Sake!

The list at the bottom got out of hand almost as soon as I started, then I couldn't muster the energy to update. It doesn't mean much, and some of it is embarassingly uninformed. But I took all that time to type it, so there it is.

Maybe it's easier if I just tell you a dozen things I really like? If you see these brewers on a menu, try them - I think good brewers make good sake at whatever level, and I've pretty much gotten over the idea that I need to drink a certain level. Then again, if you see these brewers on a menu, it's likely that everything on the menu will be good in some way.
  • Juyondai  is deservedly famous - every one is different, interesting and delicious, and they make lots of different small-batch brews just to try them out. Incidentally, I don't understand the "don't drink the dai ginjo" stuff here (other than the exorbitant prices) - the first time I had one, it was almost viscous and oily, and certainly flavor-packed.
  • Jikkon is in a similar vein - always awesome. Kudokijozu is frequently great, especially in their normal bottlings (not the 'super dry' Bakuren) of ginjo and daiginjo.
  • Gassanryu is another from the same area (Yamagata), and seems to share Juyondai's philosophy of experimentation as well as some of its quality (but not on restaurant menus).
  • Amabuki is my favorite sake from Saga - seems like the best balance of clarity and flavor - although I like the more flowery Nabeshima, and am happy with Azuma Ichi or Shichida.
  • Toyobijin is a good brewer; I was converted to them early on when I drank their super high-end product accidentally, but I love their 'single rice field' options too.
  • Furosen 不老泉is one of my real favorites; brewing everything in wood tanks, old-fashioned techniques, wild yeast...all of that produces big, interesting flavors. They (or their distributors) also seem to encourage getting a year or 3 of bottle age, which makes sake taste great if stored properly (like, at -4 Celsius)
  • Senkin 仙禽is similar in philosophy (most or all fermented in wood), but I've never seen it on a restaurant menu - only the 10 varieties in my local shop.
  • Jokigen 常きげん is another harder-to-find choice, if you're talking about the one from Ishikawa and not the one from Yamagata. They do things like traditional brewing even at higher levels, which produces a bigger taste that I like.
  • If you have to drink major brewer sake, and Niigata at that, I'd go with Shimeharitsuru 〆張鶴 (or Hakkaisan 八海山 in a pinch). Dewazakura 出羽桜 is usually nice too for something so available; you may have noticed that I favor Yamagata sake in general.

And now, the out-of-hand, largely-meaningless, but still-existing list:
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About the 'Liked It?' rankings (1-4): I drank all these at sake specialists. They're all famous, small-to-medium producers. I don't usually write down things I hated. Thus the scores are very toppy; ordinarily I'd check the average and re-base my system (really). As it is, anything with a 2 is pleasantly drinkable, 3+ is good or great. 1 isn't a value judgement, it just means it's not to my tastes - these are all famous, well-regarded producers, and my tastes are immature anyway.


