Toji-kan is beautifully balanced, lovely warm and hot (or room temp), with a deep ricey sweetness. The typical confected, marshmallowy notes of cheap futsushu are absent, instead flavors of chestnut, kinako, and marzipan. This is a very unique release from Hakutsuru-- a personal project from a beloved retiring toji, using ingredients far above grade for futsushu ("regular," table sake)-- and its price is incredibly competitive for the quality.
At Sunflower, I am deeply committed to small breweries but I give myself permission to flex from time to time when the argument is compelling. This is one such case. Making an excellent $18 sake available to my customers (not everyone can afford a $35 bottle, for sure!) is more important than sticking to dogma (I think!)
- Location: Nada ward, Kobe city, Hyogo Prefecture
- Grade: Futusushu
- Rice: Yamadanishiki (Hyogo)
- Polishing: 70%
- Starter: Sokujo
- Yeast: Proprietary
- ABV: 15%
- SMV: +2
- Water: medium-hard Nada Miyamizu
Only twice in Hakutsuru’s 250 year history has the company given one of their toji (master brewers) the honorific title, Toji Kan: which according to Hakutsuru awards leadership not only in brewing, but on a personal, human level among the team.
When Toji-kan Masao Nakazawa retired a few years ago, Hakutsuru said, “please, use this Hyogo Yamadanishiki and make the kind of sake you’d like to drink every day.” Instead of making an expensive Daiginjo with this top-tier rice, he made a humble futsushu. Specifically, the kind of futsushu you’d drink warm with fellow kurabito (brewery workers) at the end of a long work day. The original intent wasn't to market and sell this brew, only for the team to enjoy the single-run production, but it was so well received that Hakutsuru asked the toji's permission to reproduce it for sale in limited quantity each year. Hakutsuru can't possibly make a great margin off of it-- the ingredients are too expensive. As a result, in Japan it's only sold on premise and in very select shops. It feels like a special release, unlike anything else in the Hakutsuru lineup.
Normally I would not consider a product from the largest brewery in Japan. But Toji-Kan overdelivers in a way that could only be enabled by these circumstances, and designed by a toji with nothing left to prove. A Hyogo Yamadanishiki Futsushu is a bit of a contradiction in terms: like using the best possible grapes for a cheap table wine. What's clear is that by making Toji-kan, Masao-san hoped to leave an honest legacy for the benefit of all thirsty, hardworking kurabito (and the rest of us!)