Did you know?
O-toso: New Year's Sake
O-toso is sake that has been specially prepared by steeping a mixture of herbs in it for several hours. Drinking it with family in
ceremonial fashion first thing on New Year's day is said to ward off sickness for the entire year ahead, as well as invite peace within the household.
The tradition of O-toso originally came from China, and
originally the mixture consisted of eight herbs. Included in the mixture are cinnamon, rhubarb and sanshou (Japanese pepper), as well as a few not commonly seen in the west, like okera (atractylodis rhizome) and
kikyou (platycodi radix).
O-toso was adopted in Japan back in the ninth century during the Heian era, and the custom has evolved into a fairly ritualized form over the years. After morning greetings on
O-shogatsu, the O-toso is drunk using a special set of three lacquered vermillion cups sitting on a small dais. The three cups fit inside each other, and are drunk from in order of size: small, medium then large. It
is poured not from a normal sake tokkuri, but from a special vessel resembling a kyusu (teapot).
The O-toso is drunk in order from the youngest in the family to the oldest with the intention that the older
members of the family can share in the joy of youth imparted as the cups are passed.
Teabags containing the herbal concoction are sold at drugstores all over Japan during the weeks running up to the new
year. Surely it would be available at some Japanese grocery stores overseas as well.
Also, should guests visit during the first three days of the new year, they are first given a glass of O-toso, and after
that a glass of sake.
As is the fate for many traditional rituals, the O-toso ceremony is not as commonly practiced these days as it has been in the past. Many younger people, in fact, may not know all that
much about it. Although all things run their natural course, it would be a pity if O-toso were to totally fade away.
Ah, ginjo-shu. What is it? Premium sake. Ginjo is to regular sake what single malt scotch is to regular scotch, or what 100% agave tequila
is to regular tequila: it is the same stuff, just made with better ingredients (better sake rice, milled more to make it more refined) and using special methods (like long term, low temperature fermentation). This
makes it more refined, generally lighter and smoother, and often but not always fruity and
aromatic. Only about 7-8% of the market is ginjo, so if you are drinking something with the word ginjo on the bottle, you are in the safe zone of premium sake.
Note, ginjo has four subclasses: junmai ginjo,
junmai daiginjo, daiginjo and relular ole' ginjo. For more about these see the Sake World website and the Sake Notebook, but just remember that if the word ginjo is on the bottle somewhere, you are drinking super
Sake Brewery Tours: we are live NOW!
Sake Tourism has begun!
Want to visit sake breweries in Japan? Now you can!
I am pleased to announce the starting of the Sake
World Sake Brewery Tours program. Now, anyone can access the inner workings of the sake world. Visit Japan, start off with a bit of formal sake education by yours truly, then you are off to see several sake
breweries while under the care of an experienced sake-savvy interpreter. Events include sake-centered meals and other cultural sight-seeing options - and even a bit of free time. This brewing season, there are two
- Tour I: Feb. 23 to 27 in Kansai (Osaka / Kyoto / Kobe area)
- Tour II: March 15 to 19 in San-in (Shimane / Tottori area)
For more information, pricing and reservations please go to www.saketours.com. Participation is extremely limited this season for the two tours that are
Sake Professional Course in Japan
January 25 to 29, 2009
The 2010 Sake Professional Course will take place in Tokyo (and Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe) Japan from Monday January
25 to Friday January 29, 2010.This is it, folks: simply the most thorough sake education on the planet. Three days of instruction and tasting are augmented by two days of sake brewery visits, with evenings filled
with good food and the best sake Japan has to offer. Reservations are being taken now, and are expected to go fast. For more information please go here, and/or to reserve, please email me at email@example.com.
- Dancyu Blog
I have begun a blog on sake related ramblings for the gourmet magazine Dancyu. It is,
however, in Japanese. Should you be interested and able to check it out, you can find it here. Also, for those with the requisite interest, an article in English on yers truly.
- Audio Program on Sake
I have also begun an audio program - five minutes at a time - that includes sake recommendations. The monthly posts can be heard at www.japanlivingarts.com a fascinating blog covering a wide range of arts and traditions of Japan, done by Steve Beimel, a decades-long resident of Kyoto. It is worth visiting for much more than the few measly sake updates!
Sake's Hidden Stories
I am very pleased, if not relieved, to finally announce the publication of my new ebook, Sake's Hidden Stories, subtitled The Personalities, Philosophies, and Tricks-of-the-Trade Behind the Brew.
