Sake, also known as Japanese rice wine, is perhaps a curious drink to most people on the western side of the globe. Many have heard of it but don’t know too much about it.
Sake is the national beverage of Japan, which is where it gets its name from. Given its popularity over there, it has made its way to the U.S. and is rapidly gaining in popularity.
So, what is this mysterious drink exactly?
Sake is actually quite similar to beer in its brewing process in that it involves converting starch into sugars that ferment into alcohol. It is specifically made from fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the unwanted bran.
The rice used varies between sake rice such as Yamada Nishiki and ordinary table rice. Sake rice is used to make premium sake, while table rice is used to make non-premium sake.
There are many different kinds of sake, each with a distinct brewing process and unique flavor profile. Let’s take a look at some of the best sake that are available in the market.
The Best Sake
- Dassai 45 – Otter Fest
- Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo
- Masumi Yumedono Daiginjo
- Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai
- Tosa Shuzo Keigetsu Yuzu
- Gekkeikan Kome To Mizu Junmai
- Tonoike Shuzo Sanran Junmai
- Tamura Shuzo Ginginga Junmai Ginjo
- Koshi Tsukano Shuzo Hirai Junmai
- NV Katafune Tokubetsu
- Kumaya Shuzo AN Tokubetsu Junmai
- NV Imayo Tsukasa Black Junmai
Dassai 45 – ‘Otter Fest’
Dassai 45 is a premium junmai daiginjo sake. It is made with rice that has been milled so that only 45% of the original size of the grains remains. Clean, soft and very light, the well balanced aromas and a mild sweetness surround the senses making Dassai delightful on its own, or with a meal of refined cuisine like sushi.
The flavor of Dassai 45 Junmai Daiginjo is a combination of sweetness and fruity extracts. The aroma is a mixture of fruity taste, subtle alcohol, pineapple and rice.
Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo
For those who fancy a more organic option, this is right up your alley. The drink has a rich and dry taste. Unlike most of the other items in this list, it is locally produced within the United States. This is evident from the unique features, such as the coconut flavor that isn’t part of pure Japanese sake.
The sake has an interesting blend of pineapple and lime flavors combined with subtle notes of green apple and creamy yogurt. It has an alcohol by volume percentage of 14.8% and is best enjoyed cold at about 48 degrees Fahrenheit.
Masumi Yumedono Daiginjo ‘mansion of dreams’
This gold medal-winning sake has a smooth and dry finish that disappears effortlessly, leaving you craving another sip. It combines fruity flavors of grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, and dried apricots with floral elements that add to the aromatic complexity of the drink.
This sake has an alcohol content of 17%, which may be a tad too high for some people. It should be served at a temperature of about 48 degrees Fahrenheit to really get all of its delicate flavors. It complements dishes such as fresh oysters perfectly.
Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai
Arguably one of the best sake you can get your hands on, the Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai is specifically produced for exports to countries outside Japan. It has a mellow, well-balanced, and crispy taste with notes of vanilla and wild herbs. The flavor is designed to match the delicate Japanese cuisine and a wide array of meals from cultures worldwide.
The drink has an alcohol by volume percentage of 15.5%. It is particularly versatile and is just as enjoyable chilled as it is while warm. It compliments light appetizers such as carpaccio as well as main meals such as smoked salmon.
Tosa Shuzo Keigetsu Yuzu
This Kiegetsu sake has a fruity, delicately sweet, and sour taste. The Tosa brewing company makes this sake; they’ve been responsible for producing high-quality sake and have gained a reputation for their yuzu production.
The drink is made from organic and locally-sourced rice types such as Hinohikari rice which isn’t sake rice but table rice. It combines fresh lemon and tangerines with lime aromas to give the sake a fragrant lift and unique flavor.
This sake has an alcohol by volume value of 8%, which is relatively low. It is best served at lower temperatures of about 48 degrees Fahrenheit and enjoyed either by itself or with dessert.
Gekkeikan Kome To Mizu Junmai
This sky-blue sake has a dry, mellow and refreshing flavor with an inviting fruity aroma. It is made from carefully chosen Koshi Hikari rice and fresh spring waters from the Fushimi region. Gekkeikan is responsible for manufacturing this, which is one of the oldest and most popular sake producers worldwide.
