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Staff Favorites - Stephen Allison

Stephen Allison
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Tamagawa Kinsho "Heart of Gold" Daiginjo Sake (720ml)
Review Date: 01-07-2019
After tasting Tamagawa's impressive Red Label Junmai I knew I had to try the Daiginjo. I'm glad I did. The nose is an alluring blend of anise, mint, white pepper, pear, honeydew, and subtle nuances of white blossom and grassy green tea. The aroma is a delight, and one that changes as the sake warms. Heart of Gold is best enjoyed right out of the refrigerator but don't keep it chilled. As it warms in the glass, the anise changes to sweeter licorice and the fruit elements better balance the non-fruit spicy qualities. Structure is big for a daiginjo with a stout body, intense flavors and savory texture. If subtlety and elegance it what you're after, Takasago's Divine Droplets or Kokuryu's Crystal Dragon would better serve. However, those brews don't have the twang of crisp acidity or tingle of spicy white pepper on the finish that Heart of Gold does. A sake for Syrah and Gin drinkers, Heart of Gold is like Red Label in that there is no other sake like it.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

Kokuryu "Crystal Dragon" Tokusen Ginjo Sake 720ml
Review Date: 12-20-2018
Kokuryu's house yeast, as well as locally sourced soft mountainous snow-melt water and locally grown Gohyakuman-goku rice, gives this sake an incredibly clean and nuanced flavor. Imagine a chablis-like minerality with fruity aromas of kiwi, green grape, green apple and lemon yogurt. Light in body and restrained in umami. Finishes dry and crisp; it almost vanishes from the palate. Refreshing acidity. Brilliant, one of the best sakes I've tasted made in the restrained, elegant style.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

Chokaisan Junmai Daiginjo Sake (720ml)
Review Date: 12-17-2018
Chokaisan is made in the cold Akita prefecture with soft mountain water, Miyama-Nishiki rice polished to 50%, and is fermented with ND-4 flower yeast. The result is a lightly floral nose, like white blossom, complimented by aromas of ripe banana, honey, yellow peach and tropical fruit. Structurally the sake is even-handed with moderate amounts of acid, umami, alcohol and sweetness. What stands out here is a plush and silky texture without the slightest rough edge, a sign of quality brewing. The feel of the sake dissipates quickly after tasting yet the flavor stays with you long into the finish. Flavors match the aroma and tasted with this sake's creamy feel and acidity it gives the impression of sweet, tangy peach yogurt.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

Tensei Kanagawa "Song of the Sea" Junmai Ginjo Sake 720ml
Review Date: 11-20-2018
Lovely stuff. Aromas are classic Junmai Ginjo: fresh honeydew, lemon, lime, pear and green apple with a touch of lemongrass. Intensity is neither robust nor restrained; just right. Light but not thin-bodied on the palate. Acidity is clearly present but does not distract from the subtle flavors of fresh pear and lemon. Finishes clean and lingers just long enough and with a faint impression of sweetness. Extremely well made example of a delicate Junmai Ginjo.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

Bunraku Nihonjin No Wasuremono "The Forgotten Spirit" Yamahai Junmai Sake (300ml)
Review Date: 11-16-2018
Served room temperature this Yamahai smells of steamed rice, nutty banana bread, white chocolate, and vanilla with just a touch of sliced white mushroom. The sake coats the mouth with its savoriness like a good Yamahai should. Crisp acidity provides a dry, clean finish. Just a bit of melon on the palate. A smooth Yamahai that's easy to drink, flavorful and undeniably delicious!
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

Konteki "Tears of Dawn" Daiginjo Sake (720ml)
Review Date: 11-13-2018
A clean, polished brew. Bright, clear aromas of green apple, green grape, honeydew, rice flour, lemon and white blossom. The sake feels light but not watery on the palate, with a unique chalky grip not unlike fine-grained tannin of a quality aged red wine. A subtle flavor, and one that reminds me of fresh tart fruit rather than ripe sweet fruit. Acidity and umami are understated as well; there is just the right amount to offset the sake's faint sweetness and provide lift. Finish is crisp and tidy. This is one to sip slowly and contemplate, or to enjoy with the delicate flaky white fish and sashimi.
Price: $38.99 Add To Cart

Ginga Shizuku "Divine Droplets" Junmai Daiginjo Sake (720ml)
Review Date: 09-21-2018
Divine Droplets is a masterclass in elegance. When served yuki-hie (40 degrees), you will be treated to subtle aromas of melon, grape, lychee and sugar cane with touches of honey and pear. As the sake warms to hana-hie (50 degrees), its fruit flavor intensifies, but I prefer its quiet delicacy when enjoyed well chilled. The texture can be described as light bodied with a creamy, silky viscosity. Understated acidity and umami further contribute to its refinement. Deserving of its name, Divine Droplets is heavenly.
Price: $67.99 Add To Cart

Rihaku "Dreamy Clouds" Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori Sake (Unfiltered) (720ml)
Review Date: 09-21-2018
A subtle and light nigori to counter the lusciously sweet style, Dreamy Clouds is a fantastic introduction to dry sake. Rihaku brews Dreamy Clouds with the premium rice variety Gohyakuman-Goku, prized for its clean and subdued flavors, polished to 59%. The Ginjo-level polishing ratio qualifies this sake as a Tokubetsu (special selection) Junmai, a designation reserved for brews a Toji is most proud of. The result is a sake with subtle aromas of white flowers and raw pine nuts, with hints of honeydew and bubblegum. On the palate, Dreamy Clouds is dry, lean, and bright with pronounced acidity and just a dash of chewiness from the very fine rice solids. If you've come to associate simple and sweet with the nigori category, be prepared to have your expectations elevated by Dreamy Clouds.
Price: $30.99 Add To Cart

