In this article, I’m reviewing Sawanotsuru Honjōzō Namazake (沢の鶴本醸造生酒) as part of our Sake Review series. This is a Japanese sake that you can buy in the United Kingdom. Links will be provided at the bottom of the article.*
Who are the brewers?
Sawanotsuru Co. Ltd (沢の鶴株式会社) is a sake brewer based in Kobe, Japan, founded during the Edo Period in 1717 AD. The name Sawanotsuru roughly translates as ‘crane of the swamp’, based on a mythological story about the legendary princess Yamatohime-no-mikoto (倭比売命). In the legend, the princess accepts a sheaf of rice from a white crane in a swamp (as you do), now declared to be God of Grain. The Izawanomiya Shrine was supposedly established to this purpose. Soon after, the rice was brewed into sake as an offering to the sun goddess, Amaterasu-omikami (天照大御神). Yamatohime-no-mikoto is an important figure in Shinto, responsible for the founding of Ise Shrine (伊勢神宮), one of the holiest sites in Japan.
Can you imagine being called God of Grain? Shintoism really elevates its animal gods!
And a drink named for that can only be a good thing. The brewery itself produces numerous kinds of sake every year, and the region is famous for its sake production.
What kind of sake is Sawanotsuru Honjōzō Namazake?
As the name suggests, it is a honjōzō-namazake (本醸造生酒). Honjōzōshu is any sake that has a milling rate of 70% or under (meaning that after milling, at least 70% of the original rice grain remains, with 30% of the fat, minerals, proteins and impurities removed), and will have a small amount of brewer’s spirit added. As such, it makes it a slightly higher grade compared to a futsūshu (普通酒), which is regular/ordinary sake.
Namazake (生酒), or fresh sake, refers to any sake that does not go through the two-step pasteurization process common to other kinds of sake. It either has only one point of pasteurization, or none at all. Because of the active agent still present in namazake, it must be stored in a refrigerator and drunk soon after purchase.
What’s it like?
The colour is clear, with a very light hint of yellow. Its texture is clear on sight with slight warping, and smooth to drink.
In terms of the flavour/aroma profile of Sawanotsuru Honjōzō Namazake, it has a slight aroma and slight flavour. Therefore, it can be categorized as a soshu (爽酒), or refreshing sake. There is a light alcoholic smell, common to most sake.
The alcoholic content of Sawanotsuru Honjōzō Namazake is 13.5% ABV, which is generally quite low for a sake. Its SMV (sake meter value) is +2.5, which means it is just ever so slightly sweeter than it is dry, though not by much. It’s ultimately quite a flavourless soshu with a slight alcoholic aftertaste.
This sake would go well with edamame, fresh oyster, sashimi or smoked salmon.
Final thoughts on Sawanotsuru Honjōzō Namazake?
In conclusion, I find this sake to be a refreshing honjōzō soshu. It has a mild flavour coming out, due to the active namazake quality. Cool, smooth and very easy to drink, you can knock it back like water.
Recommended for those who want to try their first namazake without breaking the bank on import duties.
Where can I purchase Sawanotsuru Honjōzō Namazake?
The following UK retailers currently sell this sake…