The Sake Thread 日本酒

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The Sake Thread 日本酒

Post by pokute » Jan 19th, '07, 21:59

Let's talk about sake (nihonshu)!

The Japanese national alcoholic drink is made from rice, yeast, water, and not much else, yet the flavor of this drink can vary over an amazingly broad range. If you're going to get wasted, you might as well make it a cultural experience!

Talk about your favorite (and not so favorite) sake's here!

My current favorite is the very dry (+10) Otokoyama. This sake has a very delicate flavor and a strong but pleasant aroma. It's surprising that it can smell so complex and taste so "clean". If it isn't kept cold and in a dark place it goes bad in less than a month, and when it is sold in restaurants in the U.S. it has almost always "turned" and developed a harsh flavor. But if you buy it from a reliable source like the Mitsuwa Market in Little Tokyo, it will be fresh and have a wonderful, delicate flavor.

The current Otokoyama 1.8 liter export bottle: [img]http://www.ligo.caltech.edu/~pehrens/otokoyama.jpg[/img]
Last edited by pokute on Feb 9th, '07, 19:53, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by nadesico » Jan 20th, '07, 08:51

As promised, a sake thread!!
won't going to say much here as my sake knowledge is ridiculousely poor, but I would be grateful if you can advise me sake 's brand for future purchase and I have a question: what food in your opinion and based on your experience tastes the best with sake?

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Post by pokute » Jan 20th, '07, 19:36

Well, of course that would be SUSHI! It is also fine with oden, which is how you would find it served on the street if any of those yatai still exist anywhere. I only drink sake hot if it is EXTREMELY cold where I am. The best sake is excellent at room temperature, and fair-to-middling sake benefits from being served VERY cold. There are of course special sakes that are intended to be served hot or chilled, but these tend to have idiosyncratic flavors that do not appeal to me.

I have a good working knowlege of about 20 kinds of sake. It has taken a year of careful study to acquire this esoteric knowlege ;^)

The Mitsuwa market in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles sells over 100 kinds of sake. Everything from kerosene-flavored sake that burns going down to "flowing water" sake that has an exquisite aroma but no flavor. They do not allow sake to sit on the shelves for very long, so it tends to taste as intended when you buy it there.

If somebody here wants to try a particular sake and cannot get it reliably where they are, you can PM me and we can see if I can get it and ship it to you. Beware of buying sake at "Fine Wine" shops... It will always be old and stale.

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Post by jellybean » Jan 20th, '07, 22:10

I can't remember any of the sake I've tried...O_O...

I had a special Okinawan sake....warm sake...one that was flavoured with this leaf..yeah it's pretty hazy.

Quite strong...don't know if I'm too keen on the taste...

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Post by nadesico » Jan 20th, '07, 23:09

pokute wrote:Well, of course that would be SUSHI! It is also fine with oden, which is how you would find it served on the street if any of those yatai still exist anywhere. I only drink sake hot if it is EXTREMELY cold where I am. The best sake is excellent at room temperature, and fair-to-middling sake benefits from being served VERY cold. There are of course special sakes that are intended to be served hot or chilled, but these tend to have idiosyncratic flavors that do not appeal to me.

I have a good working knowlege of about 20 kinds of sake. It has taken a year of careful study to acquire this esoteric knowlege ;^)

The Mitsuwa market in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles sells over 100 kinds of sake. Everything from kerosene-flavored sake that burns going down to "flowing water" sake that has an exquisite aroma but no flavor. They do not allow sake to sit on the shelves for very long, so it tends to taste as intended when you buy it there.

If somebody here wants to try a particular sake and cannot get it reliably where they are, you can PM me and we can see if I can get it and ship it to you. Beware of buying sake at "Fine Wine" shops... It will always be old and stale.
I bet it was that answer!!I'm craving to drink hot sake with oden since the last new dotch cooking show(oden vs yakiton) release!

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Post by pokute » Jan 21st, '07, 04:35

@jellybean - I suspect that what you had was a variety of shochu. There are hundreds of varieties, and there is no restriction about ingredients other than rice being used in the fermentation or added afterwards. I have tried a few varieties that were very highly rated (including a $60 bottle of imo shochu), and could never really understand the attraction of it, except that it is typically somewhat stronger than sake.

I an going to put up some pics of the better sake's that I have tried and recommend. I will not recommend anything that I have not drunk repeatedly and had time to consider the merits of.

