Sake fangirls and fanboys flock to Omachi rice like Berkeleyites at the site of the season’s first organic Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Omachi is the oldest known sake rice strain with no genetic cross-breeding. It creates sakes that are layered, earthy, diversified, and herbal. Omachi continues to enamor sake lovers and makers for its complexity, and the fact that it’s a varietal that has been around for generations.
Sake rice is typically 30% larger than regular eating rice with a bigger starchy core and the stalks grow to be about 25% taller. Here is a chart of the top four rice strains used for sake making, with the star of this month in the fourth spot.
|Yamada-Ho + Watari Bune
|Fruity, floral, melon
|Kikusui + Shin-200-go
|Light, clean, green apples
|Genetically-modified Takana Nishiki
|Light, sharp finish, banana
|Layered, herbal, earthy
Omachi stands out from the rest given that it is neither a cross breed nor genetically modified. As the oldest identified sake rice variety, it reigned supreme nearly 70 years since its discovery in the 1860s. But along came Yamada Nishiki in the 1920s, with shorter stalks for easier harvests and a more round shinpaku (starchy core) which degraded less during milling. Hence, Omachi was dethroned as the number one used sake rice. It wasn’t until the 1980s, with better tools and technology for harvesting, that sake makers started to rediscover Omachi for its ability to create complex sakes with herbal hints.
The spectrum of sakes that Omachi rice produces is impressive. From the smooth, jasmine-like Maboroshi Junmai Ginjo to the kombu and dark chocolate laden Omachi Tokubetsu Junmai, you can be sure to experience a journey of flavors from nose to tail.
LEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
Bizen Maboroshi Junmai Ginjo
Muromachi Brewery (Okayama, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Omachi 60%, SMV: +2
This bottle of sake reminds me of an early summer hike on a grassy knoll full of dandelions. With hints of sweet jasmine and white pepper finish, the journey of this bottle will make you feel like your office is a million miles away. Brewed in the birthplace of Omachi rice, Okayama Prefecture, Bizen Maboroshi Junmai Ginjo is a perfect example of a layered Omachi sake. Pair chilled with carrot salad dressed in a light vinaigrette or steamed artichoke.
Bizen Omachi Junmai Daiginjo
Tamano Hikari Brewery (Kyoto, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Omachi 50%, SMV: +3.5
Hailing from one of our favorite breweries in Kyoto, this clean daiginjo yields a large bandwidth of flavors ranging from fruity pears (likely the daiginjo yeast) to refreshing grassy finish (the Omachi). Bizen is the name for Omachi grown in Okayama Prefecture and is highly prized. Enjoy the smooth flavors and dry finish chilled alongside oysters, ikura or a blue cheese.
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
Seiden Omachi 50 Junmai Daiginjo
Akita Seishu (Akita, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Omachi 50%, SMV: +1
Good things are worth waiting for. We had to special order these bottles in the beginning of 2019 to get them in time for Omachi month. This crisp sake full of lemongrass, pear, and green apples is a staff favorite! It’s a perfect summer sake that embodies both the layered and herbal qualities of Omachi. This sake is pastuerized only once, making it silky and lively. Enjoy chilled with chicken karaage, salami, or a sharp cheese.
Omachi Tokubetsu Junmai
Choryo Brewery (Nara, Japan)
Seimaibuai: Omachi 68%, SMV: +3.5
Robust and full of umami, this sake brewed with Omachi rice is full of personality. We tasted dark chocolate, kombu, mushrooms with a hint of ginjo aroma. Despite a rich entry and pronounced acidity, this sake ends clean and dry. We thought it would be great warmed, but ultimately liked it at room temperature. Pair with something rich: kimchi nabe, pork belly, or smoked tofu.