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John Gauntner

For John Gauntner's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

Nihonshu: The spirit of the times

May 30, 2004

Nihonshu: The spirit of the times

All it takes is a whiff and a sip of shochu to realize it is markedly different from the more common nihonshu (which Westerners call “sake,” although in Japanese, sake is a catchall word for all alcoholic drinks). It is, too, a much more ...

You think it's pure -- but is it really?

| Oct 13, 2002

You think it's pure -- but is it really?

One of the great debates among sake fans with too much time on their hands is whether sake that has alcohol added to it is real sake. It is interesting to look at the history, technical facets and economics of this issue. First, a ...

How to gain flavors and influence yeasts

| Sep 29, 2002

How to gain flavors and influence yeasts

When looking at what makes sake special, one thing that comes up often is koji mold. It is the heart of the sake-making process — no beverage in the world uses koji in its production the way that sake does. Of all factors involved ...

Sake-shopping picks that really hit the spot

| Sep 15, 2002

Sake-shopping picks that really hit the spot

There exists, where you would least expect it, a marvelous oasis for sake shopping. Yoshiike department store, just outside Okachimachi Station and just across from the entrance to Ameyokocho, has a fantastic selection of sake and a plethora of sake utensils to go with ...

How much do you really need to know?

| Sep 1, 2002

How much do you really need to know?

The choice of yeast in sake brewing exerts marvelous leverage on the aroma and style of the final product. And, while creativity and diversity lead to better sake over time, things can indeed get out of hand. Today, there are so many different yeasts ...

Drinking without thinking

| Aug 18, 2002

Drinking without thinking

Although more than half the fun at sake pubs is being an active participant in choosing what you drink, there are times when you don’t want to make that effort. There are times when what you want is simply to chat, or even — ...

| Aug 4, 2002

The sweet, soft option

Fukuoka sake, in general, hovers just below the surface of mass attention. You don’t hear about it too much, and it doesn’t have an image of overall style in the minds of most folks. But this belies its historical significance and, more importantly, ignores ...

Right down to the nitty-gritty grains

| Jul 21, 2002

Right down to the nitty-gritty grains

Rice is not, as most readers know, simply rice. Good sake is made from proper sake rice, and cheaper sake is made from much less expensive rice. In fact, most run-of-the-mill sake is made with rice bought from the local agricultural co-op, and often ...

As benchmarks rise, honjozo takes a hit

| Jul 7, 2002

As benchmarks rise, honjozo takes a hit

Last year, sake production dropped below 1 million kiloliters for the first time since the industry’s postwar recovery. Much of this drop was seen in the realm of cheap sake and honjozo, whereas the higher grades of junmaishu and ginjoshu stayed the same or ...