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Post by mimmi » Feb 9th, '07, 03:16

hmm, a sake thread....I'm not experience in sake from the stores, I've been only drinking those home made ones and I kept them cold in my extra refrigerator, so I only drank it cold....only one time I drank a hot sake, a Japanese guy made it (home made too) and brought it to me and my Japanese ladies to try it (they always said that I have to try japanese cultural food, it's part of my heritage)....back to story, the sake was very smooth and odorless, very nice and warm as it went down; a nice experience....that was a few yrs. ago, lost touch with them....so how do I heat the sake, it would be nice to try it again....any directive would be appreciate it :-)....

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Post by pokute » Feb 9th, '07, 15:58

Woah... The thread came back to life?! I guess I better get those pix up here...

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Post by aokami » Feb 9th, '07, 18:56

mimmi wrote:so how do I heat the sake, it would be nice to try it again....any directive would be appreciate it :-)....
You put your sake in a container and gently swirl (container) in a hot water pot. Not boiling hot, but warm enough to heat the container and sake. If the sake boils it will evaporate and taste like crud. I think that swirling it has something to do with heating it more rapidly, and not letting any hot spots develop. I never really liked hot- -more of a cold person myself. To each their own as long as they share! :lol

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Post by mimmi » Feb 9th, '07, 19:09

@ aokami: Hmm, thank you much for the info....really really appreciate it....I'm gonna try it tonight when I get back from work :lol....thanks again :-)....

@ pokute: yeah put up your picts, and I'll go browsing in the wine store one of this days :lol....

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Post by pokute » Feb 9th, '07, 19:31

It's important to use a container with a small neck and that is tall enough so the top 1/3 or so does not get hot, this so that the alcohol that evaporates off preferentially will condense and run back into the bottle. Wrapping a cold cloth around the top of the bottle while heating will help with this as well. The bottle should be filled about 2/3 for the same reason. In general it's a terrible waste to heat good sake, use something cheap, but not too cheap!

I recently bought a VERY expensive sake for a friends birthday... And it had begun to go bad. It was a great tragedy. We drowned our sorrow by drinking it all very quickly ;^)

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Post by mimmi » Feb 9th, '07, 19:39

Thank you much pokute for the info too, really really appreciate it, and sorry for your very expensive sake :-(....I'm gonna try to heat some of the home made one I have in my refrigerator....I think I'll leave it out to get to room temp. first before I heat it....thanks again :-)....

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Post by mimmi » Feb 10th, '07, 18:45

Well, I tried the sake heating process last night, and it just turned out fine :-)....I drank it like I always drank wine; hold my breath when I sipped it, then swallowed it down. The liguor aroma stayed on the roof of the mouth and a little bit to the sinus area (it was a nice aroma, little bit strong), while the fluid went down to the stomach (it was a nice warm, smooth liquory taste)....I think I can do this warm sake thing a few times in a week :lol....thank again :-)....

pokute, that's a nice looking sake bottle in itself, I'll definately look that up in the liquor and wine store next time I go shopping :lol....

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Post by pokute » Feb 10th, '07, 21:10

@mimmi - So, since it was a suceess, tell us what kind of sake it was!

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Post by sorvani » Feb 11th, '07, 02:19

The only place in the town I just moved to that sells sake is a mom & pop liquor store.
They only carried a single sake when i first went in there :(
It was a really basic and plain bottle of 白鶴 (Hakutsuru) for like $9. image

The first time I went in there, I was on my way to a Christmas party and needed more because all I had left was a half a bottle of 月桂冠 (Gekkeikan) Black & Gold (a mid grade everyday sake IMO). I struck up a conversation with the owner and even went out to my car and gave him a sample of the Black & Gold. After that he promised me he'd try and get in a small variety of sake to see what he can sell.

A month later I go in resigned to another bottle of Hakutsuru and am greeted with a bottle of Gekkeikan Silver for $35.79 :goggle: I think that is a bit pricey but with only the two choices, I decided I wanted something better than the Hakutsuru.

What this really means is I need to plan on going over to the west side of St. Louis County every couple weeks to hit Lukas Liquor. That is where I used to shop until I moved 60 miles away from it. Lukas has probably the largest variety of Sake anywhere in the Midwest.
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Post by mimmi » Feb 11th, '07, 06:56

pokute wrote:@mimmi - So, since it was a suceess, tell us what kind of sake it was!
:lol Like I mentioned "it's home made" so I don't have a name for it, not a name brand :lol....just generally called it sake since it's made out of rice :lol....should I make a lable and affix to it and call it mimmi's sake? :lol....oh, don't say I'm doing illegal thing, agriculture dept. already knew about it and already sampled it :lol....I won't get into details....

