JAPANESE SAKE

Taylor’s has the Triangle’s best selection of Japanese craft brewed, cold Sakes!

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If all you know about Sake is the warm, alcoholic, rustic stuff served at many hibachi grills and Japanese restaurants, then you will be amazed by the range of flavors and the complexity of cold sakes.  Flavors of berries, melons, anise, lychee, macadamia, peaches, white pepper and a myriad of other tastes can all be found in small batch, artisan made cold-serve Sakes.  These Sake’s are not just for pairing with sushi either, they are great food wines that match up well with any cuisine you would normally serve a Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis with.

Important Sake Terms:

Daiginjo

50% or more of kernel polished away

Ginjo

40% or more of kernel polished away

Honjozo

30% or more of kernel polished away

Futsu

“Table Sake” with no minimum polishing requirements.  Accounts for 75% of total Sake production

Junmai

Sake made without the addition of distilled alcohol, or “pure rice saké”

Polishing Grades

Rice kernels for making sake are “polished” to remove the proteins, minerals and other impurities located in the outer portion of the kernel to get to the pure, fermentable starches at the center.  The more of the outer husk polished away, the better the grade of Sake produced.

Tokubetsu

A somewhat vague term that means “special” sake. Polishing of 55+%, low fermentation temperatures, or rare rice strains are some of the most common reasons for a Sake earning a tokubetsu designation.

Nigori

A ‘Milk Saké’ or sake that is partially unfiltered or that has had some of the rice solids added back, resulting in a Sake that has a cloudy, milky white texture and appearance. Most have an off-dry to sweet flavor.

Genshu

A Saké that is undiluted before bottling.

Nihonshudo

Also called Saké Meter Value (SMV) – A number that can be found on the back label of many Sakes indicating the sweetness/dryness level. Zero being a neutral sweetness level with higher positive numbers indicating drier Sakes and lower negative numbers indicating sweeter Sakés.

Nama

Indicates an unpasteurized Saké.

Yamahai

A traditional, time consuming brewing method that utilizes native yeast strains. Many breweries have abandoned the process since using cultured yeasts takes half the time and creates more predictable flavors. Yamahai Sakes typically have funky, yeasty, smoky, nutty notes.

Sake is a gluten free, sulfite free beverage perfect for many who suffer with headaches, rashes and other allergies associate with many other alcoholic drinks.  Often called “rice wine” Sake is actually a brewed product, more similar to beer than to wine.  Rice, water, yeast and a special mold affected rice(Koji) are the only ingredients in many premium Sakes (alcohol spirits are added to some to help bring out more flavor), and each of those three components will have a profound effect on the finished product.

POPULAR SAKE RICE VARIETIES:

Many producers consider this the ultimate Saké rice, especially for daiginjo Saké. Noted for producing feminine style Sakés that are flavorful yet delicate and aromatic

Known for rich, earthy flavors that are very distinctive and easy to identify once one has come to recognize the flavors.

A relatively new hybrid strain used primarily in Niigata. It is a cross between Gohykumangoku and its clean, dry style and Yamada Nishiki with its fragrant, floral qualities.

This cold resistant strain is popular in northern prefectures and produces rich and full bodied Sakés

The second most popular variety among craft brewers, especially in the Niigata prefecture. It produces Sakés that are clean, light and refreshing.

Some of our favorite Sake’s we carry:

Bunraku Brewery – Forgotten Japanese Spirit Yamahai Junmai

Bunraku Brewery – Forgotten Japanese Spirit Yamahai Junmai – $14.99 300ml

Crystal clear, hard water from the Arakawa River in Saitama Prefecture is known for producing great Sake. Although this is a Yamahai style Sake, it is still very crisp and clean tasting, with just a hint of the smoky, nutty flavors that usually accompany brews made using this traditional, time consuming method. Fruit flavors of peach and apricot accompany notes of white chocolate, kiwi, almond and just a dash of the wooly funkiness that makes Yamahai Sakes so highly prized. Great with creamy rice, potato, spicy and oily dishes.

Yuri Masamune Honjozo

Yuri Masamune Honjozo (720ml) $27.99

This sake is mellow and rustic and has a firm structure, which makes it enjoyable at a range of temperatures, from chilled to warm. Its nutty and earthy notes are balanced by an underlying fruitiness and it complements grilled meats, stews and fish.
Produced in Akita by the Saiya Brewery, makers of Yuki No Bosha, this is a favorite among locals of the region. Yuri is the name of the local area of Honjo-shi and Masamune is an old term for Japanese sake.

Tenryo Saké, Junmai Daiginjo Koshu

Tenryo Saké, Junmai Daiginjo Koshu $17.99 300ml

This saké was aged for 4 years in the bottle. The glass is very dark and the aging took place under very cold temperatures so this saké hasn’t gained much color at all considering it’s a Koshu. It’s still very clean on the palate with white floral aromas and a relatively dry finish.

Ozeki Osakaya Chobei

Ozeki Osakaya Chobei $19.99 (300ml)

Ozeki Osakaya Chobei is a premium sake named after the founder of Ozeki. This is a Daiginjo sake, brewed from the highly polished rice. The 50% of the rice grain is polished away. Ozeki Osakaya Chobei has a rich and fruity aroma and a delicate flavor. This sake is excellent with light food such as Sashimi and steamed fish.

Kikusui Funaguchi Brewery 200ml Nama Cans

Kikusui Funaguchi Brewery 200ml Nama Cans

Kikusui created the first unpasturized (nama) Sake can in 1972 and have been the leader of the segment ever since. Canned nama sake is a wonderful thing. The 200ml (one cup) cans allow for easy, light weight transport and they don’t need to be constantly refrigerated like glass bottled namas.

The classic Yellow Can ($7.49) The nose on yellow can is a mix of banana bread and honey and the texture chewy, viscous. At 18% ABV and the flavor is rich and has a hint of perceived sweetness followed banana and melon fruit with yeasty undertones. It goes well with lots of spicy foods because it is such a blanket of flavor and feeling.

The Red Can ($8.49) is by far our best selling Sake. A barrel aged version of the yellow can, it rachets up the complexity of the banana and honey flavors with nuances of floral nectar, pineapple with a hint of nuttiness.

The Black Can ($10.99) is the latest of the Kikusui cans to arrive in NC. The lightest in body of Kikusui cans, it is also the most complex. Serve cold and be astounded by the different flavors that come through as it warms up and gets air. The alcohol content in the black can is augmented by the addition of Sochu instead of “distilled alcohol spirits,” and the difference is profound.