Tobin-Kakoi is a once-in-a-lifetime sake that is ultra-super premium, extremely rare, and heavily awarded.
Have you heard of Tobin-Kakoi? If you are a sake drinker and recognized “Daiginjo” as the top category and most expensive tier, let me tell you that Tobin-Kakoi is even better (the best of the best) and, naturally, the most expensive sake of the brewery (assuming that the brewery has the skill, passion, and facility to produce delicate Tobin-Kakoi).
So what is Tobin-Kakoi? Tobin literally means 18-liter glass bottles. Kakoi means to preserve. So, Tobin-Kakoi means sake preserved in 18-liter glass bottles. What is so exciting about sake kept in a large glass bottle? The sake preserved in the Tobin bottle is special. It is Shizuku (dripped) sake. It is called dripped sake because to make Shizuku sake, you cannot squeeze, but patiently wait for the sake to come down from the bag drop by drop by natural gravity. In other words, Shizuku is the best part of sake, and that is why it needs special care. The Shizuku sake is then preserved in 18-liter glass bottles (not 10,000-gallon stainless steel tanks) in a cool temperature where it is further aged until it is in perfect condition.
Here comes Tobin-Kakoi – the best of the best sake.
As one of the few Tobin-Kakoi sakes available in the US, let us look at Shichiken Onakaya, it received International Wine Challenge 2020 Gold Medal, Tobin-Kakoi produced by Yamanashi Meijo in Hakushu, Yamanashi prefecture. Located at the foot of Mount Kai-Komagatake, Hakushu is recognized as a biosphere (“water mountain”) by UNESCO and is very famous for the quality of its spring water as one of “the best 100 spring waters in Japan”.
You may recognize that Hakushu is also the hometown of one of Japan’s most popular whiskeys, Suntory, so if you have a chance to go to Hakushu, you can visit the sake brewery and the whiskey distillery on the same day.
To produce Shichiken Onakaya Tobin-Kakoi, the brewery used Yamadanishiki, the best sake rice, and polished the grains to 37% of the original size, dripped them rather than squeezed them, and preserved the sake in a cool temperature in Tobin bottles. When you taste the sake, it reminds you of the “essence of sake”.
The brewery’s tasting note states: “A juicy burst of tangerine wrapped in marshmallows opens this sweet, voluptuous satin-smooth sake rounded by a hint of bitterness” and “The centerpiece is an intricate flavor profile created by allowing the sake to drip out naturally from cotton bags (instead of filtering by machine with external pressure)”.
Yamanashi Meijo was established in 1750. Under the leadership of Tsushima Kitahara, a young 14th-generation founder who spent two years in the US after graduating from college in Japan to learn about the American market, its uncompromising quality and fancy style attracts an upscale clientele. The prestigious Ritz Carlton Hotel, Diners Club ,and ANA First Class serve Shichiken. Because of its extremely limited availability, Tobin-Kakoi is rationed to top-selling distributors and retailers.
In the US, only a handful of restaurants in New York and California serve Tobin-Kakoi, and the average price of a 720ml bottle is in the $500–$1,000 range. (Shichiken Onakaya Tobin-Kakoi is also available online sake shops such as Takasan and Beverly Hills Liquor & Wine)
You should remember that, unlike wine, sake is not the best commodity for investment as it generally has to be consumed within a few years of its production. So, if you are lucky enough to find Shichiken Onakaya Tobin-Kakoi in a restaurant, why don’t you spend $1,000 for a once-in-a-lifetime sake experience?