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Oct 1, 2007 02:57 PM

A Good Sake is hard to find...

I was at the LCBO on Sunday looking for some GOOD premium sake and found a very disappointing selection. I bought a couple to try out (the better ones seem to come in small bottles only) that looked interesting to take to dinner to a friend's house tonight but would love to find a place in Toronto to purchase the really good stuff that we can find at places like Ki - for instance G Premium Sake which is made in the USA.... Does anyone have any info on this?

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  1. There have been several threads on this.
    The LCBO does a disastrous job with sake. Either you have to watch every vintages release or buy in case quantities from a registered importer (or agent). If you're prepared to order a case, by far the best source is Ozawa.

    Ozawa Canada
    135 E Beaver Creek Rd, Richmond Hill, ON L4B, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: estufarian

      I made a similar post after tasting some delicious Oregon sake at Blowfish.

      Seems there is little to be found. A few Vintages stores carried that winery's pear sake (Monokawa) and I grabbed a bottle in Markham. The rest of their stuff is 100% unavailable here, as far as I can tell.
      Aside from that it's slim pickings and I try to grab whatever unfiltered stuff I see.

      Sometimes I really like the way our LCBO operates and sometimes its outright infuriating. (ie when you try something at a local resto and can't get it at the LCBO)

    2. go to michael pataran's web site..he has a whole list of great sake..or go to "city bites" magazine on line and he has a great article on it...he is the sake king...

      6 Replies
      1. re: chiuchiu

        I think part of the ;problem is with the sake makers themselves. First, you always read that good sake has to be made from Japanese rice (and Japanese water as well it appears). Then they start producing it in the United States, which is what we, in many cases get.

        I can't believe they always import their rice from Japan, perhaps it is just leftover Uncle Ben's.

        1. re: chiuchiu

          I agree. Michael is probably the best source of info. Except I DID check his site before I responded and there was nothing new on it (about Canadian availability anyway)!

          1. re: estufarian

            I've had several chance talks with Board people visiting Vintages stores and all say more is coming, albeit slowly.They've belatedly realized the market is worth "developing" since several Canadian sake and shochu micros are already running in BC with more to come.They thought Xmas would see more selection around the GTA Vintages.

            1. re: Kagemusha

              Check out Metropolitan Wines. they supply all the Sake to Izakaya Restaurant. They have a great selection

              1. re: clarendon hills

                Thanks - that's also an interesting selection.
                But I'm not sure what it says about Izakaya if they only use one supplier!

                1. re: estufarian

                  They have others from what I know, but in my personal dealings metroploitan has by far had the best selection

        2. In case anyone cared...
          I bought a bottle of Yokaichi barley shochu today at the Fairview Mall LCBO.
          It's not the best shochu by all means (i am personally a fan of imojochu or potato/taro shochu, not so much mugi), and the label did say "Imported by Ozawa Canada Inc", but at least I didn't have to buy a whole case.
          It was around $25

          19 Replies
          1. re: lilith

            I've tried several different shochu's and just don't get it! On the other hand I don't really get vodka either - for the most part I just get the alcohol hit, with the flavour of the 'mix'.
            Are there ant shochus available that have a persistent (and palatable) flavour of their own?

            1. re: estufarian

              If you don't get shochu and vodka, chances are they are not for you; as you know they are practically the same things (the only difference is in the filtering process). Me, I like both shochu and vodka...

              Different shochu (rice, barley, potato/taro, buckwheat, etc.) have different and often quite palatable flavours. Generally the OTSU category (otsu-rui) shochu have stronger and more distinct flavours, whereas the KO category (kou-rui) shochu are suitable for cocktails such as chu-hi or for making plum wine, because they lack that "distinctiveness" of OTSU category shochu and go well with mixing fruit flavours or whatnot.

              Unfortunately, as everyone here is writing, it is difficult to get a variety of different shochu in Toronot (or maybe in Canada in general?)

              If you want something very distinctive you can try the black sugar (sugar cane) shochu, that is, if you can find it here!(*sigh*)

              1. re: lilith

                Thanks for the info. Indeed I am more familiar with chu-hi (as you perceived). And I'll also keep alert on my travels to find the black sugar shochu.
                Now, if only our liquor store monopoly (i.e. government) would move to a more consumer-focussed model, then we could also get a selection of decent sake too - which I sorely miss - I'm down to my last bottle of unpasteurized sake.

              2. re: estufarian

                If you're looking for a Shochu with a Palatable flavour you should try one called Tan Taka Tan. It's a grain shochu that's shiso leaf infused. A lot of Izakaya in Vancouver stock it and you can get it at more upscale convenient stores in Japan. It's expensive here but in Japan it's about $11 Canadian. It will definitely provide a little of the depth you feel to be lacking in Shochu.

                If you want to spend a little more and you're in Japan, it's hard to get but if you can find it I definitely recommend trying a Pure Barley Shochu called Hyakunen No Kodoko, it's the Emperor's favorite Shochu and definitely has a unique taste. It's mellower and tastier than most Shochu, slightly sweet. It's like a very, very, smooth Whiskey actually.

                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                  Thanks for the suggestion.
                  I certainly haven't tried this one. Unfortunately my Japan trip was last year! And I didn't find a shochu there that turned me on either. Unlike Sake - where I was able to try unpasteurized versions that were sensational.

