• Sake Buddha

Hiro Sake Niigata's Hidden Gem

Updated: May 19

Well, something cool has happened to me this week. A sake company sent me some of their sake to enjoy. This is a first for me and I am excited. Now, for the record Hiro Sake is not paying me and did not want anything from me for the sake. I decided I would write something because I like their sake and I figured it would make a good post on my web page that needs content. I also would post as much as I could on my social media. The sake industry in Japan is taking a beating because of Covid-19 and it is the least I could do to help a brewery out.


So let me give you a little bit of the back story. As you know Fridays are Samurai Movie Night for me. I watch a movie and I drink sake. I usually post a pic of the movie title and whatever sake tickled my fancy that night. Well, a sake maker started following and like my posts. I have seen this sake before at Mitsuwa Market place, but I did not try. (For the record they were on my list to try.) Well weeks go by and they always like my posts and since I followed on social media, I was seeing their posts. It took a trip to Mitsuwa to get some supplies (I have a Japanese wife, so we get things we need for our home. It is about a 2.5-hour drive to the store.) I saw the sake and decided I would finally give them a try. I purchased their sake and enjoyed it on my movie night. That sake was the Hiro Sake Tokubetsu Junmai.


Flash forward to this week. Hiro Sake sent me some of their sake. They sent me a package. I received a small bottle of their Tokubetsu Junmai (aka Hiro Red), a small bottle of their Junmai Ginjo (aka Hiro Blue). They also sent me a bottle of the Hiro Junmai Daiginjo that came a little later.


To my surprise there was also a cup sake of their Hiro Red in the package. (I do love me some cup sake). Cup sake or RTD sake (Ready to Drink) is easy to travel with, great for picnics, BBQs, and other outings. You can also heat it directly in the jar which is nice if you lack a tokkuri. Also, you don’t need to travel with extra cups or anything because you drink them right out of the glass jar which you can repurpose for other things.

THE STORY


Hiro sake is a brewery located in Murakami in Niigata prefecture. It is made by Taiyo Shuzo brewer. Taiyo Shuzo came about when 14 local breweries merged into one company in 1945. The older of the 14 breweries that comprises Taiyo Shuzo has been operating since 1635. Their toji (master brewer) was designated Niigata-No-Seiko: Niigata’s Master Craftsman by the governor of Niigata.

Hiro Sake is also named after a Samurai and Sake connoisseur named Hiroemon Takeda. Hiroemon was said to love sake so much he worked with a skilled toji to create a great sake. Hiro Sake is inspired by his sake recipe.


THE TERMS


So let us cover a few thigs first. Let us cover some terms we are going to use.


Junmai- Junmai means “pure rice”. Junmai is sake that only contains rice, rice koji, water, and yeast. No brewer’s alcohol is added.


Tokubetsu – This means special in Japanese. The designates a sake that a brewer uses some “special process” when brewing. In this case it is using a lower to than normal milling rate than was required.


Ginjo- A grade of sake that has a seimaibuai (aka known as rice polishing ratio [RPR]) of 60% or less.


Daiginjo- A grade of sake that has a seimaibuai (aka known as rice polishing ratio [RPR]) of 50% or less.


SMV (aka nihonshudo) - SMV is measurement of how dense the sake is compared to water. I can give you an idea how sweet or dry a sake is. (The lower the number the sweeter the sake. The number can be negative or positive)


Rice Polishing Ratio (RPR) - this is also known as seimaibuai. This is the milling rate of the sake rice. It is expressed in what percentage of the rice grain is remaining. So, a RPR of 60% means the outer 40% was removed and 60% of the original grain is remaining.


Acidity – also used as an indicator on how the sake might taste. It can let you know how light or rich as sake might be. It is typically ranged from 1.0-2.0.


