Oze no Yukidoke Junmai Daiginjo "Natsugin" (2023)

Oze no Yukidoke Junmai Daiginjo "Natsugin" (2023)

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A bright, bountiful, fruity-floral aroma with tangerine citrus and orange blossom greets you immediately once the bottle is opened. As a very fresh, Summer-release namazume, this is alllll about the aromatic goodness: green melon, honeysuckle, tangerine, white peach. Although the aroma is powerful the palate is quite mellow. The idea is to refresh, not overpower. 

The texture is so soft that it’s almost slippery (classic Oze no Yukidoke), but the cautious acidity contrasts nicely, providing texture and freshness. 


  • Brewery: Ryujin Shuzo, Oze no Yukidoke Brand
  • Location: Tatebayashi city, Gunma prefecture
  • Classification: Junmai Daiginjo Namazume (once pasteurized, cold matured)
  • Rice variety: Yamadanishiki
  • Polishing: 50%
  • Yeast: #10 
  • Brewing method: Sokujo
  • SMV: +1
  • Acidity: 1.4
  • Alcohol: 15%

While Fall hiyaoroshi, Spring namazake, and Winter shiboritate are necessary outcomes of the traditional Winter brewing season, Summer Natsuzake is a modern invention. Typically, Summer is the slowest season for sake sales, bumping briefly in August for the Obon festival. In the past, sake was considered too heavy (think Masumi) to be enjoyable in the heat and humidity of Summer, and as the breweries were closed for the season, they weren’t producing anything seasonal or novel anyway. Natsuzake was invented deliberately as a marketing term only ~10 years ago, when an inventive brewery decided to design a sake to be enjoyed in Summer and market it as such. Many have since followed suit, and tend to craft styles that are floral, light, best served chilled (even ice cold), low in ABV, or conversely cask strength (~18-19%): designed to be served on ice or with sparkling water.

Ryujin Shuzo, makers of the Oze no Yukidoke brand, have the benefit of extremely soft water and a pristine natural environment, something Gunma is famous for throughout the prefecture. This very soft water is noticeable in the sake: it makes the sake taste slippery, sweet, even if there is objectively minimal sugar present in the brew.

Yeast #10 is considered an aromatic ginjo yeast, but relatively mellow: not ostentatious. It can be brewed for more or less aromatic intensity. My impression here is that the brewery wanted to bring out its floral character without landing on something overwhelming or candied. This is accomplished by carefully monitoring the fermentation and temperature curve throughout brewing to ensure the yeast is getting the right amount of nutrients to produce the proper blend of volatile aromatic molecules. 

Finally, the rice: as Yamadanishiki rice grown in the excellent soils of Gunma, the intent here is to create a soft, plush texture which serves as an excellent canvas for the yeast to express itself. Sake brewers sometimes consider Yamadanishiki the chardonnay of the sake world: it’s malleable, versatile, relatively easy to work with, can be used to produce a range of styles, ages well, and is transparent both to place (terroir) and human input. Chardonnay takes oak flavors very well, if the vigneron chooses to use oak; in the same way, Yamadanishiki takes yeast flavors very well, if the toji chooses an aromatic yeast. It is a great pleasure to brew with, because it is so flexible. 


Store the unopened bottle in the refrigerator, ideally in the back (not the door) and consume within 2-3 months. Because the flavor is so light and fresh, this is really one to enjoy ASAP, while we still have Summer’s heat bearing down and the bottle is so full of vitality and aroma.


Enjoy chilled, with the bottle resting in ice so that it gets as cold as possible, in a thin glass. This is definitely a style of sake that’s made to be enjoyed with Summer washoku, like hiyashi chukka (cold noodle salad), sashimi, fresh pickles, ume-cucumber roll, and fresh corn (or corn fritters for that matter). I threw together an avocado and cucumber salad and tossed it with a minced cherry tomato, lemon and shiso dressing, which was phenomenal with the Oze. Have fun, keep it fresh, and you’ll be quite happy.


“Oze no Yukidoke” means “Thaw of Oze,” which is quite beautiful when you consider that Oze, Gunma, is famous for its Spring flowers, finally revealed after the long and snowy winter. The brewery, Ryujin Shuzo, is also among the oldest in Japan, having been established at the very beginning of the Edo period in 1597. They have a reputation for extreme quality and produce almost exclusively junmai daiginjo sake for which the soft water is suited. To maintain this level of quality, the 6 person staff has two toji and extremely high standards for their 4 kurabito (brewery workers). Ryujin doesn’t generally accept interns, preferring to hire talent that is deeply familiar with daiginjo brewing and could arguably be toji if given the opportunity.