Asahi Shuzo Dassai "45" Junmai Daiginjo Nigori Sake (300ml)
Review Date: 09-11-2018
Ahh Dassai 50, possibly the best sake to introduce new drinkers to the ginjo style. It is high quality, well priced, and boasts a powerfully fruity aroma that is hard for anyone to find objectionable. The nigori variant is no different: drinkers are treated to aromas of ripe, juicy fruits like cantaloupe, kiwi, peach, plum and grape with hints of honey. The sake is rich and chewy on the palate with a touch more sweetness than the standard Dassai 50 but not so much as to come off as cloying. All of those delicious sweet fruit aromas can be tasted on the palate and well into the finish. Dassai 50 nigori is, simply, a delicious sake.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

Fukucho "Moon on the Water" Junmai Ginjo Sake (720ml)
Review Date: 08-20-2018
Moon on the Water will show Sake new-comers what Ginjo is all about! Aromas of honeydew melon, bubblegum, cotton candy, grape and sweet apple. Intoxicating aroma, but skillfully avoids "fruit-bomb" territory with hints of subtle spice and steamed white rice. On the palate, the sake is medium-dry with mild acidity and moderate savoriness. Bubblegum and grape flavors last well into the finish. And, unique to this sake, a texture of firm resiliency like a perfectly cooked grain of rice. It's almost chewy, but in a way that feels silky and elegant. Outstanding.
Price: $36.99 Add To Cart

Yuho Ishikawa "Eternal Embers" Junmai Sake 720ml
Review Date: 08-14-2018
Eternal Embers is an excellent Junmai to be served either hana-hie (50 degrees) or nuru-kan (105 degrees). Expect flavors of toasted grain, banana, honey, brown sugar, with touches of savory soy and raisin. This classic Junmai is weighty and savory on the palate with enough acidity for balance, and tastes dry despite its mouth-filling richness. The finish is long and flavorful, reminiscent of toasted grains and roasted nuts. An easy recommendation for fans of porters, stouts, or big red wines.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambery (750ml)
Review Date: 08-10-2018
A unique style of vermouth that is much less herbal than the Dry, just as sweet as the Rouge but with a fruiter flavor, like a white dessert wine. Fans of white port and botrytised wines like Tokaji and Sauternes would be well-advised to try Dolin Blanc. It is an indispensable ingredient in a Manhattan variation, the El Presidente: Stir two ounces of White Rum with one ounce of Dolin Blanc and a dash each of Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao and home-made grenadine. It is also delicious served on ice with a muddled strawberry and slice of lemon.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

Small Hand Foods Orgeat Syrup (8.5oz)
Review Date: 08-10-2018
Sure, you could make your own Orgeat. It’s not too hard. All you need is a food processor, toaster, slivered almonds, orange flower water, a pinch of salt and 24 hours to let it all come together. It will taste great but will lack…something. Is it the pressed apricot kernels? The touch of California Brandy? It is rare that a packaged product can equate or even better home-made but Jennifer Colliau has accomplished this with her Small Hand Foods Orgeat recipe. Shake a half ounce of this with one ounce Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, one ounce Clement Rhum Agricole, a quarter ounce Orange Liqueur (such as Dry Curacao, Cointreau or Clement Creole Shrub), a half ounce simple syrup lightly infused with cinnamon and one ounce lime juice for an authentic 1944 Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. Sault!
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

Scrappy's Grapefruit Bitters (5oz)
Review Date: 08-10-2018
Ah Scrappy's, my favorite bitters producer. Their grapefruit bitters smell just like fresh grapefruit. But be careful! If you're used to a few strong dashes with classics like Angostura I find that one dash will do with Scrappy's. These are powerful in both flavor and bitterness, so it is easy to go overboard. My favorite use for the Grapefruit is in a classic 2:1 Martini with a juniper and citrus forward gin. Stir 2 oz Citadelle Gin, 1 oz Dolin Dry with one dash of Scrappy's Grapefruit. Dolin Dry is still a touch sweet and the dash of bitters does a good job of offsetting the sugar. Finish with a lemon twist. Cheers!
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

Dolin Rouge Vermouth de Chambéry (750ml)
Review Date: 08-09-2018
In a blind sweet vermouth tasting between Dolin Rouge, Cocchi di Torino, Carpano Antica Formula, and Vya, Dolin was the winner for me. Of the four, Dolin is the most temperate. While the Italian vermouths were grandiose in style, and the Californian Vya eccentric, the French Dolin struck an amiable balance of flavor between its wine base and botanical infusion. Not so fragrant as to swamp your spirit with aromatics, nor so sweet as to throw off the balance of your cocktail, Dolin is the standard for vermouth.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

Citadelle French Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 08-09-2018
Citadelle is a Gin that excels in all manner of cocktails. Although the recipe is modern in style, having nineteen botanicals like St. George Botanivore, it is citrus and juniper forward and not so powerfully aromatic as to be judged overwhelming or an acquired taste. Unique to this Gin is its neutral spirit base which is made from wheat. Those familiar with wheat beers and vodkas distilled from wheat can attest to the grain’s capability of imparting an exceptionally silky, rounded texture. These qualities mean that any cocktail made with Citadelle, whether it is a Martini, Negroni, or Gin & Tonic, will taste right and feel neither heavy nor harsh.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart