The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2014

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Page 35 of 128

march 2014 / the tasting panel / 35 WHAT WE'RE DRINKING J apanese saké is made like beer but drinks like wine, with an affinity for food that makes it much more than just a sushi accompaniment. Hiro Saké, inspired by the ancient recipes of renowned samurai and saké connoisseur Hiroemon Takeda, is made from golden rice and startlingly pure, subterranean water that skirts Japan's Miomote River. It is crafted at the oldest kura (brewery) in Niigata Prefecture, founded in 1635, a fittingly hallowed place for Hiro's toji (saké master) to bridge age-old heritage and modern drink- ing patterns. History Begetting Innovation Carlos Arana, CEO and co-founder of Hiro Saké, has broad experi- ence in global beverage brand development, having served for eight years as Managing Director of Jose Cuervo International. He has also been Commercial Director for Seagram Spirits and Wine Group in Asia, Category Director of Patrón Tequila, International Marketing Director for Chivas Regal and Marketing Director for Fortune Brands. "We are at the early stages of Hiro's development," says Arana, "and are encouraged by the response to our innovative promotions. Most importantly, consumers love our quality and taste, especially with food." Pairings can range from cheese to chocolate, but his favorites include oysters alongside chilled Hiro Blue. "Also, as the winter season approaches, I love chicken soup with noodles, hot Hiro Red and lots of friends with which to share." When in a cocktail mood, Arana prepares Blue Sakétinis (garnished with cucumber) and, with the Red, Home Hiros. The Right Distribution Initially, Hiro was introduced in the Northeast U.S. with support from Monsieur Touton Selection. "We also received a tremendous welcome from Southern Wine & Spirits and NESDI in Georgia," says Arana. "Both markets have shown growth, and Hiro is the perfect brand to further this segment." Arana is now preparing a test market in Japan for early 2014. "The best thing about selling saké is observing how consumers enjoy its personality. The challenge, as with every new category and product, is low awareness that requires education." So How Does It Taste? Hiro Saké comes in two styles: Hiro Red and Hiro Blue. Both are filtered and can be mixed in place of vodka, gin or white rum, but are differentiated by packaging and intended use. Red Junmai, poured either warm or chilled, smells of yellow mustard seed and dill while tasting of anise and fresh apricot. There's an intriguing bitter radish element on a finish that's moderately acidic and of medium weight. Blue Junmai Ginjo tends toward aromas of squash blossom and honey. On the tongue it exudes yellow peaches, pink cherries and white flowers and can be enjoyed chilled or on the rocks. The Magic of Saké by Ben Weinberg The Perfect Saké for Cocktails Hiro Saké bridges the gap between spirits and wine. It can accompany food but is also ideal for creative cocktails like these two. Blue Sakétini Z 2½ oz. Hiro Blue Saké Z 1 oz. vodka Z Chipped ice Z 1 Japanese cucumber, cut into ¼-inch rounds Z Combine saké, vodka and chipped ice and shake well. Strain into a Martini glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber. Home Hiro Z 2 parts Hiro Red Z 2 parts pomegranate juice Z 1 part vodka Z Crushed ice Z Combine ingredients and mix well. Garnish with mint and a slice of apple.

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