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Oct 27, 2010 11:45 PM


I am wondering whether there would be any significant interest at all on this board to get some nihonshuu-related discussions going.

Sake as a stand-alone topic does not really seem to get discussed here - it is sometimes mentioned when the drinks selection at specific restaurants is being discussed, but does not really seem to generate that much interest by itself.

That really surprises me - it is a beverage of such incredible, beautiful variety, taste, complexity and sheer enjoyment, and everything about it other than the fragrance and flavour is interesting as well - how it's made, the history, the regional variety, and so on, and it's such an integral part of Japanese culinary culture that I would have thought more people would take an interest in finding great places to drink / buy sake, attend sake tasting events, learn about the many different styles of sake and so on.

If anyone does take any particular interest in this topic, please post here and maybe we can get some discussion going.

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  1. I love Sake however, whenever I start a topic on it or respond within a thread it's not long before the moderators banish it to the alchohol and spirits board to die a slow and painful death. Any ways around this?

    It's a shame, as outside of the Japan board there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of enthusiasts or knowledge on the topic.

    Here's hoping it stays within the Japan board.

    I used to heavily gravitate toward the more smooth, melon/pear, Junmai Daiginjo's but now find myself looking for Sake with more full bodied characteristics eg. Harushika Junmai Ginjo (Nama) and Shinzui Junmai Daiginjo. Both are sort of similar in profile to Juyondai which is probably my favorite Sake of all time.

    Anyone else care to share their favorite Sake? Different types? Notable breweries?

    27 Replies
    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

      It's already on the beer board. I don't get it, that makes no sense at all. Destroying a potentially great discussion on the Japan board for no reason. How very, very bizarre.

      In terms of favourite sakes, I love all styles if they are well made sakes. Depends so much on the food as well, for example a nice wagyu steak is great with a full, viscous strong sake while an elegant, fragrant and smooth sake is perfect with white-fleshed fish sashimi.

      Juyondai is great, especialyl at the higher levels - if you can get hold of it. of the sake that is relatively easy to get hold of in Tokyo, I love the 23 Dassai (they do several 23s, I love the one where they use centrifugal force the best - the smoothest, softest thing ever, and yet so complex and satisfying!). The 39 and 50 are fine, but you can't get away from what happens to the quality when it is polished down to 23%...

      Went to an Akita sake event last saturday - only 40 brewers left in Akita, but what great sake some of them produce. Very good prices as well. Am busy with work now so no time to write more. Hopefully we can continue the discussion and some others find this post even though it is hidden within the beer board.

      1. re: Asomaniac

        Brutal. They did it again.

        Anyways, I've only actually had the 50 which I thought was fine as well, but nothing that blew my mind. I will definitely try to get ahold of the 23.

        Cool about the Akita event. I think the only sake I have had from Akita has been most varieties of Amanoto and the Yukinobousha limited release. Their climate/rice variety/water makes for pretty ideal conditions to produce some interesting Sake.

        On a loosely related topic, do you know anywhere in Tokyo that you can pick up a nice aged Awamori. Like 100 year? I have been told by most everyone that I will have to go to Okinawa for that but maybe someone has a line on it? Oldest I have seen has been maybe 23 year at Isetan's Depachika...

        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.


          can't help with the Awamori I am afraid. I am not very knowlegable about it at all and have not really sought it out in Tokyo. had some very good ones, but that was in Ishigaki, one of the Okinawa islands.

          If you want, let me know when you are in Tokyo again and we can organise a big sake night. I know lots of perfect places with hundreds of top sakes.

            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

              excellent. I believe that the chowhound moderators want chowhound meets to be arranged offline, so maybe drop me an e-mail at lk1918 [at]

          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

            For aged awamori, you can try specialty shops like Shochu Authority in Yaesu underground part of Tokyo Station or the main branch in Shiodome. Or smaller mom and pop operations such as They may have one off aged bottles as well. It's better to search around on the internet in Japanese. The Okinawa Prefecture antenna shop may also have a decent selection. They may also be able to suggest retailers in Tokyo he might carry it.

            1. re: Silverjay

              Oh nice! Thanks a lot for that. I'll definitely look into it. Something I've wanted to try for awhile now, I'm getting desperate. May actually head down to Kyushu in the near future so I could stop off in Okinawa and grab a bottle or two.

          2. re: Asomaniac

            Tried the Dassai 23 "Centrifuge" really nice sake. Basically tasted as you described, insanely smooth yet complex. Loved it, thanks for putting me onto that one.

            Tried Kuro Kabuto Junmai Daiginjo from Fukuoka and brewed by Ikekame Shuzo Co. Really nice Sake. What makes it unique is that they use Kuro Koji typically reserved for Shochu brewing. Very fruity with notes of strawberry/pear/apple. SMV -2.0 Acidity: 2.0

            Attended a small sake tasting of brews from Hiroshima. Will report back on those when I get some time.

            1. re: Asomaniac

              Alright, I've been drinking this Dassai 23 for a bit now (bought a couple bottles) and to be totally honest, I don't find that it holds up much past the first glass. It kind of becomes one note to me after drinking it for a bit. Anyone else feel the same? I almost prefer the 39 to the 50...

            2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

              When it comes to sake, it's a real case of "I'm no expert, but I know what I like." Sometimes I like really clean "water-like" sake, other times I enjoy "melon," sometimes I'm just a sucker for full umami flavour. I am usually not a fan of yamahai, though.

              I like a lot of sake. I started with Ozeki takumidenjou and I've never looked back. My knowledge is mostly limited to what we can get in Australia. I like all the standards like Kubota manju, Masumi, Bishonen, Ginban and Otokoyama.

              However, I particularly like sakes from Matsu no Tsukasa (Shiga sake is great!), Nechi Otokoyama (Niigata) and Sato no Homare (Ibaraki). I also like Hatsumago from Yamagata.

              In Sydney, we have one or two good restaurants for drinking sake:
              * One serves Onikoroshi (melon), Nambu Bijin (peach), Tamanohikari (fruit), Fujuku (nuts annd cinnamon) and Urakasumi (rice). All quite different.
              * Another serves mainly sake from Kozaemon brewery in Gifu. My favourites (in order) are the 3-year-aged junmai, junmai echu gohyakumangoku, house junmai, honjozo kyokai #7. Better than those is the Mioya yuho junmai.

              Last time I was in Japan, I visited the Houraisen brewery. They put out "Kuu" which, along with Kamoshibitokuheiji, is one of the better sakes from Aichi. I was also introduced to three specialty sake bars. I was having too much of a good time to take tasting notes, but here's what I drank:

              * 052 (Nagoya): Takijiman, Raifuku, Hirazu, Kaishun, Fumotoi, Matsuno-tsukasa 'Shinsui', Hatsukame, Kokken, Denshu.
              *** Cermented Matsu no Tsukasa as a favourite brewery.
              * Usagi (Osaka): Kazuhiro, Katsumasa, Shichihonyari, Fukurodzuri-tobingakoi, Minami, Yorokobi-gaijin, Arabashiri.
              *** Cermented Shiga as a favourite (although I don't think sake exactly has "terroir" as such).
              * Notodarabochi (Tokyo): Many from Chikuha (including okunoto and noto), Taikei, Oyajinotezukuri, Noto-suehiro, Hatsuzakura.
              *** All of these are from the Noto area of Ishikawa. Very different to the Kaga area.

              The people running these places were really knowledgeable, and so I think these sakes would be good to try.

              PS. Which Juyondai did you have? I've only had the "Honmaru," and I didn't think it was so great.

              1. re: anarcist

                Haha, I'm no expert either but I swear, Sake seems like something you could spend your entire life trying to educate yourself on. So many breweries and so many techniques. For example, I have tried most of the Sake you've named in the top half of your post but from "Gifu" down I have not tried any of the ones you've mentioned save for maybe the Raifuku. That's the beauty of it I guess!

