We opened another bottle of Bull Rider this past weekend, and it was more impressive than the sample we tried a few months back. This seemed fresher and purer (probably because our original sample had been open for a while) and had more floral and fruit focus. Admittedly the label is a bit bizarre, but the Sake is made by one of the top Breweries in Central Japan and was a private label commissioned by the importer. Made in the undiluted Genshu style, this is an excellent Junmai Daiginjo for the money and has a beautiful touch of sweetness that complements sushi rice very well and can also handle a bit of spice. It's a refined and polished example with excellent balance that we typically see at a much higher price point. While the label isn't our favorite design, don't let it fool you because this is an excellent Sake for the money.
We blind tasted a few Sake's a week ago, and the Bull Rider from Ryujin Brewery was our top pick of the bunch. The first Sake we have ever offered from Gunma, a landlocked prefecture right in the middle of Japan where the fabled ninja was said to originate. Ryujin is a small brewery that dates back to 1597 founded in the village of Tatebayashi on a very pure natural spring that a Dragon Deity named Ryujin was said to arise. The original family still owns Ryujin, and today master brewer Hideki Horikoshi is the 18th generation to claim the position. Though this is an old, traditional brewery, Hideki Horikoshi and his time of six are not afraid of pushing the boundaries, always looking to improve and find a way to stick out of the sea of Sake producers. Bull Rider is one of their creations aimed at testing their limits and improving themselves using traditional methods to make something modern and fun while at the same time being a serious Sake. Bull Rider is a play on Japan's fascination with American Cowboy culture. While the label is very untraditional, it is designed to push the door open to a broader audience. It is an intricate and complex Sake that is aromatically profound with citrus notes, melon, fennel, pineapple, spice, floral perfume, rose water, potpourri, cedar, flint, and earth. The palate at first taste is perceived as dry, but a gentle sweetness slowly rolls in, bringing depth and complexity to the spiced mineral flavors, with an excellent bead of acidity that cuts through the smooth and creamy richness, bringing outstanding balance and ending on a powerful, lingering finish with dry extract. Don't let the label fool you into thinking this is a joke because this is an incredible Junmai Daiginjo for the money showing the level of complexity of a much more expensive bottle. At the moment, we have the only bottles available in the USA which just came over from Japan, and it is an absolute delight to drink and can be paired with bolder foods like beef. The Bull Rider is highly recommended for all levels of Sake drinkers.