Sake Rice Wine Reviews

Dateline: 04/19/99

With wine tastings becoming more and more popular, I thought it only right that we do a sake tasting! I gathered some of my sake-loving friends, and over the course of the evening we tasted a number of commonly found sakes.

Sake Barrels For this tasting we didn�t include Gekkeikan, the one served at most restaurants, but we did taste Gekkeikan separately the following week when we went out for sushi at the local slice-and-dice.

Cool or Chilled Sakes

First, we tasted the sakes that were to be served at or below room temperature. We found in general that these smelled quite nice, but did not taste as pleasant (or perhaps simply give that warm, fuzzy feeling) as a warmed sake.

Fu-Ki Sake
Fu-Ki Sake sake is served room temperature, and hails from Japan. It has a sweet, syrupy smell and a light taste. Clear color. $11.

Hakusan standard
Hakusan comes from Napa Valley, CA in a tall green bottle. The recommendation is chilled, so we refrigerated it. It was quite different from the Fuki, with a very fresh, clean, almost spearminty taste to it. Clear color. We compared it (nicely) to a mouthwash. $6.49

Diamond Sake Momokawa Diamond
Momokawa was the cream of the chilled sakes, and it does recommend �chilled� on the label. It was refrigerated. Created in Oregon, Diamond and Momokawa have won countless international awards for their sake products. It shows - this blue-bottled drink was fruity, smooth, and mellow. Pale yellow color, created with the Junmai-Ginjo process. $9.95

Warmed Sakes

Drinking the warm sakes, we quickly found that they smell far worse than the delicate cooler sakes. Ethyl Alcohol was bandied about as the appropriate descriptor. On the up side, though, the taste tends to be more flavorful than their chilled compatriots. We used a saucepan of warm water to warm the ceramic mug of sake up - using a thermometer to watch for the sake to reach the target temperature.

Hakutsuru is from Japan, and comes in a brown bottle. No information or recommendations are on the bottle - we warmed it to 105�F. The sake was pleasantly tingly, with a gentle spicy flavor to it.

Shirayuku Shirayuki
Shirayuki was the only previously-opened sake - the rest were fresh from liquor stores. This had been stored in a fridge for 4 months. The dark green, bulbous bottle is easy to pick out. Clear colored, warm, fruity, this sake was also rather thick, like a pancake syrup. With no serving temperature on the bottle, we used 105F. As a general note, clear sakes are still fresh, while brownish ones have aged for too long. Tasting Note: tried cool, this had a strong ethyl taste.

Hakusan Premium
Hakusan From Napa Valley, CA, the premium blend in a tall green bottle is suggested to be drunk at 110�F. This is what we did. This sake was warm, smooth, and had a ricy flavor to it. $7.99

The American standard for sake, Gekkeikan is served at most Japanese restaurants. We sampled this separately from the others, over a sushi dinner. It was served too hot - as sake in restaurants often is. If it's too hot to touch, it's hot enough to have ruined the flavor! It was still tasty though, a clear color with a light, rice taste.

In the end, we preferred Momokawa Diamond for cool drinking, and in fact I�m finishing the bottle off while I type this article in! For warm sake, none of the ones we tried during the �tasting� matched Gekkeikan for a complete flavor. Perhaps us tasters were simply used to it! A follow-up tasting will go outside the realm of commonly available sakes to see what the harder-to-get, more expensive ones offer.

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