History of the Brand
Juyondai is a white whale for many sake aficionados, a hard-to-find sake brand that has developed a cult following due to its glamorous and mysterious reputation in the sake world. Despite being founded in 1615 in the northern Japanese Yamagata Prefecture, the Tagaki Shuzo brewery only really made a name for itself relatively recently when its toji (master brewer) retired and left the direction of the kura unclear. The company president’s son, Akitsuna Takagi, then took over and set out to craft a different sake experience to contrast with the light and dry sakes that were popular at the time. Under the Juyondai label (meaning 14th generation, named in honor of Tagaki’s father, who was the 14th generation to run the brewery), Takagi oversaw the creation of bold and bright sakes that quickly garnered a legendary reputation.
Why Is It So Popular?
This famous reputation combined with the very limited quantities of Juyondai sakes being produced has made it a highly-sought after treasure for sake lovers, and it is synonymous with glamor and mystery. Takagi Shuzo only produces around 200,000 bottles of sake a season, which may sound like a lot, but when you consider how many ranges and experimental editions they create in their dramatic and bold line-up, they quickly sell out, and many of them don’t even make it outside of Yamagata. Juyondai focuses on full-flavored junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjo, which are pure rice premium sakes where the rice is milled to impressively small sizes. They use, among others, the world-famous Yamada Nishiki rice and Special Grade A Aiyama rice in the creations, and while they have a sense of terroir, their style differs to those found in Yamagata Prefecture when the Juyondai revolution began.
Where Can You Get It?
It is due to this mix of a glamorous reputation, limited supply, and superb creations that it isn’t uncommon to see Juyondai sakes chained to the shelves in sake shops to put off potential thieves. In spite of its popularity, it can be quite hard to find out much information about the brand: they don’t have a website; brewery tours aren’t allowed; there’s not even any signage identifying the location of the kura. However, Ippin is able to deliver these legendary sakes right to your doorstep with a good selection of Juyondai sakes available.
Arguably the rarest available on the website is the Juyondai hakuun kyorai junmai daiginjo, a super-premium variety of sake aged between 16 and 18 years, giving it a strong yet smooth taste ideally served at room temperature; it’s a rare drinking experience that’s worth every penny. The Juyondai banshuu yamada nishiki extra premium junmai daiginjo only uses freshwater from Mt. Fuji and premium Yamada Nishiki rice for a clean, clear, and dry mouthfeel, while also leaving powerful and somewhat sweet finishing notes typically associated with Juyondai.
Juyondai nakadori junmai ginjo bizen omachi is a great tasting sake, which disguises the taste of alcohol with notes of cantaloupe, tart apple, strawberry, apple, and watermelon with a mildly sweet and tangy taste, with additional notes of strawberry and berries. Soft and clear, yet refined and complex, this is a fantastic example of what a premium sake can offer. The Juyondai Gokujo morohaku Junmai Daiginjo is another premium sake that offers a crisp, dry taste that is often preferred in premium sakes, it’s reminiscent of citrus, freshly cut grass and white flowers that is well served at both cooler and warmer temperatures. Juyondai also produces shochu, a distilled alcoholic beverage (in contrast to fermented sake) that can be served neat, on the rocks, with cold water, hot water, cocktails, and even tea.
Regardless of what you choose, an interesting, rare, and highly sought-after sake experience awaits.
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