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7 Best Sake Brands

Searching For The Best Sake Brands

Best Sake Brands

Best paired with a budding drink and a plate of sushi on hand, sake is usually the go-to choice for many alcohol aficionados. For those unfamiliar with the ‘pride of Japan,’ this sweet yet milky beverage is typically described as dry, clean, and slightly fruity

While you’re free to consume it alone, others prefer to down it with a complimentary meal. With that in mind, there’s a good chance that dinner party hosts are hunting for the best sake brands at their local liquor store. 

Thanks to the internet, you can save yourself the overwhelming trip to the winery. Customers can now gloss through sake-specific aisles through Google. Of course, this expands the search from dozens to hundreds sold across the world. 

Fortunately for you, we’ve gathered 7 of the best sake brands on the market. We’ll also provide some shopping tips and tasting notes for curious customers.  

7 Best Sake Brands

1. Gekkeikan

Best Sake Brands

The prefecture of Kyoto is known for many things: a home to Buddhist shrines, a hotspot for garden enthusiasts, and the movie location for Lost in Translation. For liquor connoisseurs, it’s sake central. 

One of Japan’s acclaimed brands is Gekkeikan, a humble brewery located in Fushimi. Founded by Jeimon Okura in 1637, this sakagura takes advantage of the neighborhood’s high-quality water supply, as well as the ingredients found in that area. 

The brand’s reputation began to rapidly flourish, so much so that they opened up a second head office in Folsom, California. So, why is Gekkeikan included in our best sake brands lineup?

Well, they offer 7 different blends to choose from. This includes Haiku, Traditional, Blueberry, and Black & Gold. Varied in taste, they usually provide an aromatic mix of apple-y and herby notes. 

Unfortunately, customers cannot buy their sake online, but they are sold at various liquor stores such as LCBO and WineOnline. 

Highlights

  • Considered a reputable brand within the industry
  • Offers a curated selection of sake 
  • No preservatives included 
  • Scientifically analyzed by the Okura Sake Brewing Research Institute 
  • Provides resources online concerning sake production and storage instructions 

2. Hakutsuru 

Best Sake Brands

In 1783, Jihei Kano decided to part ways with his former job as a lumber dealer. With a decision to dive head-deep in the world of liquor, he humbly founded his own brewery in Nada, Hyogo prefecture. 

Hakutsuru is considered the ‘Chanel’ of sake, as they were the first brand to issue alcohol in glass bottles. It was only inevitable that Kano’s company would reach critical acclaim, as in 1900, they were featured in the Paris World Exposition. 

If sake runs in your blood, you’ll be happy to know that Hakutsuru has museums in Japan. Customers can see how they made their sake, as well as any historical artifacts associated in the brand’s years of production. Plus, the brewery owns a fine art museum, where Hakutsuru stores multiple treasures within its vicinity, including the Meiping-style vase. 

With a resume as impressive as Hakutsuru, do we really need to explain why they’re considered one of the best sake brands on the market? If not, let’s get into some tasting notes, shall we? 

Customers can choose from 12 different sake blends, with the including of a 3-in-1 pack. They vary in sweetness and acidity, ranging from the crisp spring water found in Tanrei Junmai to the mellow richness tasted in Toji-Kan.

Like Gekkeikan, Hakutsuru products cannot be bought at their official website, as you will be redirected to one of their partnered retailers. 

Highlights

  • Sold at various partnered liquor stores 
  • Has over 279 of industry experience 
  • Utilizes a special grain of rice in their sake, which is officially called Hakutsuru Nishiki rice 
  • Sources water from the Rokkō mountains
  • Offers vegan and gluten-free options 
  • Customers can visit the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum and the Fine Art Museum in Japan

3. Kurosawa 

Best Sake Brands

Filled with hope and ambition, Jun Tanaka had a vision for the future of sake. The story starts in 1996 when he realized a veritable lack of high-quality Japanese liquor fit for American cuisine. In an effort to bridge both worlds, Tanaka decided to take a ‘spiritual trip’ to the mountains of Nagano. There, he found inspiration for his newfound brewery, Kurosawa

Established in 1998, Kurosawa quickly became a household brand in America. They currently offer 4 different blends to choose from, including the Junmai Kimoto, Nigori, Ginrei, and Premium Reserve. 

Refined in flavor, customers can enjoy a melody of aromatics, such as honey and apple. Kurosawa even goes as far as to pair specific foods with each sake. For instance, the Nigori is best eaten with a spicy tuna roll, chicken teriyaki, and chili edamame. Yum! 

Sadly, customers cannot buy the company’s sake online. You’ll need to visit one of their partnered retailers, which can be found in multiple states. This ‘best sake brands’ review highly recommends visiting their official page, where they provide a store locator for clients to reference. 

