What part of Funaguchi Kikusui Ichibanshibori Nama Genshu Honjōzō don’t you understand?

look how cute!

look how cute!

I’ve had this picture on my phone for some time. I bought this sake a few months ago at the very charming Sakaya in the East Village and I’ve been waiting to gather some background information on it. The opportunity to do so presented itself today at my Society of Wine Educators Conference during a seminar led by Michael John Simkin. This little beauty was one of the 9 sakes we tried.

Here’s its full name: Funaguchi Kikusui Ichibanshibori Nama Genshu Honjōzō. Say that three times. I’ll break it down for you:

*Kikusui (kee-koo-sue-ē) is the name of the sake house or brewery and it translates to water chrysanthemum. The Takasawa family owns the brewery and it’s been around since 1881. It became popular in Japan in the 1970s when a brilliant marketer decided the can format would work well for folks on the local ski slopes. Yup, skiing is big in the Niigata prefecture (state).

*Funaguchi means “from the mouth of the tank” (more on this later).

*Ichibanshibori means “first sake out of the tank”. Ichiban means #1; I always think of the beer by Kirin.

*Nama means fresh or unpasteurized. Most sake sold in the U.S. is pasteurized. Some would say the nama style is more fresh and vibrant.

*Genshu means cask-strength. This sake has not been diluted and is bottled right from the tank, clocking in at 19% abv, whereas most sake is in the 14-16% range.

*Honjōzō refers to the quality level of the sake. In this category, the rice has to be polished down to 70% or less and a small amount of distilled alcohol may be added.

I smelled red bean ice cream and dried apricots. It was full-bodied and viscous, with savory and spicy notes on the palate. You could pair it with rich dishes or spicy food. With its packaging though, may I suggest the movies, a picnic or in a few months, the slopes. At $6.99 for 200 ml, it’s quite a bang for your buck.

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