Japanese sake is renowned worldwide for its richness and complex taste profile. However, despite the all-you-can-drink sake happenings in Tokyo, it can be daunting for first-timers to enter the world of Japanese sake. Maybe you want to try them all or maybe you only want to try the best brands, which leads to the question: what are the best Japanese sake brands?
Voice Note, a polling site, recently held a survey on which brand of sake folks like to drink the most. Votes were tallied and in-depth opinions were collected from 945 individuals who drink habitually. Without further ado, here’s the top 10 most popular Japanese sake brands, starting from No. 10.
Maru (Hakutsuru Sake Brewery) -- 10th
Nihon Sakari (Nihon Sakari Co) -- 9th
Sho Chiku Bai (Takara Shuzo) -- 8th
Koshi no Kanbai (Ishimoto Sake Brewery) -- 7th
Gekkeikan (Gekkeikan Sake Company) -- 6th
Kiku-Masamune (Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewery) -- 5th
Starting in more detail from spot number five we have Kiku-Masamune, a sake from Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewery based in Hyogo Prefecture. Brewed with locally grown rice and spring water from Hyogo Prefecture’s iconic Mount Rokko, Kiku-Masamune sake has an overall well-rounded taste with undertones of Yoshino cedar. Neither too sharp nor light, one of the sake’s appeal points is also how well it complements the lighter dishes of Japanese cuisine, such as soba or sashimi.
Kenbishi (Kenbishi Sake Brewery) -- 4th
With a striking sword-like motif emblazoned on its bottles, the appeal points of Kenbishi sake lie in its unique coloration and long history. Compared to your typical sake brands, this variety isn’t transparent–depending on the specific bottle, the liquid can vary in color from a refreshing pale yellow to a warm amber brown. Kenbishi sake has also been brewed for over 500 years, with the brewery’s inception year traced all the way back to 1505. The brewery highlights its resilience in creating high quality sake throughout five centuries, and paired with its smooth flavor profile, we can see how Kenbishi sake landed in the top five.
Kubota (Asahi Shuzo Sake Brewery) --3rd
Coming in at number three is Kubota by Asahi Shuzo, a Niigata-based brewery with a reputation for being especially particular about how it sources the rice for its sake. Asahi Shozu works closely with local rice farmers, constantly experimenting novel flavor profiles for their sake while retaining traditional brewing methods. When it comes to taste, the Kubota has a light and refreshing finish as well as a deep, tender crispness. Other qualities fans admired about Kubota sake is its nearly translucent appearance, its rich scent, and its relatively cheap price compared to other sake brands.
Hakkaisan (Hakkaisan Brewery) -- 2nd
Many fans of Hakkaisan sake cited its taste and how easy it was to down with some voters even comparing it to water. Most importantly, Hakkaisan sake pairs exceptionally well with food. In the case of Japanese cuisine, where fresh ingredients are paramount and delicate flavors are carefully balanced, how one pairs their sake with their meals is important. Hakkaisan sticks out as a sake with a distinctly sweet but not overpowering taste, no doubt a favorite at long banquets or occasions calling for a toast. Another factor for its popularity is its ingredients: Hakkaisan is brewed with spring water from its namesake, the famous Mount Hakkai of Niigata Prefecture, and locally grown rice.
1. Dassai (Asahi Shuzo) [on the right, milkshake version on the left]
And at number one, produced by Asahi Shuzo in Yamaguchi Prefecture, is Dassai sake. Commonly considered Japan’s number one sake brand and at times notoriously difficult to taste test, Dassai packs a fruity flavor profile and a smooth, refined finish. Many voters commented on how easy it is to drink, while also praising its vibrant rice undertones and refined aroma.
So there you have it–the top 10 most popular brands of sake, as voted by imbibers in Japan. You can’t go wrong with any of these varieties, and if you’re looking for some very Japanese pairing suggestions, this list of top snacks for drinking will help to expand your horizons as you explore all those complex flavors.
Source: Voice Note via PR Times
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