reconsider my hesitance to learn more about this spirit.

According to a bit of light purple paper that accompanies the bottle, Horin Gekkeikan Sake is an ultra premium Junmai Daiginjo. Junmai Daiginjo is the highest level of sake refinement; John Gaunter of Sake World calls it “The pinnacle of the brewers’ art.” The purple tidbit goes on to say:

This sake is made from two select rice varieties cultivated especially for brewing: Yamada-nishiki and Gohyakumangoku. Polished to 50% of its original size, the rice is added with pure underground water and slowly fermented at low temperatures yielding a refreshingly fruity aroma and mild flavor.

This description of Horin as “refreshingly fruity” and of “mild flavor” is about as spot on in terms of taste notes from a spirit’s distributor as I’ve seen with any other product. Horin hits immediately with a nose of fermented rice, lemon, and apple. It’s incredibly light on the palette, with a very smooth taste of apples, citrus, and a hint of honey.

I’m going to hold off on posting a cocktail recipe using this product, as frankly I’m a bit stumped about what I’d want to make with it. I’d previously experimented with using other sake as a base spirit in a cocktail with rye and Domaine de Canton (I called the drink Matanuska), but that experiment scared me off from working with sake and such potent ingredients. There’s a real debate to be had, though, about using a finer sake like Horin in cocktails at all. I don’t think there’s any need to fully prohibit the use of any fine stand-alone ingredient from use in cocktails, so long as the cocktail is well-balanced and an amplification of the spirit’s original value for consumption. Which is to say that there really is no limit to using a spirit like Horin Gekkeikan Sake other than the capacity of me or another bartender to craft good cocktails around it.

I wasn’t able to find anything in my searches around the intertubes for sake cocktail recipes that struck me as intriguing or worthy of republication here. That, to me, sounds like the grounds for a challenge. If I had to guess, I’d immediately pursue cocktails that include fresh citrus juice, small doses of gin, aperitif wines, and perhaps even tinier doses of potable bitters. But we’ll see what I come up with. And if any readers have suggestions for sake cocktails, please leave links or recipes in the comments section.

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