3 Best and Absolutely Recommendable Japanese Sake Brands
Beer, wine and whiskey are only a few examples among many kinds of alcoholic beverages from around the world. Especially among them, here we would like to focus on sake, the alcoholic beverage that represents Japan. The taste of sake largely varies by breweries and every brand of sake has its own distinctive taste and flavor. The following three brands of sake are my top recommendation from among a great variation of sake brands around Japan. Title photo by flickr
1. Junmai Sake Houraisen “Gin”
Houraisen “Gin” is “junmai” sake, which is the sake made only with ingredient rice without adding distilled alcohol. It is produced at Sekiya Brewery in Shitara-cho, Shitara-gun, Aichi Prefecture. The ingredient rice is Yamadanishiki, which does not produce much fragmentation in the polishing process and thus considered to be suitable for sake making. It goes through a long and slow maturation period of three years to fully condense the sweetness of rice in the brewed sake.
When you take a sip, the sweet and fruity taste, which is not like other typical sake, will spread softly. From the first sip to the finish, the transparent sweetness of rice is never spoiled by any odd taste. It has a very modest dryness despite the high alcohol content, so you can gulp it down quite smoothly.
This high quality sake fully brings the best taste out of the ingredient rice Yamadanishiki and attracts a wide range of sake lovers from beginners to the connoisseur.
2. Junmai Sake, Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi
Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi is junmai sake produced by Hakuryu Brewery in Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata Prefecture as the brewery’s flagship product. Yuzawa-machi is known as an area with extremely heavy snowfall even compared to other heavily snowing areas in Niigata. The meltwater from the snow here is highly pure and used for sake making. Yamadanishiki rice, one of the most popular ingredient rice brands for sake making, is used to make koji (malted rice, which makes the ingredient of sake) and Miyamanishiki to make moromi (the ingredient to be further refined to produce sake), which creates a refreshing taste of sake. The rich and deep flavor of this brand sake is created with such meticulous care in the making process.
That fact that they are using top quality water and rice, which are both said to be the most important factors in sake making, well implies the superb quality of this sake.
When you take a sip, the distinctively bright fragrance of junmai sake will spread quickly over your palate. Quality underground water is used to create the very soft texture and the taste is not as heavy and dry as typical sake. The aftertaste is very light and refreshing perhaps because of the ingredient Miyamanishiki, so you will soon feel like another cup after finishing one.
The alcohol content is as high as other common sake, but the taste is so refined that you don’t sense too much of alcohol-like note in the foreground, which is the proof of the sophisticated skills of the sake brewers.
3. Dassai Migaki Sonosakie
「獺祭」 磨き その先へ
This sake is produced at Asahi Brewery in Shuto-cho, Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It was released as a new brand which ranks higher than “Dassai Migaki Niwarisanbu,” which had been the flagship sake brand of the brewery. It is the current top quality sake brand of the brewery. It was not produced only as the successive brand of “Niwarisanbu” but as a totally new brand with its own concept. Yamadanishiki is used as the ingredient rice. The degree of rice polish has been kept as the company’s secret.
When you have a sip, the sweet and bright fragrance will spread over your palate. It has fruity sweet and very clear taste and the texture is almost as light as water. It does not have a strong alcoholic flavor of sake, so is easy to drink. You cannot easily find many sake brands which have such a clear taste as this one.
It is recommended to try “Niwarisanbu” first and then “Migaki Sonosakie” to enjoy the difference between these two generations of sake.
Sake of Japan to Sake of the World
Japanese sake making has a very long history and I personally believe that the top quality sake is as attractive as vintage wine. But there are still not very many people outside of Japan who know how delicious sake is. As a sake lover, I really hope that someday sake will become more popular and people around the world enjoy it casually at their homes.