“Hanami” (花見; literally: "flower viewing") is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, "flower" in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms (=Sakura,桜). From the end of March to early May with the sakura in bloom, this is one of the best times for experiencing Japan's wonderful knack for tying just about everything in to the seasons. Clothing, food, drink, etc; everything seems to resonate with the Sakura this time of the year.
The sake world's seasonal equivalent of blooming cherry blossom buds is un-pasteurized (=Nama-zake,生酒) Sake which is widely available in this season. Hanami Zake selection this year at Zuma is all Nama-zake, which is great for Hanami for several reasons. One reason is - like the beautiful, fragile and ephemeral sakura - delicate Nama-zake only blooms for a short time.
1) O-yama, Hatsushibori Shinshu, Honjozo 大山 初しぼり新酒本醸造生
Rice: Haenuki / Polished ratio: 65% / AVB: 16-16.9%
Oyama area in Yamagata prefecture used to be the biggest Sake producing city in eastern Japan. This small brewery that only produces 7K bottles per year uses very clean soft water from Gassan mountain, where has the snow throughout the year.
Very soft and gentle texture, lovely cucumber and young pear followed by pungent spicy finish.
2) Sawanoi, Niishibori, Ginjo 澤の井 吟醸新しぼり
Rice: standard rice / Rice polished ratio: 55% / AVB: 15-16%
Sawanoi brewery locates in the southern end of Tokyo border to Saitama prefecture, and has abundant natural resources. The water spring from the cave gives sharp and clean dry finish to its sake.
This soft and easy-drinking sake would be nice for the sake beginners. It has delicate strawberries and peaches on the nose, with a hint of vanilla pod and white flower on the palate followed by fresh and crisp acidity.
3) Aramasa, Junmai Ginjo, Nama Genshu 新政 立春朝搾り 純米吟醸生原酒
Rice: Akita Sakekomachi / Polished ratio: 55% / AVB: 17%
“Aramasa” means “Revolution”;reflecting the fact that Akita was the only prefecture in T_hoku region to support the Meiji Restoration. After the young son recently joined the company, this brewery is becoming one of the leading breweries by its dramatic change of its sake making to “new generation sake”.
This delicate and feminine style of medium bodied sake has aromas of blackcurrant & mint, with flavours of lychee, lime and a touch of olives.
4) Nishinoseki, Junmai, Nama Genshu 西の関 立春朝搾り 特別純米生原酒
Rice: Yamadanishiki / Polished ratio: 60% / AVB: 17-18%
Kayashima brewery is located in the North-east tip of Kyushu, the third biggest island in Japan. The brand name Nishinoseki means "Champion of the West". The sake brewing method of the old days can still be seen in the main brewery.
Very livery beautiful sake with juicy pears and ripe stone fruits, with a hint of fresh herbs.
5) Nanbu Bijin, Shiboritate, Tokubetsu Junmai 南部美人 絞りたて特別純米
Rice: Gin-otome/ Rice polished ratio: 55% / AVB: 15.5%
The brewery of Nanbu Bijin, translates as Southern Beauty, located in northern Japan's Ninohe City, an area long referred to as "Nanbu no Kuni." It is an area blessed with lush and beautiful natural reserves, fine water, two national parks, and a lake. They are one of the first breweries who introduced premium sake to overseas, and their sake is imported to 25 different countries world wide.
White musk and subtle eucalypts on the nose, you will enjoy the very long finish of melon and chestnut.