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Hidden Sake Menu – The Age of the ULTRA PREMIUMS

[Sommelier Talk 39]

In the recent US market, there has been a noticeable increase in the preference and consumption of higher priced, ultra premium grade Sake.

This trend is soundly substantiated by the 2014 Sake export to U.S.A, Japan’s Ministry of Finance publication, with increase in both total export quantity and total dollar value. Although ultra premium Sake are considered luxury items therefore are deemed suitable only for select high end restaurants, their value extends beyond the obvious high sales revenue. Actually, the presence of the ultra premiums on a Sake menu plays a vital role in helping increase sales of low to mid-range priced Sake.

In Japan, even the most avid Sake fan would have a limit on what one would spend on a Sake drink. However, if at a fancy restaurant serving wine, that price consideration may invite wines at upwards of $1,000 per bottle. In fact, guests dining at prominent and top rated restaurants will order wines that are valued comparable to their foods, and will never order inferior wines for the sake of controlling spending. In the US, an approximate 1% of the total population, or about 10 million, fall into the “wealthy set” category, thus are frequenting such pricy restaurants, enjoying pricy meals and dinking comparably high priced alcoholic beverages.

On a well-designed drink menu, placing an ultra or super premium liquor at super premium prices is strategically a very smart move. It plays an important role in placing all other drink choices into perspective for the customers to make value judgments. With the ultra-premiums Sake listed as “desirable but an unreachable goal at the moment”, human nature will lead guest to settle for the next best, thus increases rotation of mid to high-priced Sake.

The ultra premiums featured on this series of Hidden Sake Menu Listings appear at restaurant prices upwards to $1200 per bottle.

The recent launch of DASSAI BEYOND has garnered overwhelming media coverage. It’s brewed deep in the Yamaguchi Prefecture countryside surrounded by the mountains, by a brewery known for producing Daiginjo class Sake exclusively. With Beyond, they’ve outdone themselves, surpassing their own, previously acclaimed Dassai 23, the flagship product that put Asahi Shuzo on the map of Sake greats. Alcohol percentage and Sake rice variety are the only information shared with the public, and the rest is shrouded in mystery.

Sake Rice: Yamadanishiki Region: Yamaguchi Prefecture
Polish Ratio: Not Disclosed, SMV: Not Disclosed
Acidity: Not Disclosed, Alc.: 16%
Suggested Menu Price in Los Angeles area: $1,200
ORDER: Limited quantities available!
(Please ask your Mutual Trading sales representative)

<Yamaguchi Prefecture’s regional goodies>
Akiho prawn / Imo Dango / dried sardine / Uiro / Shimonoseki sea urchin / Omodaka / lotus root / Hagino Shirouo / brown seaweed / Kamaboko / Kanro soysauce / burdock root / orange / Fugu / smoked Fugu

<Yamaguchi Prefecture’s local cuisine>
Sea bream simmered in Koji / Sea urchin dish / Pickled Wrasse fish / Takomeshi / Imo Dango

The name Kikusui Junmai Daiginjo KURAMITSU, literally meaning luminous brewery, derives from the land where the Kura was originally established. It signifies the radiant energy and the prosperous spirit that reverberated throughout, relived and bottled into this Sake.

Kuramitsu uses 100% Koshihikari rice grown in the famed Uonuma region of Niigata Prefecture. It’s THE premier rice variety, highly sought after by chefs and for in-home consumption. Compared to Sake rice, Koshihimari rice is much smaller and requires careful handling to polish down to its remarkable 23%, a process that takes 7 days and 7 nights by a team of brewery specialists backed by 130 years of cumulative experience. Drinking Kuramitsu evokes a scene of profound serenity: The brilliant sunrays reflect off the moon, sending busts of dazzling light into the Kura. Absolute silence pervades, time stands still, and I ponder on the meaning of my being. Gently tipping the glass, I let the brew that’s arrived at its fateful destiny flow into me, and there, I listen to my own inner voice. Gold medal winner at the 2014 International Wine Challenge, Junmai Daiginjo division.

Sake Rice: Koshihikari, Region: Niigata Prefecture
Polish Ratio: 23%, SMV: -6.8
Acidity: Not Disclosed, Alc.: 15%
Suggested Menu Price in Los Angeles area: $360
ORDER: Limited quantities available!
(Please ask your Mutual Trading sales representative)

<Niigata Prefecture’s regional goodies>
lightly salted cuttfish / shrimp / oyster / salmon / Zenmai / Sasa Dango / grapes / Nodokuro / amberjack

<Niigata Prefecture’s local cuisine>
salmon pickled in Sake lees / Sado No Ishiyaki / oyster grilled in shell / salmon dish / Wappameshi

BORN CHOGIN is brewed by Katokichibei Shoten, well known throughout the industry for strict and meticulous quality control standards. These include (1) production limited to Junmai Sake grade exclusively, (2) requires Sake rice polish ratio at 36% or less , and (3) all Sake are aged long-term in low temperature. Born Chogin is a ultra-premium brew, a Sake brewed using Yamadanishiki rice harvested from a specific “A district” in Hyogo Prefecture.

Sake Rice: Yamadanishiki, Region: Fukui Prefecture
Polish Ratio: 20%, SMV: +2
Acidity: 1.7, Alc.: 17%
Suggested Menu Price in Los Angeles area: $450
ORDER: Limited quantities available!
(Please ask your Mutual Trading sales representative)

<Fukui Prefecture’s regional goodies>
Tsuruga Kamaboko / Echizen sea urchin / Oono taro / Kelp / Mikuni peach / sweetfish / Wakasa flounder / pacific flying squid / sea cucumber / pickled Rakkyo onion / Habutae Mochi / Echizen crab / sweet shrimp

<Fukui Prefecture’s local cuisine>
Mackerel cuisine / Eiheiji vegetarian cuisine / Echizen crab cuisine / Persimmon leaf Sushi / Sea bream wrapped in bamboo leaf / Pickled radish / Masuzushi


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