There is a Chinese proverb. “An inch of time is an inch of gold. But you cannot buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.” I’d twist it, you can’t buy that inch of ‘light'(komyo) with an inch of gold.
A few days ago, a friend phoned me and said he got a ‘light’ (komyo) in this batch of sake. I have heard so many great things about this sake, that I placed an order without any hesitation. It is going to be a gift for my Father’s birthday party.
Sake, the easiest way to categorize is its polishing ratio. Rice polishing ratio is the percentage of the rice that remains after the husk is polished off. Take the example of Niwari Sanbun (二割三分), it means the rice has its outer part removed, and only 23% is left. Hence, most rice used in sake brewing differs from the rice we consume day-to-day. Rice used specifically for sake brewing is called “Shuzo-kouteki-mai“. Its core is a sort of starch in a semi-solid state. With this core, sake will lose most of its flavors and umami that are usually areas of critique when tasting.
In the past, when technology was not as advanced, breweries can only polish the outer one to two layers. However, since the Shōwa era, technological advancement leads to an upgrade in rice-polishing technology as well. So close to the end of the 20th century, to differentiate the rice polishing ratio, categories like Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo starts to flourish. Of course, there are still niche breweries that can sell sake at a higher price despite its high polishing ratio. However, generally, the price curve of sake is proportionate to its rice polishing ratio – the lower, the more expensive.
Who has the lowest rice polishing ratio?
Many have taken the throne over the past ten years. From Dassai Niwari Sanbun (23%) and Dassai beyond – where its rice polishing ratio is non-disclosed. Then, there is Tatenokawa coming in with an 18% polishing ratio. Raifuku and Hakurakusei joined in the battle and broken the record of below 10%. Tatenokawa Ultra (also known as kyokugen) prices over 20k JPY and was considered on the expensive side, then. However, their CEO still has not given up – to end the battle, they created Komyo in 2017.
In the papers, there was only one tagline: 1% Rice Polishing Ratio.
Rice polished to its ultimate – and its price soars over 100k JPY without a doubt. The following year, the rice was changed to ‘king of sake rice’ Yamada Nishiki, and the price doubled to 220k JPY. It does like a bit daunting, if not very much. The whole polishing process will split into three stages and take two and a half months to finish. The amount of rice used is even ten times more than usual sake brewing.
I had a chance to try komyo at a friend’s party the year before. But I was not in a good state and had limited knowledge about sake. Back then, it did not leave much impression on me other than tasting like very delicious water…
(Disclaimer: The author has given consent to Sakeholic for re-posting and translating, the original passage can be found on the author’s Weibo. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the website and its company.)