BrewerPrefectureLevel/NameDrank atLiked it?Notes
Azuma Ichi 東一SagaTsugaru, Kashiwa3
Suganadake 菅名岳NiigataNama genTsugaru, Kashiwa4The 'snow hikers' sake
Kamenoo 亀の尾NiigataTsugaru, Kashiwa3
Nogomi の古見SagaTokujunYataichi, Kashiwa2Heavy, strong, better with food.
Fukuiwai 福祝ChibaJunginIchi, Roppongi2
Kagataka 加賀鷹IshikawaJunKanae, Shinjuku2
Takaisami 鷹勇TottoriKalakuchi JunSanta, Ningyocho2
Itaru 至NiigataJunginSanta, Ningyocho3
Dassai 獺祭Yamaguchi50 JundaiWakamatsu, Morishita3Very soft, no acid. Affordable for jundai. 'Women's sake'
Hidakami 日高見MiyagiWakamatsu, Morishita2
Kokuryu 黒龍FukuiIcchoraiAsahi, Kasai3In keeping with KR's style, a bit rough.
Gangi 雁木YamaguchiJunginUogokoro, Kasai1Would have sworn this was mediocre honjou. Bad storage?
Tedorigawa 手取川IshikawaAkaoni, Sancha2
Amabuki 天吹SagaJunginAkaoni, Sancha3Perfect flavor profile for my tastes.
Taka 貴YamaguchiTokujunAkaoni, Sancha3
Suigei 酔鯨KochiTokujunYamahei, Monnaka2Good choice for a cheaper sake
Juyondai 十四代YamagataHonmaru HonjouOmasa Komasa, Nakano4Results vary by place, but honjou doesn't get better.
Juyondai 十四代YamagataOmachi 雄町 JunginOmasa Komasa, Nakano4
Juyondai 十四代YamagataDewasansanOmasa Komasa, Nakano4Holy shit.
Shuho 秀鳳YamagataJundaiOmasa Komasa, Nakano4
Sasaichi 笹一Yamanashiさ々一 Jundai OrigaramiOmasa Komasa, Nakano4
Shimeharitsuru 〆張鶴NiigataJun Jungin色々3Dependable in this space.
Momokawa 桃川AomoriJunOkajouki, Nakano2
Michisakari 三千盛GifuWajin, Meguro1
Isojiman 磯自慢ShizuokaAiyama 50 DaiginSake no Ana, Ginza3
Hokusetsu 北雪NiigataYK 35 DaiginSake no Ana, Ginza3
Kokuryu 黒龍FukuiIshidaya JundaiSake no Ana, Ginza4Any time you can afford it, it'll be good.
Hououbiden 鳳凰美田WakayamaJunginSake no Ana, Ginza3
Kokuryu 黒龍FukuiShizuku DaiginYukari, Kamiyamada3Alcohol note put me off.
Kubota 久保田NiigataManju JundaiYukari, Kamiyamada3
Hiroki 飛露喜FukushimaJunginSantensan, Kamiyamada2Might have been stored badly; Juyondai also tasted meh here.
Hououbiden 鳳凰美田WakayamaWakamizumai Nama JunginToritoku, Kayabacho2Light, clean, too sweet
Joukigen 上喜元Yamagata (Sakata)JunginToritoku, Kayabacho2Refreshing, but too light for chicken
Jikon 而今MieJunginKawashima, Musashi Koyama3Reliable brewer, good brew.
Jikon 而今MieJundaiOmasa Komasa, Nakano4Reliable brewer... great brew.
Yuho 遊穂IshikawaJunKawashima, Musashi Koyama3
Kudokijozu くどき上手YamagataBakurenHana Modern, Kagurazaka3The 'Super Dry' +20
Nabeshima 鍋島SagaHana Modern, Kagurazaka2
Minami 南KochiHana Modern, Kagurazaka1
Denshu 田酒AomoriJunginHana Modern, Kagurazaka3Right in the pocket for me.
Kachikoma 勝駒ToyamaHana Modern, Kagurazaka1
Toyobijin 東洋美人YamaguchiIchibanmatoi 壱番纏 JundaiTamanegiya, Kagurazaka4Immediate impression: 'balance'
Reisen れい泉HyogoRanjatai DaiginTamanegiya, Kagurazaka2
Harugasumi 春霞AkitaJun Nama GenUmibatake, Ikebukuro2
Aradama あら玉YamagataJunginUmibatake, Ikebukuro2
Mizubasho 水芭蕉GunmaHisanoji, Takasaki2
Ugonotsuki 雨後の月HiroshimaJunWadaya, Kayabacho3Surprisingly good at this level
Dassai 獺祭YamaguchiJunUotei, Monnaka3A weak 3, but has the brewery's 'soft' low-acid style
Hakkaisan 八海山NiigataJunginUotei, Monnaka2Widely available (B+W label), but a little harsh for jungin.
Hakkaisan 八海山NiigataHonjouSushi Zanmai1Reliable and widely available, but doesn't excite me any more.
福千歳FukuiJunmai Hiyaoroshi (maybe)Okamos, Monnaka1Sweet and simple.
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DAMN that's a lotta sake.