Here are 5 high-class sake brands that you should try once in your life. They come from different breweries so they're each different, and though they're rare the quality is high, so please try it if you see it during your trip.
1. Kokuryu Ishidaya
Ishidaya (now Kokuryu Brewery) is a brewery that was started in 1804 in Fukui as a handmade brewery, and they're a pioneer in the production of daiginjo sake. Kokuryu and Kuzuryu are representative brands. The junmai daiginjo Kokuryu Ishidaya 720ml (10,000 JPY (excl. tax)) keeps the deliciousness of the rice in its fruity, refreshing acidity, so it goes well with any dish! It's only made in limited quantities, so it's rare but exquisite. The packaging is very Japanese, so it's great as a souvenir.
*Junmai daiginjo sake is sake made using the best manufacturing techniques. It uses only rice and sake lees, the rice is polished to 50% or less, and it's fermented for a long period of time at a low temperature.
2. Tatsuriki Akitsu
Honda Shoten is a brewery in Hyogo, the area that makes Yamada Nishiki rice, the best rice for brewing sake. They only use organic rice from contract farmers to create the best quality sake. Tatsuriki Akitsu 720ml (15,000 JPY (excl. tax)) is a top-class junmai daiginjo sake. The mellow fragrance and the mild taste helped it win the top prize in the World Wine Championships, so it's a sake that's been favorably seen by the world as well. It's recommended to drink it cold. By the way, this is one of the breweries that helped bring forth the culture of drinking sake chilled.
3. DASSAI Beyond
Dassai, from Asahi Brewery in Yamaguchi, is one of the sake brands you should drink at least once. This brewery only makes daiginjo sake. They were the first in Japan to use a centrifuge, and they bring out the best of the aroma and flavors of junmai daiginjo as much as possible. It's a brand quickly gaining popularity worldwide, thanks to events like winning the top prize at Monde Selection. The refreshing, fruity aroma matches with the acidity that leaves the perfect aftertaste to create an elegant taste. At the company store near Ginza, you can have a sake tasting, so why not try it? Junmai Daiginjo DASSAI Beyond 720ml costs 30,000 JPY (excl. tax).
4. Born Chogin Junmai Daiginjo
Kato Kichibei Shoten opened for business in 1860 in Sabae, Fukui. The name of their representative brand, Bon, means "unstained purity," and the light gold characters on the bottle attract the eye. Sake from this brewery is entirely junmai (no added sugars or alcohol). It's used in government ceremonies, such as the celebratory sake during the enthronement of Emperor Showa. It's also famous for being gifted to President Obama by the former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. The secret is its firm taste that has made plenty of people happy. It's delicious both chilled and lukewarm. Born Chogin Junmai Daiginjo 720ml costs 10,000 JPY (excl. tax).
*The third one from the right in the photo is Born Chogin Junmai Daiginjo
5. DIAMOND AKATSUKI
Katsuyama is a brewery representative of Sendai that has been in business more than 320 years, since the Edo period. Their top-class brand, Akatsuki, uses the very core of Yamada Nishiki rice and ferments it at low temperature using a process called "enshin shibori." In that brand, the most delicious one is the junmai daiginjo DIAMOND AKATSUKI 720ml (30,000 JPY (excl. tax)), which is well-rounded sake that is clear and beautiful. When the brewery moved to its current location at the base of Mt. Izumigatake, they began to manufacture the four brands Akatsuki, Den, Ken, and En, in this one place so they can completely monitor and manage the whole production process.
There are 9 types of sake, but these are the ones made with the most luxurious manufacturing processes. Even if you like sake, your tastes may differ from other people's, so it's fun to find the one that matches you best. Please experience the deep charms of sake!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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