                Sydney seems like they have a ton of great Sake available. That's really good to know. I am from Toronto where some good Sake is sort of starting to trickle in but the ones that do aren't readily available and there is certainly nothing above Sake you would cook with, available at the liquor store. I'm lucky to be in NY enough that I can visit Sakaya to stock up on Nihonshu and I occasionally make it out to SF to visit True Sake, but aside from that I'm stuck looking at my empty Sake bottles on the shelf.

                I visited the Murashige brewery the last time I was in Japan. They do among others the Kinkan - Kuromatsu "Nishiki" Daiginjo however most of their sake seemed less fruity and more savory/spicy to me which I am not a fan of.

                I have had Juyondai's Honmaru the most. I don't recall the names of the higher end Juyondai I have had as I don't really take notes (I should start) when I am drinking. As far as the Honmaru is concerned it still clocks in as my favorite Sake however I have had a bad bottle here and there. Thing with the Honmaru (and most sake) is that you could have had a bottle that was off. I tend to like the younger Honmaru personally but have definitely had bottles that had maybe been agitated and served too soon or stored at the wrong temperature in the sun etc and it kind of put the taste off. Or maybe you're just not a Honjouzou guy, either way, Sake is such a subjective thing.

                Oh, I almost forgot, regarding Sato No Homare, I am really fond of their Junmai Ginjo which is fairly easily available in North America but when I am in Japan, I actively seek out their NamaZake. It's a really incredible bottle.

                So, anarcist and Asomaniac I have to ask, what do you guys think of Sake purists? Would you prefer to only drink primarily Junmai? I have to say that I do prefer Junmai most of the time and I used to scoff at breweries that added alchohol to "bring out the taste" but as I have mentioned my favorite Sake is Juyondai so I'm obviously doing some back pedaling here...

                1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                  In Sydney, we're only starting to get some interesting bottles here and there. The main importer over the last few years has been bringing in Garyubai, Hakutaka, Jokigen, Kawanakajima, Kikumasamune, Kikusui, Kuroushi, Miyoshikiku, Myokozan, Ninkiichi, Niwanouguisu, Suishin, Suigei, Taiheizan and Yukinobousha. But you'd be very lucky to find a bottle shop that carries more than one or two of those. Recently, a new importer has come on the scene who is bringing in Chikuma Nishiki, Chiyo, Inoue Gomei, Kariho, Kidoizumi, Mukai, Mutemuka, Nakano BC, Sugii, Terada Honke and Uehara. We're starting to see some interesting items like koshu and sake made from red rice. Thy don't have a lot of exposure yet and I don't have a lot ot experience with them.

                  There are another three restaurants that look interesting for sake, but I haven't been to them. One place stocks labels like Takaisami, Chikusen, Taketsuru, Umetsu, Fusozuru, Bentenmusume, Morinokura, Tenon, Hiokizakura, Izumibashi, Asahikiku, Uzenshiraume, Kaishun, Tamagawa, Gunmizumi, Koikawa, Suminoi, Shinkame and Suiryu. I haven't tried any of those.

                  As a general rule, I like drinking namazake when I can (in Australia, I only drink Australian namazake, though). I like drinking junmai ginjo when I can too (even more than daiginjo), but I'm not adverse to a good honjozo. I generally don't like yamahai. I've also found that nigori and koshu can really vary.

                  1. re: anarcist

                    Oh nice! That's great that you can sort of sparsely get bottles here and there. Just checking out Black Market Sake and they seem to have their stuff together. Decent website

                    Yeah, a good Sake is a good Sake to me. I will pretty much drink anything.

                    1. re: anarcist

                      Update: There was a sake tasting last Friday where they had about 40 bottles from these kura which I hadn't tried: Chikusen, Taketsuru, Umetsu, Bentenmusume, Morinokura, Tenon, Izumibashi, Asahikiku, Uzenshiraume, Kaishun, Gunmaizumi, Koikawa and Shinkame.