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Post by pokute » Feb 11th, '07, 20:14

Oh, duh... I'm stupid... The whole idea that you were *making* sake just seemed so improbable that it didn't register! Haha! Is it a nigori, or did you filter it? Do you happen to know what alcohol % you got via fermentation? Did you add any additional alcohol? I have never succeeded in fermenting anything that came out drinkable.

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Post by mimmi » Feb 12th, '07, 06:27

No, you're not stupid...I might be sounded silly and stupid in my posts on d-addicts board, then to added up; for a woman to actually make sake might just sound so ludicrous to you or like you mentioned "improbable" so I won't blame you :lol....but I actually have a head on my shoulder :lol....they are filtered and sorry I don't know what you mean by nigory (never heard that word before :lol) so is that mean I don't have a whole head on my shoulder? :blink :lol :lol :lol....I don't actually know how much % of alcohol during fermentation, because it really smell so strong of alcohol.... very clear liquid and so dry....2 shots and the alcohol goes right to your head....the guys says it's stronger than moonshine (never try that before)....if it's only possible for me to send you one bottle to sample it and even to test out the alcohol level in it, then I'd do it....I was gonna work on it; to have it check the alcohol level and get FDA approval, I got all the papers and #s to follow thru, but just really don't have time to do it; too busy, so it's just stay as a family dinner drinks for now....maybe down the road when I'll have time....I have a half gallon of the cooked rice compined with sugar (to make it more on the softer taste) as an experiment in my spare refrigerator, it was very nice and soft sweet taste for two weeks, but now it's more than two weeks old, the aroma is becoming more strong of alcohol and tasted more dry, the little sweetness taste is gone, and still more alcohol fluids is still developing....sorry for the long post....hope you'll succeed next time :-)....

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Post by pokute » Feb 12th, '07, 16:17

Woah, mimmi! You sound like you have a real talent!! I swear I could never get an alcohol level above 1%!! Fermentation seemed to just totally halt on me as soon as any alcohol was created.

Nigori just means that the sake was decanted without filtering, or that some of the muck was added back in after filtering. Most sake that is filtered has some additional alcohol added to it, this is said to improve the flavor, but I'm not sure what that means. Nigori generally does not have added alcohol. I wonder if I can find someone in the Bio dept. here who could do an alcohol content analysis (and who would do it for free)? Let me ask around a bit, and if I can get somebody to commit to doing it, I'll PM you.

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Post by MitsukaiKuroi » Feb 12th, '07, 18:37

I saw this and HAD to jump in on this conversation!!! I LOVE sake!!! Nigori is my favorite type because I feel the unfiltered sake has a beautiful sweetness to it and chilled it almost reminds me of a fine white grape type of wine!!!

I have tried Japanese and American sake (believe it or not the USA brand was not that bad!) and even now I have a huge bottle of Sho Chiku Bai brand in the fridge. It is pretty good!

Has anyone ever tried Mukune Brand sake??? I know it is from Osaka and I saw a bottle of it but I never heard of it and I wanted to know if anyone knows anything about that?

Also "home-made" sake!!! My mouth just waters at the thought!!! What is the proper way to make it at home? I would love to try that! :D

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Post by pokute » Feb 12th, '07, 18:57

Hmmm... Mukune sake from Osaka is distributed in the U.S.:

[img]http://www.ligo.caltech.edu/~pehrens/mukune.jpg[/img]

The bottles are certainly pretty, but I know absolutely nothing about them and have never seen them for sale. Since they are offered in 300ml bottles I suspect they target the restaurant trade. I have learned to be suspicious of any sake that is *only* offered in tiny bottles, but you could try and convince me otherwise ;^)

I like Sho-chiku-bai nigori very much. It's especially good when VERY fresh (before it develops a slight yellow cast), and VERY cold!

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Post by pokute » Feb 12th, '07, 19:02

I have been photographing sake bottles and will be getting the reviews up here pretty soon. The pics here right now are just kinda for show... I've got eight sake's lined up for review... I'm just so busy, and it's hard to sit down and write after drinking the sake.

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Post by pokute » Feb 12th, '07, 19:19

sorvani wrote:The only place in the town I just moved to that sells sake is a mom & pop liquor store.
They only carried a single sake when i first went in there :(
It was a really basic and plain bottle of 白鶴 (Hakutsuru) for like $9. image

The first time I went in there, I was on my way to a Christmas party and needed more because all I had left was a half a bottle of 月桂冠 (Gekkeikan) Black & Gold (a mid grade everyday sake IMO). I struck up a conversation with the owner and even went out to my car and gave him a sample of the Black & Gold. After that he promised me he'd try and get in a small variety of sake to see what he can sell.

