Black Dragon – True Sake

Although the focus of Vinoyo is to become wine network for people who love wine, occasionally I will include post on my other liquid passion: sake.  I would like to introduce more African-Americans, and people of color, to the Joy of Sake.

Below is a article I wrote for the feature “sake spotlight” I wrote for the True Sake monthly newsletter earlier this year.  I’ve mentioned True Sake, and the proprietor Beau Timken, in a previous post (Osaka – Stranger In A Strange Land).



Sake: Black Dragon

Kokuryu “Junmai Ginjo” Sake

I have been a vinophile and sake-zuki for about 10 years. I, along with two other vinophiles, recently started an evolving, online web-based wine community called Vinoyo. Vinoyo is a gathering place to promote the wine (and sake) culture. Check it out, tell me what you think; and if you’re not careful, you just might learn something.

My sake: Kokuryu or Black Dragon. (koru = black; ryu = dragon). After all, I was born in the year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar. My wife, however, says I was born in the year of the Snake according the the Japanese calendar. Hold the Snake, take the Dragon. Year of the Golden Dragon? Forgedaboutit, I was born in the Year of the Black Dragon.

Black Dragon is a recent sake import and now available at True Sake. Beau intitially told me about the Dragon when I was planning a trip to Japan several years ago. I searched all of Osaka, eventually finding it at Yamanaka sake-no-mise. I tried it at their resturant, and bought a bottle back the U.S. I made the mistake of holding onto the bottle for about a year before opening. Black Dragon does not hold well. Dring it immediately.

Fortunately, Black Dragon is now available as an import. The bottle and label are beautiful. Understated. Wabi-sabi. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next tatoo, you’ll be disappointed. You will not find a red-eyed, fire breathing dragon on the label. I appreciate that the Kokuryu Shuzo (brewery) has not changed the labeling for the American market. The bottle you buy here is exactly what is available in Japan. Unlike many sake, it is not available in large format bottles (1.8L). On a recent trip to Osaka, however, I was able to find small single serving bottles for Black Dragon.

Black Dragon should be stored and consumed cold. Once opened, the flavor profile degrades within 48 hours. It’s clear, however has a very slight pine color. The nose also has a slight pine odor. I primarily detect a scent of Bosc pear, dried apples, and light butterscotch.

On the plate it is semi-dry. Dark, semi-sweet cocoa and black liquorish flavors give way to and caramel undertones. There is an unexpected, and very slight, salt taste that can be felt on the tip of the tongue. Black Dragon has a strong, but clean finish. Cedar and pine wood elements remain.

Kokuryu (Black Dragon) is produced by the Kokuryu Shuzo in Fukui Prefecture. Kokuryu expresses terrior. This is a great Fall/Winter sake.

I had this sake with moderately spicy beef kuree (Japanese curry) with fukujin-zuke (pickles). The kuree was fantiastic, but I will admit, this was not a good pairing. I actually recommend Black Dragon with something slightly sweeter.

It would go extremely well with sukiyaki or gindara-no-kasuzuke (codfish marinated in what I would call sake lees). The Dragon would also go well with anything marianted in teriyaki. Smoked salmon with a brown sugar based brine (honey smoked). Filet mignon, cooked rare, with a light cream morel sauce. Beef carapaccio. A dense, dark semi-sweet, chocolate torte.

Enjoy Kokuryu (Black Dragon) with something with texture, that is mouth watering, and slightly sweet. I recommend kicking back and enjoying Kokuryu while watching Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai.” (aside: look for the village scene with the unfiltered sake)


Black Dragon 019

Published by Reg

I am a vinophile. I was born and raised in San Francisco. I graduated from Morehouse College in 1986 and received my M.D. from UCSF in 1991. I am a happily married, living and working in San Francisco.

Join the Conversation


  1. What can I say. I do like the sight of Gold, specially gold coins such as Ameican gold eagle but also Lunar Coins espcecially Dragon coin and dont forget Canadas Maple Leaf gold coins and Gold Nugget from Australia

  2. Hello!

    As my email indicates, I am a winebroker and independent journalist (print & radio) residing in Sonoma wine country.
    Love the website…
    Interested in connecting w/you, reach out anytime.
    Warm regards and Happy Holidays,
    lenita marie

  3. How did I forget?
    Love sake!
    Gary Chu’s award-winning restaurants feature a dazzling array of the best sakes (Gary Chu’s Chinese Restaurant & Osake -Santa Rosa)
    “…offers the largest and most exotic selection of premium sake to be found in Sonoma County.”

  4. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

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