                      The big revelation was how great warm sake can be, and also how great koshu can be. Especially seeing as I'm used to drinking chilled sake which is fresh off the press.

                      Some of the highlights (nihonshu):
                      * Bentenmusume junmai funakumi (gohyakumangoku, 70%, +10): spices, best served warm
                      * Izumibashi junmai megumi red label (yamadanishiki, 65%, +9): nutty
                      * Izumibashi yamahai junmaiginjo hajime (yamadanishiki, 58%, +6): lactic, like dairy
                      * Chikusen junmaiginjo kounotori (gohyakumangoku, 60%, +6): malt, best served warm
                      * Morinokura munouyaku (yamadanishiki, 60%, +4): best served warm
                      * Shinkame junmaiginjo kotori-no-saezuri (yamadanishiki, 50%): wood
                      * Asahigiku junmaiginjo rei (yemuikkon, 50%, +5): honey
                      * Gunmaizumi (yamahai) junmaiginjo usumidori (wakamizu, 50%, +3): passionfruit, banana

                      Some of the highlights (umeshu):
                      * Umetsu junmai umeshu nokyo

                    2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                      I completely disagree with the sake purists. It's nonsense - it's like saying you only drink certain types of wines or don't drink certain types of wine, completely ignoring context. There are times when a rough Nigori works in the context (though I am not normally a fan). Sometimes only a very refined junmai daiginjou will do. Sometimes you want a sparkling nigori like the one from dassai, which is excellent. On occasion, a nice little honjouzo is just the ticket. It is so dependent on what you are eating at the time, the atmosphere, etc. Why exclude any options in advance? There are many people in Niigata, including major sake masters, who don't even consider namazake proper sake! They think it's vulgar and would describe it as tained, the way you would think of a corked wine! What a microcosm of sake they are depriving themselves of!

                      I agree with anarcist - I usually don't like yamahai (buyt that does not mean there are no good ones out there) and nigori and especialyl koshu really vary. Koshu can be absolutely beautiful and refined, or like a Riesling dessert wine where the sweetness has faded over time, or like an aged sherry, and so on. Colour varies from very pale to dark brown. Some iintriguing stuff.

                      BTW anarcist, like your reference to Kamoshibitokuheiji - one of my favourites if I want a big, viscous sake slightly on the sweetish side. I have now had ichigo measures served in very tall Bordeaux glasses even in traditional ryokans. makes sense in the context of the sake, but I was nevertheless surprised that they did the pragmatic thing rather than serving it in traditional recepticles.

                      1. re: Asomaniac

                        I love the phrase "big, viscous on the sweet side." Add that to "water-like," "melon" and "umami" and you'll have a good picture of the different types I like.

                        Yeah, the glasses make a big difference.

                        It's great to drink from small choko, as it's very social, but I find it hard to get a good sense of the nose (and that's really important for me).

                        In Japan, I prefer to drink from medium-sized pewter cups ("suzu guinomi").
                        In Australia, the best you can do is a Riedel O beaker.
                        At home, I usually drink from a ceramic "guinomi" cup, which is like a large choko.

                        1. re: anarcist

                          anarcist - entirey agree on glasses. In fact, the president of Dassai says that it is best to drink the 23 from Riesling glasses or similar wine glasses that have a slightly wider base than top. And with that aroma, how could a choko be appropriate?

                          Other wine glasses are too big - for example, you might lose the sense of the delicate aroma in a large burgundy glass with wide opening.

                          Lots of melon on the 23, by the way.. Isn't it odd that rice is so prone to producing those melon notes?

                          1. re: Asomaniac

                            I'm in NY next month so I will definitely be picking up a bottle of the Dassai 23 to try.

                            It is odd that rice produces those Melon notes. I also really like/find it odd when it produces notes of Banana and Strawberry. Which is like the most generic palate pleasing north american fruit smoothy flavor.

                          2. re: anarcist

                            Yeah, you really have to get your nose wet if you want to sample that bouquet I guess.