A month later I go in resigned to another bottle of Hakutsuru and am greeted with a bottle of Gekkeikan Silver for $35.79 :goggle: I think that is a bit pricey but with only the two choices, I decided I wanted something better than the Hakutsuru.

What this really means is I need to plan on going over to the west side of St. Louis County every couple weeks to hit Lukas Liquor. That is where I used to shop until I moved 60 miles away from it. Lukas has probably the largest variety of Sake anywhere in the Midwest.
Lukas sells Harushika and Tsukasa Botan, both excellent sake's. I am drinking Harushika right now. It's very dry and flavorful. Both of these should taste very "fresh", with a slight sourness when drunk at room temperature, but very smooth when drunk very cold. They are $40-$50 for a 1.8L bottle.

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Post by MitsukaiKuroi » Feb 12th, '07, 20:02

I was peeking around on the Net and I found this site explaining how to make home made sake. Interesting and long process.

http://home1.gte.net/richwebb/sakeprod.htm

One day i am going to get a small "apartment sized refrigerator" and try this!!!

And thank you for you comments pokute. I saw Mukune brand here in Pennsylvania when I went to visit my boyfriend's parents. There is a specialty shop there that carries imports from around the world (we went there for Belgium Raspberry beer) and I saw this brand. They had very few of them but the name haunted me. I said if I went back I would try it!

And please give any reviews that you can on the sake brands that you have tried. I am always open to trying different brands and types of sake! Looking forward to your pics and opinions! :D

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Post by sorvani » Feb 13th, '07, 01:03

pokute wrote:Lukas sells Harushika and Tsukasa Botan, both excellent sake's. I am drinking Harushika right now. It's very dry and flavorful. Both of these should taste very "fresh", with a slight sourness when drunk at room temperature, but very smooth when drunk very cold. They are $40-$50 for a 1.8L bottle.
Oh, aye I've tried about 7 different brands of sake so far from Lukas. It is just i moved away from it :cry: . I am not the connoisseur :alcoholic: that you seem to be though. I do not even remember the name of most of them. I'll bring a pencil next time I go there and write down the names of the ones i've tried. maybe even snap a pic or two with my camera phone :whistling:

The best nigori i ever had was at sumile in New York. The chef there really liked us because 素子 (Motoko, my fiancée) had been to the sumile Tokyo, which has only been opened since Dec 1, and he wanted her comparison opinions.
The glass of nigori was a complementary after meal drink. It was chilled, but not extremely cold, and was extremely smooth going down.
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Post by mimmi » Feb 18th, '07, 23:26

@ pokute: hmmm, so that's what nigori means, thank you....I got to try that, and 8 sakes lined up for the reviews, all I can say is "bring on those reviews, I'm having a very big party in summer and gonna have assorted of liquor drinks. I'll certainly add in some imported sake beside the homemade ones. So your reviews will be very helpful :-)". Like the saying goes "the party is only goood if you have very good drinks!!!" :lol....

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Post by hmm_yeh » Feb 18th, '07, 23:53

I don't really know much about sake. I have bought a bottle of sweet sake when I had a stop over in Narita. The salesman pretty much let me taste it and it was good. It had a floral smell, but it only had a faint sweetness to it. I don't know what it is, it was a big bottle for the price of $50, so i guess that's good? I also bought sake in small bottles, but I wouldn't the difference if it had gone bad or not. Sorry, I don't know much about sake. Hopefully, I'll learn a thing or two reading all of your post. :D

If some of you live in the east coast.. or if you live in Jersey or nyc, a short drive to Edgewater will take you to Mitsuwa. I believe it's another branch of the same supermarket as the one pokute have previously mentioned. That supermarket is awesome. They have the regular grocery products, bakeries, restaurants, and ofcourse a Sake section. Just thought to let you east coasters know, in case you haven't been there. :lol
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Post by pokute » Feb 19th, '07, 00:11

There was a place at the airport that let you taste the sake?! Wow, that is really cool! I'm not into sweet sake, but when you find one that has a faint floral scent but a relatively "neutral" taste, that's a rare find. I have no idea where the scent comes from, but sake can have an amazing variety of scents, considering that it is made from little besides rice and water. I prefer ones that have a faint floral scent, a slightly rice-like initial flavor, and then an after taste that's faintly earthy (like the odor of wet clay). I think this is because I spent two years studying Japanese ceramics very intensively, and these sake's somehow capture the essence of some of the rural kilns I visited in Japan.

