Sake Hundred Gengai, a new, supremely allocated release of 27-year-old sake, is set to retail for $3,100 a bottle. That steep price isn’t simply on account of its incredible age. Before a scotch can ever be labeled as such, it must spend a minimum of three years resting in oak casks. Among ultra-premium single malts, that resting period is often counted in decades. For high-end sake drinkers, however, the concept of maturation is a more complicated one.
The famed rice wine of Japan is most commonly aged for roughly six months before bottling. But there is a style of sake called koshu (“old sake”), which tends to be preferred by some discerning palates. If aged properly, the liquid can take on an elaborate, savory sort of roundness, which you won’t detect in its younger counterparts.
Such is the case with Sake Hundred Gengai. It’s the debut American release from the Japanese brand, founded by noted drinks connoisseur and publisher Ryuji Ikoma. His stated mission is to elevate the category’s stature by sourcing and bottling ultra-rare and premium iterations, which brings us to his inaugural release.
Sake Hundred Gengai is a one-of-a-kind liquid that was actually discovered by accident. In 1995, the Sawanotsuru Brewery in Hyogo was destroyed by the devastating Kobe earthquake. Unfinished sake was left on-site in a tank—forgotten and left untouched until 2020.
What emerged from this unintentional slumber was a liquid with unrivaled complexity: bittersweet threads of caramel and cacao nibs emerge at the forefront, eventually swirling amidst rich umami in a mellow, slowly fading finish.