If you’re a traditionalist and only drink sake with sushi, you know that good sake should never overwhelm the delicate fish. Instead, it should highlight the food and cleanse the palate. Shimizu-No-Mai Pure Dusk is light and elegant enough to complement cuts such as yellowtail and fatty tuna. If you want to try something different, though, pair Pure Dusk with a plate of prosciutto and melon; the sake will highlight both the salty and sweet flavors. Either way, sake is full of complexities that can easily be missed if sipped from a small ceramic cup — a wine glass will allow sake to breathe and fill your nose (and palate) with its flavors. Begin with a chilled glass, then allow the sake to warm to room temperature. As it does, its subtle characteristics will emerge.
Premium sake, such as Junmai Daiginjo, requires simplicity – pure ingredients and highly polished rice. This grade of sake is very labor intensive, as each grain of rice has its outer layer of fat and protein milled away, leaving only the starchy center. This style really showcases the brewer’s art and skill. I was looking for a Junmai Daiginjo-grade sake when I came across Pure Dusk. I loved its minerality, its crisp, refreshing notes of green apple and melon, and its long, delicate finish. It also comes in sake’s traditional half-bottle size — the perfect amount for two people to share during an intimate dinner.
The Shimizu-No-Mai kura, or brewery, is based in Akita prefecture in northern Japan. Akita is famed for its crisp mountain water, and sake has been brewed here since 1656. This kura’s Junmai Daiginjo-grade sake, Pure Dusk, uses that spring water — as well as yeast and koji, or local rice cultivated with koji-kin mold spores. The koji aids fermentation and deepens sake’s flavors and aromas. Yet while so many Junmai Daiginjo sakes are expensive, the clean and complex Pure Dusk is an excellent value.