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Post by pokute » Feb 19th, '07, 00:32

I would like to describe my "method" for learning about sake, just in case anybody else decides they want to try and develop some degree of like expertise: I have a small drink of sake most days, going through a 1.8L bottle in about a month. I drink one type until I have finished a bottle, and then generally try a new brand. Otherwise I doubt I could manage to tell them apart... It's hard for me to remember the taste of the individual sake's when I go to "tastings"... They all just run together.

I know there are some people who CAN distinguish and recall flavors with uncanny accuracy without going to this kind of "trouble", but not me.

There are some sake sites on the web where the "expert" just evaluates sake willy-nilly without explaining their personal preferences... I find these sites totally unreliable. In one case the guy REALLY liked sickly sweet sake, but never bothered to say so... I tried a couple of his recommendations and discovered his bias. It was an expensive lesson.

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Post by mimmi » Feb 19th, '07, 00:51

Could be the scent comes from the type of rice your using?....What I'm having now, the scent is indescribable, but smells good (kind a sweet, a little bit reminiscencent of rice), the flavor is between sweet and dry and a lttle zest to it, after swallowing it down, the hinting of alcohol flavor is there....I'm having it cold....oh, it's an homemade one too :-)....this is the first mellow (as in alcohol) I'm coming across, so I just got to think hard, what happen if I want to recreate the same flavor :-), but maybe it's the rice I'm using, because I used a different one with this patch....

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Post by pokute » Feb 19th, '07, 02:07

mimmi, you are making me nuts with your homemade sake talk!! When is your next party, and am I invited?

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Post by mimmi » Feb 20th, '07, 08:28

Sorry pokute, didn't mean to make you nuts....if you live closer, then I would definitely invite you to a summer picnic and treat you to some of the islander's hospitality :-)....

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Post by mimmi » Feb 25th, '07, 08:38

Now I've done it; that nigori thing....like you guys mentioned; it has a sweet taste to it, but not too sweet....very nice aroma (a combination of a very mild alcohol scent, a hint of soft sweet scent, a hint of rice scent and there's also another scent which I can't identify, but smells so nice)....the alcohol flavor is very mild....I'm having it cold and it's very smooth going down, I also put a little bit of the fermented rice in it and it tastes so good....I think I can use this as a chaser at parties :-)....

@ MitsukaiKuori: When you make yours, try to use a Thai rice instead of the Japanese rice to see if you'll get the same flavor and aroma that I've just described....but it's up to you :-)....

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Post by MitsukaiKuroi » Mar 15th, '07, 04:51

mimmi wrote:Now I've done it; that nigori thing....like you guys mentioned; it has a sweet taste to it, but not too sweet....very nice aroma (a combination of a very mild alcohol scent, a hint of soft sweet scent, a hint of rice scent and there's also another scent which I can't identify, but smells so nice)....the alcohol flavor is very mild....I'm having it cold and it's very smooth going down, I also put a little bit of the fermented rice in it and it tastes so good....I think I can use this as a chaser at parties :-)....
*tries not to drool on the keyboard*

Oh nigori is just my favorite and you have described it so well! I love the sweetness of it and the aroma makes me actually smile! :D
@ MitsukaiKuori: When you make yours, try to use a Thai rice instead of the Japanese rice to see if you'll get the same flavor and aroma that I've just described....but it's up to you :-)....
I definitely will try that! I can get Thai rice at a store in town. My boyfriend has an extra apartment sized refrigerator at work and he said that he will bring it home since they are not using it in their office anymore! So hopefully I can try soon!

And here is something that I came across that I thought was interesting....

It is an article about the "best sake in the world" from the Joy of Sake report. They also have a gallery of labels on there that is interesting to look at since so many of them are so beautiful!

Best Sake In The World? - The Joy Of Sake Report

I hate to admit that I usually love the "lesser quality" sake because of the sweetness but that is just my preference! :-)

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Post by pokute » Mar 15th, '07, 15:41

That's the thing about sake... The flavor can vary over SUCH a wide range that it can be very difficult to know which ratings to trust. Basically, if you try a couple of sake's from somebody's rating list, and you agree, then you can trust that rating list. There's one major sake expert who really goes for the sweet sake's, and I basically have to turn his ranking system upside down to make use of it... If it has a good enough reputation for him to want to try it, and yet he gives it a bad rating, it means I will probably like it!!

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Post by Pandemonium » Mar 17th, '07, 09:43

You guys really make me want to be 18 so I could just taste the stuff.
I'm not an avid alcohol drinker like my peers are, but I'd like to be able to try new things.

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