Tokubetsu means special, and Souden Tokubetsu Junmai is indeed a special sake. Last year, Yoko and Kayoko visited Kitaya, the brewery in Kyushu, Japan that makes this earthy brew. We liked Souden so much that in November, we featured it in Sake Gumi, our monthly sake club, so that others could enjoy it too.
Souden is a yamahai, which is a way of making sake so that lactic acid develops naturally at a low temperature over the course of two months in the yeast mash. Yamahais are often strong, bright, and slighty tart, and Souden fits the bill, with a fruity and high-acid quality. Its boldness means that it can be enjoyed with rich foods, like steak, beef stews, tonkotsu ramen, creamy cheeses, and other comfort foods.
What makes Souden a "tokubetsu" is that it's made with Yamadanishiki rice, one of the most desirable rice strains for making sake, which is then polished down to 60%. The more polished the rice is, the more refined and clean the sake becomes, but the polishing ratio is a careful balance that the toji (brewer) plays with to reach a desired flavor, strength, and intention. In the case of Souden, the toji prevailed! In 2013 and 2014, Souden won the gold medal at The Joy of Sake event.
So get yourself a bottle and find out why Souden is so special. And let us know how you enjoyed it!