                            Which kind of makes me wonder how much Sake establishments consider the nose/retro nasal tasting/ the olfactory bulb, when they serve their sake to their patrons.

                          3. re: Asomaniac

                            Yes I totally agree that Sake is a very contextual thing. Too think that there are those out there who would deprive themselves of NamaZake is insane to me.

                            There's actually not much I don't like. Actually, funny that you mention a rough nigori as that would probably be lowest on my list of Sake but I still appreciate one once in awhile. I've had some pretty intense ones that where not sweet and not unlike congee in texture.

                            I love Koshu and Kijoshu personally. I have a sweet tooth and love Cognac and Port so I guess it's only natural. I go with Daruma Masamune Junmai, Seiryo, and Hanahato 8 year/16 year.

                            Funny story, I left Japan in July after a visit and as per usual picked up a healthy load of Sake among other things. When I get to the airport I am informed that my bag is too heavy and that I have to transfer 10 pounds of junk into my carry on so that my checked bag will meet their weight restriction. So naturally without thinking I pack all of my Sake (because it weighs the most) into my carry on bag ignorant to the fact that all liquids in your carry on will be confiscated before entry onto the plane...

                            Lesson learned.

                            1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                              Shouldn't have said that, Notorious - I am almost crying at my desk at work at the thought of such a senseless loss of good sake!

                              1. re: Asomaniac

                                The personal televisions didn't work on that flight and to top it off I had a screaming baby next to me. All I could do was look at the tears streaming down that baby's face and say "you and me both buddy."

                              2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                Nearly did the same thing with a bunch of bottles of nice shochu I wanted to bring home once, but luckily I passed it to a friend who took it back to her apartment in Tokyo and I recovered it the next time I visited.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  Oh, good one! I was late for my flight otherwise I would have passed it to anybody over the legal drinking age. Instead I passed it to a customs agent and said this is worth $$$$, you have to drink it. It's probably sitting in an impound next to a black market kidney and a panda bear in a cage.

                            2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                              As for Sato no Homare, I quite liked the ‘Kakunko’ junmai daiginjo (pineapple).
                              SMB of 27 (OK, it's not exactly 23)...

                              1. re: anarcist

                                Haha, I haven't tried that one yet. The note of pineapple does intrigue me though. The Nama that I have had from them must have been limited release or something because I can't find them on their website. They where in dark green bottles similar to the Kuro-Gin but with gold Kanji on a black label...

                        2. May be a bit late on this one but I just came into possession of a bottle of this and thought it was interesting. Quite good actually.


                          Interesting, I am reading online that it's no longer brewed. A buddy of mine brought it for me from North Carolina.

                          1. I seem to find myself coming back to Kokuryu time and time again. Got a couple bottles of their stuff on my recent visit to Japan.

                            Also, recently tried "bijofu schwa" (written in romaji), a sparkling from Kochi. Was rather impressed. Thought it would be a good "gateway" sake.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: anarcist

                              Interesting. Will definitely give those a sip when I get a chance. I've had a couple of amazing bottles lately. I'll write a description up when I get a second.

                            2. Tried a Sake that really blew my mind the other day called:

                              Shinzui "The Quintessence" Junmai Daiginjo (Genshu)

                              From Hiroshima and made with Senbon - Nishiki with a milling rate of 35%, a 1.6 acidity, and 0.8 in the amino acids department.

                              Light yellow in color, it packed a veritable punch in the face of fruit/honey notes with a subtle spicy finish.

                              For me, it was one of those Sake that completely blew my wig back. Definitely the best bottle I've had this year.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                I will watch out for it, thanks for the tip!

                                Went to an Akita sake event a little while ago - did I post about it already? Apologies if I am repeating myself, I don't remember. Anyway, I wholeheartedly recommend Akita sake. Some incredible values for genshu, namazake and daiginjou (between 1,500 and 2,500 yen for 4-go bottles which quality-wise should be a lot more expensive). I forget the names of the brewers, will check and report back.