                  1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                    i like the shiso stuff but absolutely adore the yuzu shochu.... has anyone seen that on the usual japanese liquor importers lists? it's far too easy to drink. i may just have to bite the bullet and just mix up some expensive juice with shochu.

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      Cool. I've had Sudachi Infused Shochu before. I'd imagine it would be similar to the Yuzu infused one. Haven't seen it on the importer's lists though. Speaking of Sake, they have a nice one at the LCBO right now (for a change) called Satono Homare. Really unique flavor. Really, really fruity. It's definitely my favorite of the Canadian Imports. It's in the Vintages section at the Summerhill branch.

                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                        Sato No Homare is probably my favourite of all sakes.
                        I had the unpasteurized version as well when I was in Japan last year - it's even better!

                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                          Agreed; this is probably the best sake I've had from the LCBO. I find sake prices a bit outrageous though, so I usually stuff my bags on the way home from Japan and hope that it lasts until my next visit (shochu as well). I won't really buy it unless I need to cheaper stuff for cooking.

                          I'm surprised no Canadian companies have picked up happoshu for bottom-barrel cooler-esque drinks. It seems like the perfect recession beverage (though completely awful; hasn't stopped people from drinking other coolers).

                          1. re: tjr

                            That's what my uncle drinks when he needs to lose weight.

                            1. re: tjr

                              SUDO HONKE SATO NO HOMARE JUNMAI GINJO 2008
                              VINTAGES 740142 | 720 mL bottle

                              Price: $ 41.95
                              Wine, Sake,
                              14.7% Alcohol/Vol.

                              Sugar Content : D

                              Made in: Japan, Japan
                              By: Sudo Honke Inc

                              Release Date: Dec 6, 2008

                              That? I trust your opinions, will be picking up a bottle.

                              I too am looking for potato/taro shochu. I would be down for a group buy.

                              1. re: aser

                                Not to influence you further - but Susur used to have it on his list, and both Per Se and Jean-Georges in New York also feature it. Obviously at MUCH higher prices.

                                1. re: estufarian

                                  How long does Sake keep after being opened?

                                  1. re: Apprentice

                                    That's a real problem.
                                    Ideally less than 6 months after BOTTLING - even if unopened. It seems to hold after opening - but keep in the fridge.
                                    That info comes from Ozawa - but we actually tested the theory at a dinner where we served the current (around 6 months old) and a 2 year-old version of the same sake. And about 1/3 prefered the new; 1/3 the old; and 1/3 didn't care!
                                    However, certainly don't lay down like a 'fine wine'.

                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      Ok thanks, interesting comments from your tasting.

                                      I will check out Ozawa's website as well.

                        2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                          oh the tan taka tan.

                          gotta love me some shiso.

                        3. re: estufarian

                          Another thing you may want to try if you haven't already would be Kijo-Shu. It's almost like japanese port, amber in color, and very nice. I like a brand called Hanahato, they do an 8 year and a 16 year. I haven't seen it here, however I think you can get one at Kaiseki Sakura. Not sure of what the brand is though.

                          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                            Yeah; kijoshu is fairly sweet, even though the nose would lead you to believe the opposite.

                            We did a tasting of a couple varieties a year or so ago, paired with chocolates and pastries from Pierre Hermé. I think Hanahato has wide availability in North America, though not in Canada. I've tried their 8 year, and it wasn't as good as some of the others I'd had (whose names escape me), though the 16 year was pretty interesting.

                            I imagine kijoshu would go pretty well with richer wafuu sweets as well, to keep it a bit more Japanese.

                            1. re: tjr

                              Yeah it has an interesting nose, very smoky but then it has the flavors of maple syrup, and dried fruits.

                              Also, if you like Sake in the vein of Satono Homare I would check out Kaiun Junmai Ginjo, and Gin Ginjo as well. Very nice. I think you can get Kaiun in the US at times but haven't seen it in Canada. Gin I have never seen outside of Japan. Both very nice, very fruity and complex and a little bit milder and silkier than Satono Homare.

                      2. The really good stuff is agency sold. I will try and find the name of the agent for you.

                        4 Replies
                          1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                            I've previously ordered from Ozawa - but he hasn't responded to my more recent emails.
                            Sakagura doesn't show prices - hardly customer friendly. Suggests that these items aren't in stock but can be 'ordered'. I'd have to do some research first.

                            But thanks for the link.

                            1. re: estufarian

                              if there was interest in a group buy i'd be in for a bottle!
                              unfortunately looks like they only sell by the case. I've been meaning to pop by as i work in the area but haven't yet. Will try and get over there sometime!

                              I'm guessing the pricing will be in line with what the lcbo lists per bottle so i'm guessing $30-$50 for a decent 750ml sized bottle.

                              1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                                Of course, I'd have to check that you are of legal drinking age!!!!!!!!

                        1. I've never tried much sake before

                          Does it give you a killer hangover or is it pretty good in that regard

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: duckdown

                            Hmmm, well for me personally being Japanese I find that Sake is easiest on my system. That said, I don't drink a lot of junk sake so, it's for the most part, very pure. When I go to Japan and my family pressures me to drink lots of Sake I can usually take down about 10-12 glasses. Maybe it has something to do with it being a rice derived alchohol. It takes little beer to get me timewarp drunk and it takes one glass of red wine to give me a headache. Maybe I'm allergic, maybe it's a matter of building up a tolerance. I also have friends who don't normally drink sake getting wasted off of three glasses and taking the long road to bummertown so who knows...