Oh, no, we didn’t taste sake at the bottom of the ocean inside Selfridges as you might think. We did it at Hedonism Wines, which has been expanding its sake range for the last few months and have also hosted a number of interesting sake events. The latest was a presentation by two Tosa Province sake breweries, Tosa Brewing Company (Keigetsu brand) and Tosatsuru.
This weekend my wife and I decided to go to Selfridges, the famous London department store. My wife had just finished binge-watching the last season of the Mr Selfridge Netflix series and wanted to check out the real thing. For me though the most interesting part was the Selfridges wine shop as I wanted to inspect its current sake stocks.
Selfridges opened its doors to customers in 1909 and revolutionised the retail industry not only in the UK but across the globe. It still to this day provides one of the best selections of premium clothing and accessories brands in London.
The store is quite interesting inside. It’s just worth walking around and having a drink or coffee at one of its numerous bars. I was surprised to see the Japan-inspired design on one of Selfridges’ floors. For example, there was the suspended ceiling made of timber planks. The screens between the sections also resembled Japanese sliding shoji doors.
The Selfridges’ sake section did not disappoint me. The fact that it actually existed was already an achievement. While the choice wasn’t huge, there were a few nice sake including Keigetsu, Dawazakura and Kamoizumi. It also had the sake from the London-based microbrewery, Kanpai, which was quite impressive for this young brand.
While studying the sake section I remembered that Keigetsu was presenting its sake at the Hedonism Wines store just 10 minutes walk from Selfridges. It was an event I didn’t want to miss. I also wanted to check out the sake section there as well. So we headed for Hedonism Wines.
When we got to the store, we were up for a nice surprise. There were actually two breweries presenting their sake: Tosa Brewing Company (Keigetsu) and Tosatsuru. Keigetsu was presented by Honami, whom I knew from previous sake events. Yukiko, the sister of the seventh generation owner of the brewery, was presenting Tosatsuru.
I started with Tosatsuru, which offered three sake: Deep Sea Water Junmai (68% polishing ratio), azure ginjo (55% polishing ratio) and Tenpyo Tosatsuru Daiginjo Genshu (undiluted sake with 40% polishing ratio).
Tosatsuru brewery as many Japanese sake breweries is a family business. The brewery was founded in 1773 and is currently owned by the 11th generation of the founding Hiromatsu family.
Yukiko did a great job presenting the Tosatsuru sake. What really fascinated me about the first two sake I tried was the use of deep sea water in brewing. The brewery is located between a mountain range, the Yasuda river and the Pacific ocean. Off the shore of the local Muroto cape, there is a point where the deep sea water hits a plate and comes up to 200 metres below the sea surface.
The brewery collects the water from there, filters and desalinates it at the local water plant and then uses it for brewing some of its sake. The water is rich in potassium and magnesium which helps the fermentation process resulting in great sake. Both sake were relatively dry. The Deep Sea Water Junmai was a great casual sake. You could drink it both chilled and warm to complement the umami of the food.
azure ginjo was a more sophisticated sake in a really impressive bottle. Yukiko mentioned that the bottle was designed by her husband especially for the European market. The bottle really stood out and its blue glass conveyed the clearness of the sake and the “deep water” feel. I really liked its clean finish, dryness and delicate flavour.
The last sake from Tosatsuru brewery was daiginjo genshu in another impressive bottle with beautiful calligraphy on the label. Yukiko’s grandfather, the 9th generation owner of the brewery, himself designed the bottle with the beautiful calligraphy. The water for the daiginjo sake came from the Yasuda river, which runs through the local mountain covered with verdant cedars.
The sake’s polishing ratio was below 40%. It had a beautiful floral scent and wasn’t too sweet or too dry with a very smooth finish. It was definitely a special occasion sake, which you would probably open for some family celebration or when a good friend comes to vist. I made a short video with my first reaction on the Tosatsuru sake.
The Tosa Brewing Company was presenting its famous John sparkling sake, Keigetsu Gin-no-Yume Junmai Daiginjo and Yuzusake. I tried John sake before and really liked it. While many people still consider the sparkling sake as a gimmick I think the brewery succeeded to create an excellent premium product. I would happily drink John sparkling sake instead of champaign.
Keigetsu Junmai Daiginjo is also a great sake with subtle and elegant taste and refreshing flavour with a hint of lemon. Made from a local rice, Gin-no-Yume, it’s easy to drink and easy to pair with a variety of foods.
My wife liked Keigetsu Yuzusake, which was very refreshing and not too sweet. It comprised junmai sake and organic yuzu juice. A perfect combination! Actually, we were so impressed by the Yuzusake that we bought a bottle a few days later for a dinner with our friends. It was one of the best aperitives I’ve ever had!.
Honami gave us a quick introduction of Yuzusake (sorry for the background noise):
I like these kind of events. They are quite informal and give you an opportunity to talk to the people who actually make and sell the sake. This way you can find out more about the brewery, its brewing methods, the ingredients they use and learn other useful and interesting information. You also have a chance to make new friends in the sake world.