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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

Asahi Shuzo Dassai "50" Junmai Daiginjo Sake (300ml)
Review Date: 12-20-2018
Dassai "Otter Festival" 50 is one of the best selling premium sakes in the world. Asahi Shuzo, the brewery behind the Dassai brand, aimed to make only Junmai Daiginjo grade sake at a price that anyone can afford. My, how wildly they have succeeded. Powerful aromas of bubblegum, lychee, banana, cantaloupe and honeydew with touches of coconut. It's an irresistibly fruity and sweet nose. Big flavors and ample weight to match the generous aroma intensity. Softened acidity and umami. Finishes mostly dry, but hints of sweetness give the sake a round, silky texture. Impossible not to find this delicious!
Price: $12.99 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

Shirataki Uonoma Noujun Junmai Sake (720ml)
Review Date: 11-20-2018
If you are a big red wine drinker then, oh man, this is the sake for you. Polished to 80%, which is very high for sake, then fermented with wine yeast and aged two years. The significance of the high polishing ratio is that certain components of the rice, such as proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals, are left in the fermentation. The proteins in particular can break down into amino acids during fermentation, creating a savory texture. The result of Shirataki’s work is a robustly flavored, heavy bodied brew with high levels of umami, acidity and a wonderfully generous intensity of flavor. Thankfully the sake isn’t sweet, although there is enough sugar to enhance the round texture and to balance the pronounced acidity. Expect big flavors of banana bread, honey and caramelized nuts that can be tasted long into this sake’s finish. I usually describe the nose first when evaluating sake, but this one is so impressively mouth-filling yet easy-drinking I couldn't resist commenting on the flavor and structure first! The nose mirrors what is tasted on the palate, but with welcome touches of vanilla, mild earthiness and spicy cracked pepper. Serve room temperature or warm and pair with pizza, steak, lasagna, veal or hearty stews.
Price: Hidden View Price

Tamagawa "Red Label" Heirloom Yamahai Genshu Sake (720ml)
Review Date: 11-20-2018
Good god Mr. Harper, what a magnificent sake you have created. Intense fruity and savory aromas of gummy candy, strawberry, kiwi, marshmallow, mushroom and toasted nuts. One of the most complex, delicious, unique, intoxicating aromas on a sake. One sip and you know this is as good on the palate as it is on the nose: incredibly powerful but velvety and shockingly easy to drink. Structurally, this is maxed out straight down the line: the highest levels of umami, acidity, alcohol, and flavor intensity with the longest finish. Flavors of oily marcona almond and mushroom fried rice can be tasted for minutes. An unconventional masterpiece!
Price: $34.99 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

Kikusui Junmai Ginjo Sake (300ml)
Review Date: 11-01-2018
Kikusui Junmai Ginjo is a sake that I consider to be a standard in the category. Best served around hana-hie (50 degrees); at this temperature you will be treated to intense aromas of cantaloupe, honeydew melon and banana with hints of sweet mochi. Although the nose is aromatic, it never comes across as cloying or ostentatious. On the palate the sake is very well balanced; the body is moderately full without weighing down the palate and with just enough acidity, sweetness and umami to support the sake without distracting from its delicious fruit flavor and clean, silky finish. It is everything a quality Junmai Ginjo should be at a fantastic price and is impossible to disappoint!
Price: $10.99 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

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

Plymouth English Gin (750ml)
Review Date: 08-10-2018
Plymouth is one of the oldest gins produced today. It is, curiously, not a “London Dry” but is its own category of gin. While the classic London Dry style can be produced anywhere in the world and is assertively juniper forward, Plymouth can only be produced in Plymouth, England and tones down the juniper a degree to showcase earthier botanicals such as angelica root and orris root. The resulting gin is distinctive. It, in my opinion, is best in a Martini mixed in early 20th century ratios. Try two ounces of Plymouth stirred with one ounce of Dolin Dry, garnished with a lemon twist and castelvetrano olives. Plymouth compliments the herbal flavors of Dolin Dry and the savory brine of the olives better than any other gin. Salut!
Price: $29.99 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