Who is Noguchi Naohiko, and why is the brewery called a kenkyujyo (研究所), which means “laboratory” or “institute”?
Noguchi Naohiko is a toji, or master sake brewer, from the noto (能登） school. Noto toji is a school of sake-making that originated on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, one of many schools of toji that exist throughout Japan. The sake made by noto toji is said to be bold or strong in taste. Noguchi Naohiko became a toji at the young age of twenty-six at Kikuhime (菊姫), a brewery in Ishikawa Prefecture. After a full career at Kikuhime, Mr. Noguchi took the reins at Kano (鹿野酒造), another brewery in Ishikawa. After retiring for a second time, he started working as the toji at the Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute (農口尚彦研究所), a brewery set up to preserve his skill and knowledge for future generations of sake brewers. According to the brewery’s website, it merges data collected using state-of-the-art technology with Mr. Noguchi’s own data collected over many years to develop delicious sake.
The Junmai Muroka Namagenshu is made from Gohyakumangoku (五百万石) rice. According to Master of Sake: The Textbook for Kikisakeshi, this rice is the second most popular sakamai (酒米). or sake rice, grown today. The rice is native to the Hokuriku region, which encompasses Ishikawa Prefecture. As such, this sake is said to reflect the terroir of the region. As genshu (原酒), which is undiluted sake, the ABV is a bold 19%. The seimaibuai (精米歩合), or rice polishing rate, is 60%. The sake was aged for a little over a year.
Aroma: generally fruity (apple) with brown sugar, milk, and cooked white rice notes
Tasting notes: a slight sweetness on the attack, which quickly dissipates into a dry finish, milky and rich
Color: very pale yellow (likely due to the aging it has undergone)
This is a very well-rounded beverage with lots of body. One of the writers of this blog does not usually enjoy aged sake, as he feels that the aging process imparts dried mushroom-like flavors that are normally overpowering. However, this product was aged for just the right amount of time to add depth but not the sprouting mushrooms. A truly enjoyable sake! What a catch!
Where to buy: Hasegawa Sake Shop (長谷川酒店) in Nihonbashi