In Japan, there is no denying that sake is a popular alcoholic drink. In fact, it is Japan’s national beverage. But more than that, it is famous worldwide for its richness and complex taste. Japanese sake is a rice wine, made from fermenting polished rice into an alcoholic beverage.
As a first-timer in the world of sake, getting the best sake during your visit to Japan may seem like a lot of work, considering the many sake brands available. However, it is possible. Some of the very popular sake brands have made names for producing the best sake in Japan.
This post will list some of the best sake from popular Japanese brands. But before we do this, there are four major classes of sake that differentiate sake variety. They are Jumai, Daiginjo, honjozo, and ginjo.
1. Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 50
This sake is produced by the Dassai brand in Yamaguchi prefecture. It is often considered Japan’s number sake brand. It is renowned for its fruity flavor, smoothness, and refined finishing. It is quite easy to drink, contains rice undertones and a cultured aroma.
Dassai Jumai Baiginjo 50 is one of the products from this brand. It is a high-quality sake that is affordable, with engaging aromatic flavors and easy pair ability. This sake is not only popular in Japan, but in the US as well. What’s more, it is good for beginners.
Made from Yamada Nishiki rice, this sake is refreshing and can be served alone or with any cuisine of your choosing. It is best enjoyed at different temperatures. You should also know that this product has been replaced with Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 45 which is another great drink.
2. Hakkaisan tokubetsu Junmai
Hakkaisan sake is another brand with a great fan base. Apart from it being popular, it is easy to down and pretty much a great pair with food. This brand stands out for its distinctive sweetly brewed sake that is mildly sweet and has balancing flavors that produce a fresh aftertaste.
Hakkaisan Sake is brewed with natural spring water from the famous mount Hakai of Niigata prefecture and locally grown koji rice (Gohyakumangoku). It is commonly used to make a toast during ceremonies. Hakkaisan Tokubestu Jumai is an amazing product from this brand.
It is a special class of the Jumai sake variety brewed with natural water. It has a dry taste that paves the way for a mild and creamy texture. Common flavors found in this drink are almond, and vanilla with a tipoff of lactic texture, making its taste elegant and well balanced.
When consumed, these flavors melt at the tip of your tongue to give you a satisfying sensation. It has an alcohol percentage of 15.5% and can be served with Japanese cuisines as well as foods from other cultures. It is also good for sake beginners.
3. Kubota Senju Ginjo “1000 Long Lives”
Kubota brand has a great reputation for its sake rice sourcing. Working closely with rice farmers, Asahi Shuzo, owner of this brand, experiments constantly on new flavors for the sake. What’s more, the sake always has a light and refreshing taste, a rich scent, deep; tender crispness, and a nearly translucent look.
One thing customers love about this brand is how cheaply priced it comes. Kubota Senju Ginjo “1000 Long Lives” is as mouth-watering as it sounds. It is seen as true sake.
This drink is a rich clean blend of dried fruits, nutmeg, ripe plum, and banana cream pie. Its aftertaste is often candy-like and dry. It is better served at room temperature. You would enjoy this drink with anything grilled. It has an alcohol content of 15%. Great for relaxation.
4. Murai Family Nigori Genshu
Murai Family sake brand is produced by Momokawa Brewing of Japan whose passion for crafting well-made sake dates back to the Edo period through the present-day brewing method is the most revered. The sake brand continues to be extolled in Japan for its mildly sweet and creamy taste.
Murai Family Nigori Genshu has a dry, floral and earthy profile. Flavors it contains include vanilla, coconut, cream, currant, and spice. This Nigori style sake is filtered to allow aromatic sediments to remain, producing a creamy cloudy beverage.
The Murai Family Nigori Genshu, is better chilled. It contains 19.8 % alcohol so try not to get carried away by its taste. It is also commonly served at Japanese restaurants. You can give it a try during your visit.
5. Gekkeikan Sake
Looking for cheap sake with much more quality? Then Gekkeikan Sake is just the right pick for you. This brand has quite a reputation for excellence, producing the finest quality sake from simple, natural ingredients since 1637.
Gekkeikan sake is adaptable. This traditional sake has a mild smooth flavor and light taste. It is also affordable and delicious. When you consume it, it gives you this dry, smooth flavor with rich natural aromas. It contains 15.6% alcohol volume.
It can be served both warm and chilled. When served at room temperature, it is usually full-bodied and mellow but fruity and refreshing when chilled. You can down it with seafood, it pairs greatly with such cuisines.
6. Nihon Sakari Junmai Daiginjo
This is another great Sake from the Nihon Sakari brand. Though it is cheap, it passes for good sake quality. It is brewed in Nada with superior water and richly polished rice to give a smooth flavored sake which is every brewer’s dream.
NihonSakari Junmai Daiginjo is one sake product you should try. It is made of finely polished rice and flavors that give off notes of bolstered herbs and spices. The soft superior water gives the sake light and smooth aftertaste.
After you try this for the first time, you’ll have no option other than to have another, and then another because you can’t get enough of its mouth soothing taste. It has an off-dry flavor and 16% alcohol content.
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7. Kurosawa Junmai Kimoto
If you’re looking for silky smooth premium sake, then Kurosawa Jumai Kimoto is a great choice. Produced by the Kurosawa brewing company, this brand’s sake is simply one of the best. The sake produced is smooth, full-bodied, cool, and clean.
This premium sake is made from polished rice, yeast, water, and koji. When you pour out of the bottle, it gives you this earthy/rusty flavor of black walnuts and cocoa that is both dry and smooth. When served chilled, it goes well with hot meals.
8. Hakutsuru Junmai Sake
Produced by the Hakutsuru brewing company, Hakutsuru Junmai sake has a light aftertaste that makes it easy to drink. It is rich and full-flavored with a well-balanced taste that pairs well with different meals. No wonder it is called their “most excellent Junmai Sake”.
This product is great for the winter season. It is a clean, balanced and simple brew that leaves you wanting more. What’s more interesting is that it can be enjoyed in all temperatures. Its taste profile is a nose of chewy reds. It is light, dry, and contains 15% alcohol content. It might be pricey, but it is worth every penny. You should give it a try.
9. Kiku-Masamune Junmai Sake
Kiku-Masamune sake is known for its superb and authentic dry flavor. It is rich, crisp with a hint of roughness that does not give any unpleasant sweetness. What makes this brand different is the traditional brewing Kimoto method it uses to brew sake.
It gives you a refined taste of deep, round and dry flavor. This sake is best taken with a well-made spicy dish. Because as soon as you take a sip of sake, you cannot help but enjoy your meal better. This rich drink has an alcohol percentage of 15-16.
10. Kenbishi Kuromatsu Honjozo Sake
Unlike other sake brands, Kenbishi is far from clear. It has a unique coloration that ranges from pale yellow to a warm amber brown. It is also one of the oldest producing Sake brands in Japan that began operation in 1505.
Kenbishi Kuromatsu Honjozo Sake is made from steamed rice, maple syrup, cocoa, and nougat aromas. When you have a taste of it, it leaves on your tongue, full-bodied flavors that are rich and deep. It is dense, thick, and gives off a sweet rice flavored taste with cocoa tones that is out of this world.
You can enjoy this drink with salty, or greasy foods. Try this sake out if you are looking to explore many sake options.
Since sake drinks are common in Japan, these are products from popular brands that you won’t regret trying. Most of them can be served warm or chilled. You can have your sake with some snacks, sushi dinner, or just solo. You can’t go wrong with sake.
However, since it is an alcoholic beverage, if you take too much of it, you will most certainly get a hangover.