There is just so much to explore and talk about sake, but the best way to learn about sake is to drink it. Since the discovery of fermented rice beverages, sake has become Japan’s largest cultural export. You’ll often find that the gifts that people bring back from their holiday trip in Japan would often include a few bottles of premium sake.
With thousands of sake breweries in Japan, each employing its distinct techniques in creating the perfect sake bottle, it can be overwhelming when it comes to shopping for the perfect sake bottle. But we are here to answer your questions! Which bottles truly define the Japanese sake experience? Here’s our pick of the best Japanese sake to enjoy right now.
1. Kikusui Junmai Ginjo
This premium brand of sake has been making its name known throughout the United States, and we cannot blame them. Kikusui Junmai Ginjo is the perfect introduction to just how delicious sake can truly be. It is enjoyed both by those who are just trying out sake for the first time, and chances are, this brand would be a bartender’s preference. Featuring a light and dry taste with a hint of Mandarin orange, a cup of this sake would be welcome in any hearty meal.
2. Kozaemon Yuzu Shu
If you like rich-tasting fruity flavours in your sake, Kozaemon Yuzu Shu will please your tastebuds. This cloudy yellow sake owes its addictive flavours to the yuzus in its recipe. It’s a refreshing Sake Yuzu that can be enjoyed any time of the day! So on your next picnic by the beach, consider bringing this bottle along!
3. Kiku Masamune Kimoto Daiginjyo
The “Kimoto” method is the most traditional process in brewing sake, where its ingredients are cultured in a long timespan for natural fermentation to take over. Such a process is what makes Kiku Masamune Kimoto Daiginjyo one of the best examples of excellence in Japanese sake. A cup of this sake is crisp and clean on the palate with lovely notes of pears, a testament to the masterful craft that this bottle goes through.
4. Otokoyama Tokubetsu Junmai
One of the most decorated brands of sake today, Otokoyama Tokubetsu Junmai is a decent choice for beginner’s sake, as its versatility in the dinner table is unmatched. Its aromas are filled with fruity notes of pear, plum, and cherry, finishing with dry rice notes, making this sake pretty straightforward among other brands. This sake is also a favourite among sake connoisseurs. If you are looking for a tried and tested brand for your next meal, this sake is for you.
5. Kizakura Hana
Kizakura Hana is quite the standout when it comes to sake choices. This delicate drink is brewed using cherry blossom yeast extracts, and with just a whiff, its floral notes burst pleasantly. It tastes very light and is not as acidic as most bottles, and with a crisp apple finish, a cup of this sake will leave you wanting for more.
6. Hakkaisan Tokbetsu Junmai
This elegant bottle of sake hails from Mount Hakkai in Niigata and utilises its cool climate to create its signature bottle. Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai has a creamy and rich texture when it hits the palate due to the use of pristine waters flowing from the mountain during springtime. It also has light flavours of fruits such as pears and apples with hints of almond. Nothing is as indulgent as a cup of this sake.
7. Tozai Snow Maiden
This luscious bottle of sake is one of the best Nigori sake or Cloudy sake you can find in the market. Tozai Snow Maiden is a delight to the palate, with notes of melons and almonds working their magic, resulting in an impeccable creamy texture. Enjoy this dry-bodied sake cold with spicy seafood for an immensely satisfying meal.
8. Ama No To Junmai Sake
On a rainy day, you might want to turn to a bottle of fine sake to provide you with the warmth you might need. Ama No To can provide you with just that and more. It literally means “Heaven’s Door”, which is a nickname for the prefecture, Akita, situated in the northernmost tip of Japan. So a taste of Ama No To Sake is akin to experiencing the best of Akita prefecture, which is famous for its rice farms and sake breweries.
Gentle flavour notes of spices and dried flowers give this sake an exotic, but the relaxing taste and a cup of this is the perfect match with almost any cooked meat.
9. Masumi Yumedono Daiginjo
On the other side of the spectrum, we have Masumi Yumedono Daiginjo, a great drink to enjoy on a hot and busy day. Many tropical fruit notes like pears, berries, and grapes are found in this lovely summer drink. Its flavours work best when chilled and pair well with light and delicate seafood dishes.
10. Dassai 39 Junmai Ginjo
Dassai 39 Junmai Ginjo can be considered the standard when it comes to the best sake there is. With a considerably high milling rate of 39%, the result is a smooth tasting sake with koji rice, apple, honeydew, and strawberry aromas. It’s incredibly refreshing and fruity that can be enjoyed on its own.
It is rewarding to learn about Japanese sake‘s different nuances, especially regarding its grading and the methods that these drinks go through. Its popularity is certainly remarkable, and with the years to come, it is fair to expect that sake will be enjoyed by even more people, maybe even cultivated to new heights. So enjoy sake whenever you can, we’re sure that every occasion will feel special with a bottle around.
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👉ICYMI: A Beginner’s Beyond-the-Basics Guide to Understanding Sake