I’ve always been intrigued by genshus. They are fresh, brash, and bold. They are as close as you can get to what comes right out of the press - all without having to buy a plane ticket to the brewery.
What is a genshu sake?
Genshus are undiluted or tank strength sakes. Sakes typically naturally ferment to 18-20%. But if you are familiar with sake alcohol content, you will notice that most are at 15-16%. To get down to 15%, brewers will add water to the just-pressed sake. Adding a little bit of water can mellow out a sake and highlight its desirable flavors. Diluting also helps with the viscosity. Genshus are often more weighty, and bold than regular sake.
If you notice that a sake has an ABV of 17% or higher, there's a high probability that it's a genshu. But don't assume that just because a sake is at 15% it's not a genshu. Some brewers will deliberately stop fermentation early so that the sake reaches 15%. Why would they do this? Some will make a low-alcohol genshu to retain the bold flavors of a genshu but want to keep it at a low ABV.
Why make a genshu?
Brewers will often make a genshu to have a sake in their line-up that delivers a strong, flavorful punch. Genshus are often entered into sake competitions as they showcase the true, naturally fermented state of the sake. Following that same train of thought (offering a version of sake closest to its natural state), you will find that brewers often release nama (unpasteurized) genshus. You will find a bottle of nama genshu in both levels this month. Genshus also oer up other ways to enjoy sake. Since genshus are generally higher in alcohol, many sake lovers will drink it on the rocks.
Genshus are also a popular choice for our in-house cocktail whiz Kayoko, who often incorporates genshu sakes into cocktails because of their ability to stand up alongside other ingredients due to the higher alcohol content. Check the blog for Genshu Cocktail recipes by Kayoko using the Kikusui at Level 1 and Tsukinoi at Level 2.
What do genshus taste like?
Not surprisingly, genshus can often taste a little more boozy than regular (diluted) sake. I find that many genshus are bold, assertive, and layered. This opens up a bunch of possibilities for pairing. With rich foods like Szechuan cuisine and al pastor tacos, fruity nama genshus are great candidates. Both the Kikusui Funaguchi Nama Genshu Junmai in Level 1 and the Tsukinoi Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai in Level 2 are stand out examples of genshus that can pair with spicy and rich flavors from around the world.
Genshus can also be delicate. Uno Shuzo Kaori Daiginjo Genshu in Level 2 has a elegant aroma and is light on its feet. It drinks clean and fruity, making it a great sake foe seafood and sushi pairing. The brewer achieves this lightness by making this sake a honjozo and not a junmai (junmais tend to be a little bit more rustic). The satisfyingly dry Wakatake Junmai Genshu in Level 1 drinks lighter with an airy, creamy texture and is not ideal for cocktail-making. It’s an easy-drinking Friday night sake - delicious with yakitori or chicken wings.
Get your genshu!
LEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
Wakatake Onikoroshi Tokubetsu Junmai Genshu
Omuraya Shuzo (Shizuoka, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Aichi No Kaori, Gohyakuman-goku 60%, SMV: +7
Great for the pilsner lover, this crisp sake has a gentle cantalope flower fragrance and gradually warms you up while it travels down your throat, like caramel candy. Don’t let this Onikoroshi (demon slayer) fool you with its smoothness though - it’s a bonafide genshu at 17-18% alcohol. I call this my Friday night sake. It’s the sake I want to kick back with at the end of the long week alongside yakitori, chicken wings, or fries. Try at room temperature or warm.
Kikusui Funaguchi Nama Genshu
Kikusui Sake Co. (Niigata, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Gohyakuman-goku 70%, SMV: -4
There’s a lot going on in this sleek, black matte bottle. This nama genshu has got it all - brash, fruity, and fresh. It’s an unforgettable flavor that is best enjoyed chilled or on-the-rocks. Like biting into a ripe nectarine (a trait of a nama), this sake is a great complement to spicy foods like Mapo Tofu or Kung Pao Chicken. You may have seen this sake in its iconic gold can form at Umami Mart or served at restaurants. Because of its sweetness, I dub this the Nectar of Niigata.
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
Tsukinoi Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu
Tsukino-I Shuzoten (Ibaraki, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Gohyakuman-goku 60%, SMV: +3
Tsukinoi Junmai Muroka Nama Genshu Let this bottle take you to the tropics with fragrances of mangos and pineapple. With salinity and minerality, I love the texture of this sake - full of body but not syrupy. In addition to being a nama (unpasteurized) this fruity genshu is also a muroka (uncharcoal filtered) - which give it a golden hue. Enjoy chilled, on-the-rocks, or make Kayoko’s cocktail with yakitori, or al Pastor.
Kaori Genshu Daiginjo
Uno Shuzo (Fukui, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Yamada Nishiki 40%, SMV: +3
This sake is a showstopper. But it doesn’t make flashy entrance like the green JLo dress – it’s more like Halle Berry’s little black dresses. Clean, crisp, and never tiring. Uno Brewery focuses on using Yamada Nishiki rice for its high water absorption rate and large starchy core, which gives this genshu daiginjo a well-rounded floral and dry refreshing flavor. When asked why the brewer chose to make this a genshu, he replied, “Genshu is a natural sake (born as it is), straight from tank. Genshu daiginjo is usually smoother (less rough), easy to drink, with high aromas compared to genshu junmai daiginjo.” Enjoy chilled on its own or with hirame sashimi or squid.