If you’re looking for a drink with a bit of an international flair and are tired of the same old offerings, you may be ready to try sake, which falls in the wine category. Sake is made by converting the starch in rice into sugar and allowing the sugar to ferment into alcohol. It has a mild flavor that tends to be slightly sweet, but the flavor is not as forward as that of traditional grape wine. If you’re interested in giving sake a try, check out some of these popular sake brands.
Kokuryu was founded in 1804 and has been producing some of the most popular and sought-after sake to date. The company grows all the rice it needs to make its sake on its own property, giving Kokuryu unparalleled control over its products.
There are several Kokuryu sake varieties available in the United States today. Ryu, which was the brand’s first internationally available sake, is made using French wine maturation techniques to create a unique, well-rounded flavor. Tokugin is fermented at a lower temperature and has a clean flavor and smooth texture. Jungin, made with the company's finest rice, is rich and complex.
This sake brewery was founded in 1948 and makes sake that is not only complex, but also slightly sweet, making it great for beginners and experienced sake drinkers alike.
Asahi Shuzo sake is distributed in only a few places in the U.S.; several stores in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and New Jersey sell the company's products. Asahi Shuzo even sells a sparkling sake that is exclusively brewed for distribution in the U.S.
Juyondai’s slogan translates to “never second best,” and the company sells some of the top varieties of sake on shelves today. Juyondai has been in operation since 1615, and it seeks to bring out the true flavor of the rice in its sake.
The company releases only 200,000 bottles per season, and its sake is a prize worthy of the price.
Kubota is produced by a brewery called Asahi Shuzo, but the brewery is not related to the company mentioned above. The brewery uses the highest quality rice possible, and one of its core beliefs is that sake’s quality can never be better than the quality of the rice used to make it.
One of Kubota's most popular releases is Manjyu, which has a full body and a fragrant aroma. If the stronger sake flavor turns you off, try to find a bottle of the company's Hyaku Jyu, which is lighter in body and flavor.
This popular brewery has a diverse selection of sake that it distributes globally. It has been in operation for over 170 years. Kirinzan focuses on using local ingredients and believes that teamwork is the key to success.
There are several Kirinzan offerings available in the U.S., including Junmai and Junmai Daiginjo, which come in easy-to-spot blue bottles. Kirinzan's classic, Futsu-Shu, is great for anyone who wants to try quality sake but isn’t looking to pay for a premium bottle.
This brewery’s goal is to create sake at an ordinary price point with the quality and complexity of top-shelf sakes around Japan. It has been producing top-quality sake since 1922.
Anyone new to sake will want to try Hakkasian's Seishu, which has a lighter, smoother, and milder flavor than many of the company's other offerings. Tokubetsu pairs well with many foods and is produced exclusively for distribution outside of Japan.
Dewatsuru started producing its award-winning sake in 1865. The water source for the production facility contains very soft water, which gives the sake its signature smooth profile.
If you want to try a bottle of Dewatsuru, there are a couple of options available to you. Demon Dancer has a fruity flavor profile that makes it highly approachable. Kimoto Junmai, another great choice, has a bright acidity and mellow flavor.
Hiroki works hard to produce an amazing sake that remains affordable to most consumers. Its Tokubetsu Junmai sake is smooth, flavorful, and mildly acidic.
Production is limited due to the care the company puts into each batch, so this sake can be hard to come by.
The last sake brewery on our list is one of the oldest companies in the world -- it was founded in 1637.
If you’ve ever gone out and purchased some sake on a whim, it was probably Gekkeikan's Traditional. Its lower price point is attractive to many first-time sake drinkers. However, if you’re looking for something more exciting, try the Black & Gold or Haiku.
There’s a lot more to sake than meets the eye. Though sake is made from a simple starch, the flavor you can get varies widely. Give a few of these amazing sake brands a try the next chance you get.