One of the best values for Junmai Daiginjo, Tengumai is an excellent bottle for the money and one of the best buys in this price range. It is a superb bottle with sushi and seafood with nice acidity and sweetness that mirrors that of sushi rice or something like a Kumamoto Oyster. Delicious and a pleasure to drink, we have a friendly price here for a new batch arriving from our supplier next week.
Tengumai 50 is brewed by Syata Brewery, located in central Japan's Ishikawa prefecture, facing Japan's Sea. Syata was established in 1823, passing down its techniques to talented and skilled Brew Masters, encouraging tradition but also the creative spirit, accepting new ideas from Brew Masters to create something different or better while using the tradition of brewing as merely a guideline and not absolute law.
The brewery's main technique is Yamahai, slightly similar to the traditional Kimoto Style. In Kimoto style, the rice is crushed manually to dissolve it into the water, influencing the natural lactic acid in the air to start fermentation, much like a wild yeast fermentation in wine. The Yamahai technique skips this step and uses an enzyme melted from a malt that dissolves the rice into a liquid state. In this case, 50% polished rice is used and is a less physically and labor-intensive process that yields similar results but keeps the cost per bottle much lower.
The Sake is then carefully aged in a barrel before it is bottled and released, which is a unique process for Sake and is not common but stems from part of that free-flowing creativity that Syata promotes. The barrel aging provides the complexity and similar flavor profile of the Kimoto style but is less powerful, more light on its feet, and very elegant, curating a style that is perfect for those who like Sake's refreshing, complex side. The acidity here is spot-on, too, and brightens up the palate's dried fruits and herbal nuances. Tengumai has an outstanding balance and a drawn-out finish that ends with the perfect amount of sweetness, much like a Champagne with the proper dosage.
Tengumai 50 developed a cult following with its induction into a Japanese Comic (Manga) about Sake, where it was promoted to be the best pairing with oysters. This is certainly true, and that brine-y, slightly sweet flavor goes hand in hand here, but Tengumai could pair equally with shellfish, lighter fish, and lightly grilled meats or grilled vegetables.
Tengumai is a fantastic choice for those interested in trying more Sake and has what it takes to impress even experienced drinkers.