Stories ($14.99) will give you a view to what goes on in the sake industry behind the brew we all love so much. The book goes into stories much deeper than the information we most commonly encounter; way beyond
simply what ginjo-shu is, what junmai-shu is, or what the role of koji is. You will learn about the personalities behind the sake. You will see in just how much detail some brewers make sake, and how each is
different in where importance is placed. And most significantly, something that has not been written about in any book on sake in English, you will meet more than a dozen brewers, and encounter their personalities.
You'll see what makes them tick, what drives them in their work, and how their histories and idiosyncrasies affect the sake they brew.
For more information on content and get your copy, go here.As with any
ebook or informational product I offer, satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If you don't like it or feel it was worth what you paid for it, I will cheerfully refund your money. Finally, for a nice third-party review of
the book, check out this cool blog.
Sake Educational Products
Jump-start your sake savvy
Just a reminder to check out the Sake-World e-store, currently offering three educational products immediately downloadable for your education and further sake
enjoyment. We offer three products, with more to come soon, including a full-blown, comprehensive self-study course covering all the material in the Sake Professional Course, and more.
First is The Sake Notebook, a 15-page pdf file guaranteed to jump-start your sake understanding and appreciation. It covers everything related to
sake in a tight, concise and easily digestible presentation replete with plenty of photos and diagrams for at-a-glance enlightenment. Sake basics, history, grades and quality levels, aging, temperature, storage and
more are all briefly touched upon to create a foundation upon which more sake learning can flourish. There is also a list of 250 (count 'em!) sake brands to look for and try. Finally, included with purchase is
access to a password protected area on www.sake-world.com known as "The Goodstuff" a regularly updated list of good sake recommendations, replete with brief commentary on each, and some indication of
John's personal recommendations and preferences. Available for $15.
Next is The Sake Production Slideshow, an executable file (Photojam) wherein resides a 15-minute slideshow of photos of the
sake-brewing process from beginning to end, giving you a glimpse into the day-to-day brewing environment of sakagura in Japan. Available for $15. Also, access to "The Goodstuff" comes with this product as
Third is a bundled package of both The Sake Notebook and The Sake Production Slideshow for those that cannot make up their minds or simply have to have - or give - both as gifts. Available as a
set for $25.
Surely these would make wonderful gifts for those close to you that are itching to get into good sake, and their easily downloadable digital format makes it all that much easier.
Holiday Gift Idea: The Sake Dictionary
Give the gift that keeps one drinking...only $6.99
Announcing the (pre-)release of The Sake
Dictionary - available at a special introductory price now to readers of this newsletter for a very limited time only.
Have you ever found yourself out and about at perhaps a retail shop or at a sushi
bar, perusing the sake menu and wondering - or trying to recall - just what the dickens all those terms actually mean? Wouldn't it have been great to have a quick guide that fits in your pocket, pda, or phone that
you could whip out to confirm a term or two? Well, here it is.
The Sake Dictionary is just that: A concise little package of all the terms you might ever come across when dealing with sake. Almost 200 of them
- including sake grades, rice variety names, seasonal sake terms, special varieties, rare types, post-brewing processing words and the myriad terms used in sake production - many of which are not even familiar to
the average Japanese person on the street - are listed up here with concise, useful and clear definitions and the written Japanese version as well.
Start to toss around Japanese sake terms like you were
raised knowing them! Gain a level of familiarity hitherto unimaginable! Avoid frustrating paralysis when faced with a sake-related purchase!
Get your copy of The Sake Dictionary now and never be confused
by sake terms again.
And, for a short time limited to this holiday season only, you - as a valued reader of the Sake World Email Newsletter - can purchase The Sake Dictionary at the special price of $6.99.
So click here to purchase your copy of The Sake Dictionary and eliminate sake stress and get a permanent grip on those pesky terms, and start really enjoying your sake.
For more information, go here. But trust me, it is a simple document, well laid out and concise, and will perform just as you'd imagine. You know that term, you've heard it before, you just cannot recall what it means right now. Just whip out the Sake Dictionary and Bingo! You've got it.
Go here to get your copy now.
More information on the following topics can be found at
- Sake Homebrewing
- Books on Sake
- Information on the archives of this newsletter
- General information related to this publication
Questions and comments should be directed to John Gauntner. Email John from this link: www.sake-world.com/html/email.html
All material Copyright, John Gauntner & Sake World Inc.