The name 十四代 (meaning the 14th Generation) or Juyondai represents the pinnacle of Japanese Sake making. It is permanently ranked No.1 on saketime.jp. Juyondai to Japanese sake is just like Romanee-Conti to French wines. Some people may have come across Juyondais because of their price tags. But in fact the release price of Juyondais are far more affordable than one might have guessed. The average market price is about 15-20 times of its catalog price (which nobody can get).
'Sake is made to be drunk, not to be hoarded'
Founded in 1615 元和元年，高木酒造 (Takagi Shuzo) has more than 400 years of history, one of the oldest breweries in Japan. The brewery had tried to apply for many trademarks, 十三代， 十四代，十五代...Only '十四代' （the 14th generation) Juyondai was granted in 2015.
高木辰五郎 Tatsugoro Takagi was the 14th generation owner and he passed away on 2nd of March 2022.
Juyondai became well-known outside of Japan only in the last decade or so, but its quality and scarcity has made it so expensive. Only the lucky and privileged few could get hands on them.
Juyondai has many labels, ranging from Honmaru 本丸，a few hundred dollars a bottle to Ryusen 龍泉，several thousand dollars a bottle. Although Honmaru is the cheapest, it probably has the top 3 complexity out of all Juyondais. It certainly carries the 400 yo brewing tradition well.
'Subtle, Meticulous, Ironclad and Classic '
If one had to describe the taste of Juyondais, they are subtle, meticulous, ironclad and most classic Sake taste.
本丸 or Honmaru means the 'original one'. Most other Juyondais are junmai Ginjo or Daiginjo, Honmaru is Honjozo 本酿造, it is not junmai 纯米. If you look at its ingredients, on top of rice ,water, yeast, there are added alcohol too. These are not random alcohol however. The technic used is called 【秘伝玉返】, apparently this technic was used in the royal palace in Kyoto and eventually became known to civilians. These alcohol are extracted from Sake lees ( さけかす ) of the brewery. The lees has robust aromas and taste, the Tokubetsu is also left as 生詰, so some yeast and microorganism maybe still alive after bottling. The rice polishing rates are at 55%, leaving quite a lot of proteins and fats of the middle layers in the rice. All of these give rise to the complexity of the Juyondai Honmaru Tokubetsu.
Before 十四代 本丸 Juyondai Honmaru?
Before the birth of the trademarked Juyondai, for the most of last 4 centuries, the Honmaru Sake is known by a different name: 朝日鹰，Asahidaka, and it is still available today. You will be able to find both of them in our store!
To me, they taste quite different. Honmaru is more refined, gentle and elegant. Asahidaka is more complex, stronger but also supple and have longer aftertaste in your mouth. A man might like a Honmaru more, and a woman might like a Ashahidaka more.
Now the 15th Generation custodian 高田秋綱 Akitsuna Takagi has taken over the reign, but the brand name shall remain as 十四代...
Food for Thoughts
There is an interesting story that a Wine Searcher guy wrote up on Juyondai, interesting read. It does paint a quite different picture of Juyondai.