Sake (pronounced sah-keh) is becoming a go-to drink for many Australians. It pairs well with food and can be served cold, warm or at room temperature, making for a versatile drink. It’s also generally inexpensive — especially in comparison to Japanese whisky and gin, which are also loved by Australians.
There are heaps of different kinds of sake, with lots of different ways to drink them. So if you want to channel your inner Roronoa Zoro, check out some of the best sake you can buy in Australia below.
Dewazakura Dewasansan Junmai Ginjo (720mL)
This sake has scents of citrus fruits, ripe melon, custard and mushrooms, but tastes like melon, pear and white peach with a slight earthy mushroom and herbal flavour as well. It also pairs well with seafood.
Gekkeikan Sake (720mL)
Gekkeikan Sake is a clean and herbaceous drink with a slight bittersweet grapefruit flavour. It’s some of the best sake you can buy in Australia. It comes in a gorgeous box, too, which is perfect for gifting.
Kizakura Yamahai (720mL)
Kizakura’s Yamahai sake is a smooth drink that has a mellower flavour — perfect for beginners and pairs with any dish.
Biwa Junmai Daiginjo Matsu Gold Sake (720mL)
This sake by Biwa is a daijingo-style junmai, meaning it’s gone through an extra refinement process for a clean-tasting spirit. This also explains the slightly more expensive price tag. With notes of lychee and yuzu, it has a slight umami flavour in its depth.
Saito Shuzo Eikun70 Junmai (720mL)
Another drink with a clear and refreshing taste, Eikun70 is a pure rice sake that pairs well with a variety of dishes. It can be served cold or warm, but lukewarm is the recommended temperature for this drink.
Tatsuuma-Honke Brewery Kuromatsu Hakushika Yamada Nishiki Dry Silk Sake (720mL)
Hakushika sake is a fantastic summer drink that’s best served cold. This junmai silk version by Tatsuuma-Honke has notes of dried fruit and a slightly spicy aftertaste.
What is sake?
If you’re new to it, let us introduce you to the beverage, which is brewed primarily from rice. The other key ingredients are water, yeast and koji mould, which contains enzymes that convert the rice starch into sugar and then into alcohol through fermentation.
If it’s a premium style you’re after, you’ll want to make sure the word ‘ginjo’ appears on the label somewhere. If you want a drier style, look for the word ‘Karakuchi’.
‘Junmai’ is the Japanese word for ‘pure rice’, and unless a bottle of sake has ‘junmai’ written on it, it will have added alcohol or other additives. But just because it’s not junmai, it doesn’t mean it’s not as good. Skilled brewers may add alcohol to change and enhance the flavour profiles and aromas which can make for a smoother drink.
To produce sake, the rice needs to go through a process of being polished to remove the outer layer of each grain and expose its starchy core. Good sake is generally polished to about 50 to 70 per cent, and the more the rice has been polished, the higher the classification – but just because the rice might have been polished more, it doesn’t always guarantee better rice. For example, Ginjo sake is polished to at least 60 per cent.
If you love sake or are looking to get into it, there’s an Australian Sake Festival in Sydney at the end of this month (September 30 to October 1). The festival will feature some of the best sake from Japan, and the world, that you can get in Australia.
Did we miss your favourite sake? Tell us all about it in the comments.
Lead Image Credit: Toei Animation