Highlights

  • Produced in the Nagano prefecture 
  • Sold in several states such as Arizona and California 
  • Recommends certain dishes for each sake blend 
  • Considered a friendly introduction to sake for Westerners 

4. Ozeki

Best Sake Brands

If Hakutsuru is considered the ‘Chanel’ of sake, then I think it’s safe to say that Ozeki is its “Hermes’ counterpart. Of our top 7 best sake brands list, his Japan-based brewery has been around since 1711. 

Founded by Osakaya Chobei in the Hyogo prefecture, this household brand is considered one of the oldest sakaguras in the world. Ozeki has many accomplishments under its belt, including its affiliation with sumo wrestling and the Tokyo Olympics. 

In 1979, Ozeki moved its operations to the sunny valley of Hollister, California. They source their ingredients from esteemed locations, including water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

With years of liquor-making experience, the brand sells dozens of different blends to choose from. This is organized into 8 different categories, including Taru, Nigori, Daignjo, and Shochu. 

Each bottle of sake comes with a detailed product description, in which customers can view its flavor profile, polish rate, sake meter value, and recommended food pairings. 

The brand also provides suggestions in terms of temperature preferences. For instance, the Premium Junmai is best served chilled or warm. Fragrant, aromatic, and smooth in taste, customers can expect only the best of Ozeki. 

Highlights

  • Customers can narrow their search by ‘taste’
  • Recommends certain foods with specific sake blends 
  • Ozeki suggests serving temperatures based on star ratings 
  • Offers resources concerning sake production 
  • Sold at various liquor stores such as TotalWine and Japan Centre 

5. Hakkaisan

Best Sake Brands

Hakkaisan’s origin story isn’t as inspiring as the best sake brands we featured so far. To the brand’s credit, perhaps they prefer to shine the light on its production methods instead. 

Founded in 1922, this Japanese brewery is located in the Niigata prefecture. It’s near the Hakkai mountains, which is where the company sources its spring water from. Clear, crystal, and refreshing in taste, it’s no wonder why Hakkaisan is located in such a remote destination. 

In terms of other ingredients, Hakkaisan sources rice from local brands, including Goyakumangoku and Yamadanishiki. If you’re especially concerned about what’s included in their sake, you can take care knowing that this brand is relatively transparent. They feature production videos, written information, and even vintage photos on its website. 

Let’s talk about their blends. Hakkaisan is home to dozens of sake varieties. Offered in various sizes, customers can opt for the mellow richness found in the Tokubetsu Honjozo or the aromatic notes held in Seishu.

While you can’t buy their blends online, the brand does provide locations on their official page. 

Highlights

  • Sold in various locations in Japan, the United States, and China 
  • Home to dozens of sake blends 
  • Made with high-quality ingredients 
  • Transparent in sourcing and manufacturing 
  • Offers resources that customers can access 

6. Dewazakura 

Best Sake Brands

Dewazakuru isn’t just your average sake brewery. It’s a generational passion project enriched with family history. Founded in 1892 by Seijiro Nakano, this critically acclaimed sakagura had a humble start in Tendo City, Yamagata. 

They take great pride in its ingredients, as the brand sources its rice, water, and other needed additives around the area. Dewazakuru was the first to pioneer ginjo sake, which was rarely known at the time. 

Now considered a global brand, Dewazakuru sake is enjoyed by thousands of alcohol enthusiasts around the world. Like Hakutsuru, the brand also owns a museum for customers to visit. It showcases booths of family-owned heirlooms, including porcelain and handicrafts. 

So, why are they included in our best sake brands lineup? For one, this Japanese brewery organizes its sake by country availability. They offer a wide selection of blends on its website, including Daiginjo, Ichiro, and Yamahai. For instance, those in Chile can only sample the Oka Ginjo.

If you’re keen on sipping one or two, Dewazakuru is available in several partnered retailers, such as Miyama Foods and World Sake Imports. 

Highlights

  • Offers tasting notes and recommended temperatures with each sake blend 
  • Home to dozens of different products 
  • Customers can visit the brand’s museum in Japan
  • Made with the best ingredients 
  • Available in several partnered retailers 

7. Tozai Snow Maiden

Best Sake Brands

Tozai sake is all about living in the moment. It’s the go-to drink for late-night bar-hopping, cherry blossom sightseeing, or the occasional trip to the local izakaya. 

Unfortunately, there’s not much to know about this Japanese brewery other than it’s located in Kyoto. They offer a curated selection of sake on its website, ranging from Living Jewel, Blossom of Peace, and the ever-famous Snow Maiden

Decadent in flavor, consumers are invited to pair each Tozai sake with a specific meal. For instance, the fruity notes found in Snow Maiden are best eaten with curry or a bowl of spicy tuna poke. 

