Museum of Sake Journal Summer 2016 - Page 33

3 WHAT IS GINJO-KA AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? Ginjo-ka or ginjo aroma is the fruity, flowery fragrance associated with ginjo sake. Chef and sake educator Michael Ou introduces the mystical world of ginjo aromas and the different techniques brewers use in pursuit of it. WORDS : MICHAEL OU The ‘gin’ of ginjo actually comes from the words ‘gin taste’ (吟味) which originally meant ‘prosecutor’ during the Edo period (1603~1868) as a prosecutor would examine court cases. Gin therefore embodied examining, searching for and defining better taste. Over the years, ‘gin taste’ (ginmi, 吟味) slowly came into use as an adjective word for delicious food. Since ‘jo’ (醸) means to brew, the literal meaning of ginjo is a well defined, balanced sake. The word ginjo appeared in the brewing industry around 100 years ago after the New National Sake Contest held by the National Research Institute of Brewing (NRIB). The award-winner would not only gain accolades for their brewery, but also benefit from a spike in sales by tagging their wares as competition-grade sake. The word ginjo therefore acquired a reputation for good quality sake. Since 1992, under the law by the National Tax Agency in Japan, ginjo sake has been one of the sake grade subcategories of ‘Tokutei-meisho-shu’, meaning ‘special designation’. To impress a judge with just one small sip during a sake competition is no easy job, especially when there are around 800 other competitors. To do so, lots of research and new techniques have been developed by sake brewers to create the perfect taste according to each brewery’s individual perspective. One of the key aspects of a good sake is having an enjoyable aroma, which is the ginjo aroma or ginjo-ka. MUSEUM OF SAKE JOURNAL 33