Expressing the Ineffable
Some might think that the staff here at drinkingjapan.org have an easy job. They believe that we just kick off our shoes, open a bottle of something, and the words flow like beer at a frat party. True, the bottle-opening and tasting, even the shoe-kicking, are lots of fun, but conveying our evaluations to our readers is far from easy. This is especially true with respect to the extremes; i.e., the best and the worst. The problem lies not with our taste buds but with the inadequacy of language as a medium of communication. First, and most obviously, the descriptors used must be immediately understandable to most readers. Describing the aroma of a wine as similar to that of “a bird’s nest marinated in swamp water” will not suffice. Second, much of what we communicate in our daily lives is done non-verbally. If you doubt that, please consider how drivers communicate with one another when on the road. No, it’s not just the use of the digitus impudicus. Visual cues like facial expressions and non-linguistic audio cues like grunts and moans are not found in the writer’s toolbox. Finally, there is the ineffable. Some things—like describing the very best and the most abysmal—just cannot be fully expressed using words. To circumvent this impediment, we must turn to Basho and his haiku describing the ineffable beauty of Matsushima.
matsushima ya/ ā
This, of course, is the perfect time to segue into our beverage of the week. Matsushima is in Miyagi Prefecture close to Fukushima Prefecture, an area renown for some excellent kura, one of which is Okunomatsu, which was established in 1716. Readers are encouraged to visit their English-friendly website, which can be found here: http://okunomatsu.co.jp/english/ .
The nihon-shu that we tasted was Daiginjo Shizukusake Juhachidai ihei (大吟醸雫酒十八代伊兵衛), which is described as sake that is allowed to drip naturally from cotton bags without pressure being applied. It is a sake made with the addition of distilled alcohol, with an abv of 17%. The plethora of aromas that this beverage imparts and the sensory pleasures that they engender cannot be thoroughly conveyed by words alone. Indeed, Basho’s “Ah,” might be the best way to summarize the experience. Nevertheless, we will try. This is a highly fragrant sake with prominent vanilla notes. Cotton candy is also evident. There are also faint traces of bubble gum, not unlike what one sometimes experiences when sniffing Beaujolais. But these dessert-like fragrances are counterbalanced by pear, which is not unlike the aroma imparted by Riesling. The palate is less complex. It is classified as dry, but there is a high level of sweetness, as well, as is evidenced by its rather, for a sake that is, hefty body. The mouthfeel is luxurious, and the finish is long. Ah!
Recommendation level (out of five stars):
We have written a book. For more information on Japanese beverages, please check it out. You can get it at fine offline and online booksellers in Japan, including Amazon.
drinkingjapan #drinkjapan #okunomatsu #Juhachidaiihei #fukushimasake