THE RICE


The Hiro Red and the Hiro Blue are made with the same type of rice. It is made using Gohyakumangoku rice. This rice was created in 1938 by the Niigata Agricultural Experiment Station when the cross bred Kikusui and Shin-200-go rice. The rice received its name in 1957 after Niigata Prefecture had a 5,000,000 koku crop yield that year. (1 koku = 330 lbs or 150kg). This rice is a staple in Niigata sake breweries and is known for making clean and light sake.


The Hiro Junmai Daiginjo is made form a variety of rice called Koshi Tanrei. This rice is relatively new. It has only really been around since 2004. Koshi Tanrei is a cross between Yamada Nishiki (aka the king of sake rice) and Gohyakumangoku. This sake rice is known for having all the good features of both varieties and produces sake that is clean, dry, and fragrant.



THE SAKE



Hiro Red (available in bottles and in single serving cups)



SPECS

Classification – Tokubetsu Junmai

SMV +4

RPR 60%

Acidity 1.6

ABV 15%


Here are the tasting notes from the Hiro Sake:


"Clear with a silvery cast.

nose: very inviting earthy notes, creamy vanilla nougat with peppered pear and banana aromas

palate: delicate, light and smooth with a subtle sweetness and a complex silky, dry-yet-fruity with melon, tapioca, and white pepper accents

finish: long and well rounded, with a medium body elegant finish"




Hiro Blue

Classification Junmai Ginjo

SMV +3

RPR 55%

Acidity 1.3

ABV 15%




Here are the tasting notes from the Hiro Sake:


"Clear with a platinum blue cast.

nose: delicate vanilla maple nut fudge and spicy pear custard aromas; fruity and fresh, with banana undertones

palate: crisp and smooth, with hints of fruits and vanilla, and a savory sweet potato bread, white mushroom, tart cherry and jicama subtle nuances

finish: smooth, medium body-to-full body for a very well balanced finish"




Now Hiro Sake also has a Junmai Daiginjo sake.

Classification – Junami Daiginjo

SMV 0

RPR 60%

Acidity 1.5

ABV 15%


Here are the tasting notes from the Hiro Sake:


"Modest cantaloupe or banana aromas with gentle and fruity sweet flavor followed by an elegant and smooth aftertaste reminding you of a modest beautiful Japanese lady in Kimono."


You can enjoy these sakes by drinking them on their own or you can enjoy them in a cocktail. The folks at Hiro Sake have some cocktail recipes you can check out here.


You can also purchase Hiro Sake at ReserveBar and look for it at in store near you.


My Thoughts


Hiro Sake is really good sake. The red is es excellent warm and chilled. The Blue and the Daiginjo (which in the future I will refer to as Hiro Gold) were also excellent. The sake is delicious, and you can enjoy it traditionally or even as a cocktail. I wouldn't mix the the Junmai Daiginjo in a cocktail. It should be enjoyed on its own.


All three of the sakes could be appreciated by people just starting their sake journeys and people who have been drinkng sake for a long time. All of the sakes were crisp and light. The sakes were not too sweet and not too dry. They were in the middle where I like it. All of them were perfect examples of Niigata Sake.


Hiro Sake defitnely has somehting for everyone. If you enjoy kanzake (warm sake) the Hiro Red is absoultely perfect for it. Now that is in RTD cans you can enjoy it anywhere as it is excellent chilled as well. If you are looking for those ginjo and daiginjo falvor profiles the Hiro Blue and the Hiro Gold are there. For a fun experiement you can see how the Hiro Red and Hiro Blue taste sie by side. You can see how how taking the same rice and jsut polishing it a little more can effect flavor profile. The Hiro Gold is easily one of my favorite Junmai Daiginjo sakes. It is definitely light and fruity and smooth. It could be enjoyed on special occasions (Such as a 1 year anniversary for a Samurai Movie Night Watch Party), enjoyed with food, or even just enjoy sipping it on it own.


Hiro sake is definitely a sake I will be purchasing agian and highly recommending it to friends. Try it and you will not be disappointed.


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