Sake is a daunting category that, for many westerners, has two sub-categories at best: hot sake, and cold sake. But as we’ve written about in the past, sake is in reality a complex universe that contains many styles and grades. Various sakes can be found in tiny cans for a few bucks, or in full-sized bottles for many hundreds of dollars.
Today we look at six different sakes, all brewed in Japan, that run the gamut of styles and quality levels — though these are all on the more affordable side. Thoughts follow.
Bushido Way of the Warrior Sake (can) – From Kizakura. This inexpensive mini can of sake looks innocuous, but it packs quite a bit of flavor into its tin innards. Punchy melon, some saline, and a slightly meaty edge give it much more complexity than you’d expect. B+ / $6 per 180ml can
Tozai Snow Maiden Sake – This cloudy sake is richer on the palate than a typical sake, with intense notes of honeydew melon and rice pudding. Quite approachable and easy drinking, it’s a simple but quite engaging sake, with a slight sweet, rounded finish punctuated by just a hint of bitterness. B+ / $10 per 300ml bottle
Tozai Living Jewel Sake – A clear Junmai sake, this is an iconic expression of sake at its simplest — rustic and a bit meaty, with notes of melon and wet earth in equal proportion. A sake for those who like a little funk in the mix. B / $10 per 300ml bottle
Konteki Tears of Dawn Sake – This Daiginjo sake offers a crisp attack, with notes of cantaloupe and some lemon around the edges. The finish has a banana character to it, with a slight maritime influence. Altogether, a fine and easily approachable example of the Daiginjo style. B+ / $21 per 300ml bottle
Kanbara Bride of the Fox Sake – Technically a Junmai Daiginjo, “this sake is inspired by the local legends of the Niigata’s annual fox-bride festival.” Heavy melon notes meet sultry earth, it’s a fragrant sake with aromas of both banana and musk. The chewy middle evokes taffy and peanuts, with a saline character that dominates the finish. B / $19 per 300ml bottle
Fukucho Seaside Sparkling Sake – Brewed by Miho Imada. This is a rather flat sake, despite the fizz generated by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Some notes of honeydew engage, but overall the experience is muted by dull, earthy notes. I think I would have enjoyed this more without the carbonation. B- / $33 per 500ml bottle