What is Sake? What is Nihonshu?
Sake (酒）simply means 'alcohol' in Japanese. The Japanese word for what we think of as 'sake' is nihonshu (日本酒), which means 'Japanese alcohol,' and is made from fermented rice. With the global spread of Japanese cuisine, sake has now become popular around the world.
In order to make a good-quality Japanese sake, you need a pure water source, rice, koji (rice mold), and yeast for fermentation. Sake is made in breweries around Japan and is consumed everywhere. Generally, Japanese sake has an alcohol content of around 15 percent.
Following is a list of 10 of the best sake bottles you can get in Japan. Enjoy!
Coming to Japan? Don't miss a sake tasting experieince!
If you're coming to Japan, a sake tasting is definitely called for! An Izakaya in central Tokyo offers an awesome sake tasting of more than 10 different types of sake from various regions of Japan. It's a unique experience that can only be had here in Japan!
You might also want to try these super fun sake tasting tour with a local. Booking on the same day is possible.
Juyondai (十四代): Yamagata
Juyondai is one of the most highly-ranked sake brands in the world. The alcohol has a smooth and sweet vanilla-like aroma that is absolutely enchanting. This sake is highly sought-after, and can actually be tricky to find sometimes. Your best bet is seeking out an izakaya that serves it so you can try it by the glass.
~¥9,000 to ~¥400,000 per bottle
Dassai (獺祭): Yamaguchi
Dassai is set apart by the rice that it uses. The most expensive sake uses rice that has been polished until only 23 percent of each rice grain remains, giving it an extremely pure and fruity aroma and flavor.
~¥1,000 to ~¥32,400 per bottle
Kubota (久保田): Niigata
Compared with the first 2 sakes on this list, Kubota is a good quality sake you can get at quite a reasonable price. The sake tastes dry when it is cold, yet soft when it is heated.
~¥1,100 to ~¥14,700 per bottle
Isojiman (磯自慢): Shizuoka
Isojiman has perhaps the most specific rice standards of any of the sakes on this list. It is made from the rice that comes from just three individual rice fields in Hyogo prefecture.
At the first sip, you can a slight sweetness which then turns to a strong, dry taste.
~¥2,300 to ~¥65,000 per bottle
Denshu (田酒): Aomori
Some Japanese sake fans say that Denshu is the most well-balanced brand. This sake is from Aomori Prefecture, from the very north of Honshu, the main island. The gentle and sweet taste is irresistible and easy to drink.
~¥2,500 to ~¥26,000 per bottle
Hakkaisan (八海山): Niigata
Hakkaisan is a very popular Japanese sake brand you can easily find at many izakayas and restaurants that serve good sake. It is the most well-known sake from Niigata prefecture and tastes great both cold and hot.
~¥1,000 to ~¥12,000 per bottle
Kokuryu (黒龍): Fukui
Made in Fukui prefecture, Kokuryu is aged much like wine and has a wonderful fruity flavor that supposedly tastes of banana and melon. It's a refreshing and delicious sake that is definitely worth a try!
~¥1,000 to ¥45,000 per bottle.
Hiroki (飛露喜): Fukushima
Hiroki is a sake from Fukushima prefecture. The balanced and easy-drinking sake has just the right amount of sweetness, umami, and aroma that makes it perfect for any occasion.
~¥6,000 to ~¥108,000 per bottle
Koshinokanbai (越乃寒梅): Niigata
Another Niigata prefecture sake, the unique point of Koshinokanbai is that some shochu liqueur is added before the bottling process. In 2016, a new Koshinokanbai sake was released that won gold at the 2016 American Nihonshu competition! If you ever have a chance to try some, you should definitely go for it.
~¥1,000 to ~¥19,000 per bottle
Midorikawa (緑川): Niigata
Last but not least is Midorikawa, another Niigata prefecture sake. Midorikawa means 'green river' in Japanese, and is popular for its reasonable price and outstanding taste. It is well balanced and perfect for enjoying with a meal.
~¥1,200 to ¥8,000 per bottle
【Bonus info】¥4,000 all-you-can drink sake tasting event in Nishi-Shinjuku
If you live or work in or around Nishi-shinjuku, this is a special event you ought to know about happening on March 27th from 17:00 to 23:00 at coffee mafia.
The event is basically a sake-tasting course that includes an impressive variety of premium sakes (including Dassai and Juyondai!). It's free-flowing too, so you can drink as many samples as you want.
Check out the link below for more details about the event.
【Bonus info】Sake bars for an all-you-can-drink experience around Tokyo!
【Bonus info】Sake bars where you can try many brands at one place!