This drink has an alcohol by volume percentage of 15%. It is versatile and can be served chilled, at room temperature, or even gently warmed. It is an awesome option for people new to the sake world. It is a nice addition for mixing in cocktails and pairs well with meals such as sushi.
Tonoike Shuzo Sanran Junmai
This Sanran sake won the gold medal at the International Wine Competition and quite rightly so. It has a bright and fruity taste with an overall dry personality. It is made by one of the oldest breweries worldwide, Tonoike Sake brewery. The brewers use Yamada Nishiki rice which is responsible for making high-quality sake due to its ability to absorb water and dissolve easily.
The drink has an alcohol by volume percentage of 16%. It is best served either at room temperature or warmed slightly. It pairs well with main dishes such as steamed fish but can also be enjoyed by itself.
Tamura Shuzo Ginginga Junmai Ginjo
This sake has a more balanced and refreshing taste. Made from pure Junmai Ginjo and polished to 60%, the drink has sweet floral aroma and fruity notes from peach blossoms, purple flowers, Meyer lemon, citrus, and green apple. The brewing process employs four yeast strains that greatly improve the aromatic complexity of the drink.
The drink has an alcohol by volume value of 16.5% and is served at a cool temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit. It is refreshing and especially delightful during warm conditions. It pairs well with smoked salmon, beef carpaccio, and beet salads.
Koshi Tsukano Shuzo Hirai Junmai
The Hirai Junmai is a bold, rich, sumptuous sake with a splendid fruity and slightly sweet taste. It is made from a combination of fresh pineapple, vanilla, jasmine blossoms, and cedar. The sake has a lengthy and luscious finish with aromas of peach blossom, pineapple, and guava. The flavors explode in your mouth with a welcoming fruity taste followed by a zesty taste.
The word Junmai translates to pure rice, which means that this sake has zero additives. It has an alcohol by volume percentage of 15% and should be served at 50 degrees Fahrenheit to get the best from it. It’s very versatile and can be enjoyed before, during, or after meals, especially after heavy meals.
NV Katafune Tokubetsu
The Tokubetsu’s crisp and zesty flavor characterizes this drink. It utilizes the wonderful flavors of lime, mandarin blossoms, and jasmine. The outcome is a drink that’s rich and voluptuous with unique citrus and floral aromas that invite you in as soon as you pop open the bottle.
This Tokubetsu has a bold and complex taste, and it is no wonder it was crowned the winner of the Best Sake at the Las Vegas Global Spirits Competition. It has an alcohol by volume value of 18% and is best served at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The sake is a great accompaniment to main courses and dessert even though the 18% ABV may put off some people.
Kumaya Shuzo AN Tokubetsu Junmai
This sake is particularly suitable for people who have just started taking sake or haven’t yet known their preferred type. It is manufactured from top-quality Omachi rice and Okayama water which is rich in mineral content. The drink combines the fruity flavors of mandarin and apple with the floral notes of peach blossoms, acacia, and honeysuckle.
This results in sake that’s crisp, bright, fruity, and easy to drink. The AN Tokubetsu has that complex and layered taste that’s similar to Chardonnay from Burgundy soils. It has an alcohol by volume figure of 15.5% and should be served at a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it may not have the punch that drinkers of bold red wine, it’ll definitely be appreciated by fans of rich fruit and floral flavors.
NV Imayo Tsukasa Black Junmai
The Imayo Black sake can best be described as dry and delicious. It fuses subtle tastes of apricot, white pepper, and floral to give you an excellent traditional flavor that’s both versatile and delicious. It also has some hint of chestnut and citrus. These different notes result in a flavorful sake that goes well with any kind of meal.
The drink has an alcohol by volume percentage of 16% and is best enjoyed at a serving temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit. It is, however, not as sweet as other types, and the intensity of the fruity flavors is somewhat mild. For those who prefer dry sake, this one is definitely the one for you.
Our list clearly illustrates there is a wide variety of sake to choose from. If you’re just joining the sake train, you may need to try out different types of sake to find the best one for you, and the ones above are a good place to start.
It is important to note that some sake may have a huge difference in flavor and taste, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t like how a particular one tastes; just keep searching, and you’ll find one that will set your taste buds into a blissful frenzy. Hopefully, it’ll be one we’ve listed here.