Gorgeous, memorable, elegant...this kutani-ware ceramic bottle in a Paulownia box is almost enough to justify the price on its own.
It's with a sigh of relief that the elegance isn't just surface level. As I write this, I've been sipping slowly on "100 Years" over the course of 6 weeks, watching it evolve. In this period, I've also had the great honor to visit Nishide Shuzo and meet Nishide-san in person. He's incredibly talented, experimental, smart and kind. One of my great inspirations: Yusuke Shimoki of Engawa bar in Yamanaka-onsen, when pressed, said this of Nishide-san:
"He's unpredictable, always changing. Always coming up with something new. Always pushing boundaries. He follows intuition. That's what I appreciate."
The nose is flinty, mineral, salty, with watermelon rind, chervil and spicy daikon notes. On the palate, the sake is at once minutely textural (mineral water? velvet?) and intriguing, with an astringency that reminds me of just-underripe banana. Flavors of lemon, white grapefruit, fresh corn and corn husk, cape gooseberry, seaweed, hay and cucumber seem to waft by. The finish brings back that velvety quality...laden with white chocolate and good hazlenut oil.
Like Chiyomidori MS3, another favorite daiginjo of mine brewed with ambient brewery yeast, "100 Year" won't fit in a neat little box. This isn't a textbook "peach, banana, melon" daiginjo-- It's entirely one of a kind.
From the time of opening to finishing the bottle 6 weeks later, 100 Years is still expressive and evolving. At first the acidity (and citrus quality) was more prominent...now at 6 weeks, the cucumber-melon angle is at its peak and the texture is even more indulgent.
- Brewery: Nishide Shuzo
- Prefecture: Ishikawa (close to, but not within, Hakusan)
- Grade: Junmai Daiginjo
- Rice: Gohyakumangoku (hyper-local to 2 local farmers in Komatsu City)
- Water: Soft
- Yeast: house (ambient, not inoculated)
- ABV: 16%
Ishikawa’s 17th century Kutani Yaki porcelain artwork gracing this bottle helps tell the story that this sake has been made with local ingredients only. Discovered 100 years ago, the yeast known as kuratsuki kobo is especially unique as it exists naturally within the brewery itself, and is therefore only found in Nishide’s sakes. This Junmai Daiginjo exhibits notes of apricot and young banana that starts off soft and mild, giving way to the smooth umami of sake rice, finishing dry with balanced acidity.
With over a century of history in the Kaga region, Nishide Shuzo operates under the mantra that “sake brewing is our life.” Nishide brews handmade sake with only three employees, just as it has had for the past 5 generations. Many of their sakes are made with ambient or house-cultivated yeasts, imparting a truly localized and unique profile. At less than 100 Koku per year in annual production, Nishide is perhaps the smallest brewery in Japan that exports to the US.