                                The sakes carry a very definitive regional signature; 'feminine' sakes with surprising elegance and restrained but clear aromatics. Interestingly the average Akita sakes were originally much sweeter and heavier than they are now and Akita brewers made a conscious decision some decades ago to change their techniques to make their sakes more appealing to consumers from other parts of Japan, so their regional signature these days is driven by outside considerations. Nevertheless, it is astonsihing how clearly identifiable the Akita signature is. Akita brewers are also very famous for being at the cuting edge of sake brewing technology-wise, an interesting contrast with more traditionally-minded regions.

                                At the Akita tasting, they also offered some very high quality sakes brewed for competitions. They are not sold commercially as they are too expensive to brew and therefore their retail prices would be too high in the view of the sake brewers to realistically hope to sell sufficient quantities to make a profit. Those sakes were astonishing; someone there called them "daiginjo on steroids", and that is a very good descrition. They are designed to capture the sake competition judges' attention. They will have tasted hundreds of sakes the same day, so you can imagine the taste must be quite intense to leave an impression... Definitely not food sakes, but a very interesting experience!

                                On Saturday, I went more traditional by going for a bottle of Jyuyondai daiginjo at Ishikawa (kaiseki restaurant). Nice reminder of just how good Jyuyondai can be.

                                1. re: Asomaniac

                                  No probs!

                                  You touched on it but thanks for elaborating here. Sounds like an interesting place to be for tasting Sake. Funny you mention "feminine" Sake as that's one of the adjectives used to describe Shinzui.

                                  Haven't had much Sake from Akita other than Ama No To so I will definitely be on the lookout for some other options. Definitely let me know of some others to try out when you get a chance. Although I'm sure I would have to be in Japan to get ahold of them.

                                  I haven't been back this year and I'm getting the itch. I am usually there one to two times a year so this is unusual for me.

                                  I like that they're groomed for competition and it's probably what intrigues me most. The idea of specifically trying to stick out from hundreds of Sake that have been tasted in succession. No small feat.

                                  Cool about Ishikawa. I would definitely like to try it out on my next go round. Haven't been to Koju either and I know that Okuda San is a certified Sake Taster/Sommelier so that's piqued my curiosity as well.

                                  Will list more notable Sake as I taste it. I've been into Kaiun lately from Shizuoka (I think) and Daishichi as well. Nice stuff.


                                  1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                    Okuda-san is a sake sommelier, a wine sommelier and a very nice guy to boot, so well worth paying Koju a visit. The food is very good as well, though Ishikawa was definitely better.

                                    The sake menu at Ishikawa is good but limited in choice. Oddly, their wine list is much more extensive than the sake menu (even though Ishikawa-san is from Niigata, so hardly from a non-sake region, and his food goes better with sake than wine). The wine list, by the way, is really good. Very unusual, top-notch range, both price wise and in terms of variety of regions and styles, for a kaiseki restaurant. Many, many very good bottles - they clearly know exactly what they are doing. I almost felt sorry that I was about to have kaiseki, but there really is no escaping sake with that food (many of the wines would have been great with the various seafood dishes as well, but not jyuyondai-good).

                              2. On my last trip to Yamanaka Onsen in Kaga city I stumbled upon a great Sake shop specializing in mostly Sake from Ishikawa and Hokuriku called Kubode Sake Club. Nice little shop with a great selection of Sake. They have a little bar where you can sample any of the sake in the shop as well as a damp, musty, dark basement where the premium stuff is kept.


                                I picked up a great bottle of Syuhou Kaetsu "Kuro No Shizuku" Daiginjo from Kaetsu Brewery in Ishikawa. (Not to be confused with Kaetsu brewery in Niigata) from the shop and was quite surprised with it. It definitely falls into the fruity but dry category (like some Juyondai) which I find myself obsessing over more and more these days.

                                Brewery info here:


                                Definitely worth picking up a bottle if you get a chance. They have a good selection of Kaetsu's Namazake as well that I will have to pick up when I get back around to Kaga City.