Of the best sake brands we’ve featured so far, this sakagura seems to be the only company that sells its products online. Prices range from $14 to $45, depending on the blend and quantity. 

Highlights

  • Affordable 
  • Customers can buy sake directly from their website 
  • Offers tasting notes with each blend 
  • Tozai sells other merchandise such as chopsticks and bento boxes 
  • Provides cocktail recipes on its official page

How to Shop for the Best Sake 

Best Sake Brands

Liquor connoisseurs have it easy. Armed with years of experience, the quick-trip to the liquor store is usually met with confidence. Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with time to visit local wineries or have the space to accommodate hundreds of alcohol brands. 

If you’re just getting into sake, there are ways to differentiate quality from amateur without the need of a professional eye. For those who’ve encountered a brewery outside of our top 7 best sake brands list, we’ll provide a nifty checklist for readers to reference. 

Brand  

A majority of sake brands hold decades of liquor-making experience. For instance, Ozeki has over 300 years under its belt.

Usually, breweries like these have an esteemed reputation within the industry, as they make sure to source the best ingredients. With that in mind, sakagura are typically transparent when it comes to sake manufacturing. 

Quality

High-quality sake is smooth in the throat and aromatic in taste. It should never feel like a guttural punch to the stomach. Premium blends are often sourced from local farms or esteemed destinations.

This includes spring water from rural mountains and rice harvested from specific Japanese prefectures. Of course, quality is also dependent on certain manufacturing processes. 

Polishing Rates 

If you’re unfamiliar with sake, polishing rates refer to rice milling. More specifically, it describes the degree to which the grain is ground away.

While it may seem like a mindless procedure, it actually affects the taste of the liquor. According to Tippsysake.com, a higher rice polishing ratio usually entails a boost in rich umami. 

Occasion 

Occasion goes hand-in-hand with tasting notes. Do you prefer something savory and bold, or would you rather opt for something fruity and clean?

It all depends on the sake’s polishing rates, as milling is indicative of the liquor’s flavor profile. For those in a celebratory kind of mood, it may be best to opt for a sweet beverage, such as Hakutsuru’s Sayuri. 

Shipping Date 

Compared to wine, sake can actually go bad. As a result, most experts agree that it’s best consumed as quickly as possible. If you’re looking to buy a case online, we recommend taking a peek at the shipping dates as a precautionary measure. To err on the side of caution, it’s never a bad idea to buy your sake in-store. 

Price

Like most alcoholic beverages, sake can be bought cheaply or as an expensive, one-time gift. While you can opt for a $14 bottle of Tozai, you may be tempted to invest in a $230 case of luxury Dassai. Ultimately, this all depends on your love for sake and what you can afford to spend. 

What Sake Should I Start With?  

Best Sake Brands

It honestly depends on personal taste. Do you prefer something sweet or something mellow and rich? In our opinion, we recommend starting off with a slightly sugary sake for first-time customers. Don’t worry; you won’t be overwhelmed with overbearing syrupy notes. Fruity sake is quite subtle, which is ideal for newbie sippers. From our list, we suggest trying out Hakutsuru’s Sayuri and Tozai’s Snow Maiden. 

For those who prefer non-sweet sake, there are dozens of ‘dry’ options to choose from. You should also know that sparkling sake exists, just in case you’re looking for a ‘celebratory’ alternative. 

What Is Premium Sake? 

Best Sake Brands

According to experts online, premium sake is a drink that’s made with high-quality rice. In the industry, it’s usually referred to as Ginjo or Daiginjo, but there are other varieties that fall under its name. 

The level of refinery is often measured by the sake’s polishing rates, which describe the degree to which the grain is finely milled. There are different grades of premium sake, ranging from 61% to 100% offered by Junmai to 50% found in Daiginjo.

How Do I Drink Sake? 

Best Sake Brands

Sake is best consumed cold, warm, or hot. It really depends on the brand you’ve chosen, as some Japanese breweries offer their own temperature recommendations. This alcoholic beverage is usually eaten with certain foods, which typically include meat dishes. A good majority of the best sake brands we’ve featured suggest barbeque, seafood, or ramen. 

It’s worth noting that sake is best enjoyed with friends and family. It’s a social drink, like your usual glass of wine or can of beer. 

Final Thoughts

Best Sake Brands

Sake is a social drink. It’s a beverage that brings people together, whether that be a hot summer evening or a chilly afternoon in Hokkaido. There’s a reason why it’s considered the pride of Japan, as various prefectures offer their own take on this traditional keepsake. 

If you’re unfamiliar with this particular drink, we hope that our top 7 list of the best sake brands acted as an introductory taste test. From Ozeki to Tozai, there are hundreds of critically acclaimed breweries for liquor aficionados to discover. 


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