Are you a low polish hunter like I am? Perhaps also a sucker for a lovely bottle design (again, like me?)
Enter Shirataki Jozen Junmai Mizunogotoshi 80%. An 80% polish sake that, in its low polish state, highlights the unique character of locally grown, Niigata Yamadanishiki rice. The yeast isn't revealed but it certainly tastes like a mellow 701 or 601. Nose is mild, nutty, a bit of banana chip and a general savory quality. It is crystal clear and colorless. The unassuming visual and aromatic character doesn't quite prepare you for the palate, which is big, generous, with lovely balance and soft richness. At 16-17% ABV but not designated as a genshu, this is probably only lightly diluted, and it tastes that way: a junmai with the volume turned up. Notes of banana chip, nougat, toasted rice and buckwheat, honeycomb candy, butter toffee, vanilla-almond granola, dried apricot and fresh fuji apple. There is a subtle pleasure in the contrast here, and the excitement of a much bigger palate than you'd expect.
The truth is, I hesitated on this sake for some time, because Shirataki Brewery is-- while not enormous-- certainly a large brewery, available in most Japanese grocery stores, and I'm reluctant to bring in this kind of thing. Still, I've always had a soft spot for them...design, yes, but also the ways they express their individuality in a region known for its consistent style. Shirataki produces a wide range of products, and even sells most of them in 300ml format. As a result, their line is one of the best ways to learn about noujun (low polish, rich, umami), jukusei noujun (same but aged aged), cold temperature ginjo aging, white koji...and even seasonal releases, without buying a full bottle. Plus they have just the cutest ever portraits of all their employees on the website. And...there is a real charm to the fact that their brand, dead center on the bottle, is all pixellated and grey and looks like it was printed in 1985.
If you enjoy big-bodied, umami-rich sake, this is honestly a great one and delivers well above its price point. It makes be reflect that sake is one of those unique categories where the less it is manipulated, in some ways the cheaper it is to make, the more flavor and value it delivers.