Are you searching for a new and exhilarating drinking experience, one that will expand your palate and stimulate your taste buds? When beer and wine no longer excite, Japanese sake might just be what you’re looking for.
Available in a variety of flavor profiles and brews, sake is a Japanese tradition with a history as deep-rooted and diverse as that of any other alcoholic drink. Ranging from rich to dry and fragrant to full-bodied, sake offers a taste experience for every occasion — from special celebrations to casual dinners. Ready to try this intriguing beverage but not sure where to start? Sometimes it’s best to go to the source. So why not begin with a trusted, acclaimed sake imported from Japan? Here’s what you need to know about this unique and traditional drink.
What Is Imported Sake?
Known as nihonshu in Japan but just “sake” (or seishu) — meaning an alcohol beverage made from rice — in America, sake is a specialty rice “wine” that has been cultivated in Japan for centuries. Yet this smooth and complex beverage really isn’t wine at all. In fact, its brewing process more closely resembles that of beer, though it remains in a category all its own.
Sake is made by fermenting polished rice in water with koji, a mold spore microbe, and yeast. While the brewing process itself takes weeks, the aging process takes months. Each requires precise conditions, impeccable ingredients and the highest degree of skill — which is why sake production is a respected art in Japan, and the practice is more than 2,000 years old.
Takara Sake USA imports and offers carefully selected Sho Chiku Bai brand items from Takara, Japan. Our aim has been to expand our portfolio, thereby offering customers a greater variety of sake to enjoy. Unlike wine, where the particular grape varietal used in production can be detected by the color, aroma and taste of the finished product, sake offers often very subtle yet significant differences between ingredients, types of brewing and special production methods. We are committed to not only developing, but also sourcing, many distinct kinds of sake to meet the demands of an American market growing in size and sophistication.
To give some examples, we import sake brewed from sake-specific rice varietals such as Yamadanishiki and Gohyakumangoku. In contrast, in Berkeley, CA we make use of Calrose rice and all American harvested Yamadanishiki sake-specific rice. But in both instances, the finished products will showcase a specific rice varietal’s supreme characteristics.
We also have sake varieties that showcase differences in water characteristics. Our Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura brand products are brewed using famous mineral-rich “miya-mizu” water of the Nada area in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, while other select Sho Chiku Bai brand products are brewed at another famous water source, “Fushimizu” in Fushimi, Kyoto. You may enjoy comparing these products with those we brew in Berkeley, CA, using our own exceptional water that emanates from Sierra Nevada snow melts.
In addition, we import some Sho Chiku Bai sake varieties because of the unique way they are brewed. Examples are Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura Kimoto Junmai and Yamahai Junmai. These types of sake, crafted according to a traditional, 17th century brewing style employing laborious methods, display well-balanced flavors that are still complex, alsong with enhanced umami and acidity. Finally, some occasions call for something special, perhaps a little bubbly. So we’ve introduced MIO Sparkling Sake, the number one selling sparkling sake in Japan, into the American market.
In short, our imported sake selection broadens and enhances an already diverse portfolio, offering our customers additional and unique varieties of sake. We’re sure you’ll enjoy trying, exploring and comparing each one.
Imported Varieties of Sake From Takara Sake
Interested in a taste, or bottle, of original imported sake? Takara Sake offers a variety of traditional options from Japan, including:
Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura Mio Sparkling Sake: This imported, sparkling sake is bright and festive. It combines the diverse flavors of persimmon, peach, fresh bread and freesia for a refreshing piquancy, and it’s crowd-pleasing favorite that is perfect for toasting any special occasion. FOOD PAIRING: Pair with hors d’oeuvres, mildly sweet desserts and even spicy food such as Ethiopian or Indian dishes. Serving Temperature: Chilled (50˚F or below).
Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura Junmai Daiginjo:This full-bodied and smooth Junmai Daiginjo sake is velvety, pure and offers slightly sweet hints of melon, banana and vanilla with savory touches of rice and white mushroom. FOOD PAIRING: You’ll find this variety goes best with steamed fish, poached chicken breast, scallops and quiche. You can also pair it with sea urchin, salmon, eel or, at warmer temperatures, mild Korean tofu soup. Serving Temperature: Chilled (50˚F) to cool (60˚F).
Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabegura Kimoto Junmai: This Junmai Kimoto type is robust with an earthy palate of cream cheese, spice, apple, flowers and fruit. FOOD PAIRING: It pairs ideally with triple-cream cheese, risotto, fatty meats like maple-glazed ham, wagyu beef and fatty fish such as toro. Serving Temperature: Chilled (50˚F) to room temp. (72˚F).
Shirakabegura Tokubetsu Junmai: Full-bodied and aromatic, this Tokubetsu Junmai type sake balances fruity flavors with an umami palate for a complex finish. FOOD PAIRING: It pairs very well with most mild foods, including steamed or grilled white fish, sushi, linguine with clams and savory custards. Serving Temperature: Room temp. (72˚F) to warm (105˚F).
Sho Chiku Bai Kinpaku Tokubetsu Junmai: With a surprising array of aromatic flavors, this imported Tokubetsu Junmai sake has hints of wheat, rye, buttermilk, hazelnut, pear, berries and savory herbs. FOOD PAIRING: Pair this option with deviled eggs topped with crispy bacon, beef carpaccio with capers and Parmesan cheese, risotto with sun-dried tomatoes or Italian sausage pizza. Serving Temperature: Chilled (50˚F) to room temp. (72˚F).
Sho Chiku Bai Gokai Junmai Sake: This Junmai type combines salted melon, Asian pear, cream and banana in a silky palate. It also offers notes of spice, custard, walnuts and other flavors for an incredibly complex finish. FOOD PAIRING: This versatile sake pairs with a wide range of foods including, egg custards, soba noodles, chicken breast, fish, shellfish, filet mignon and yakitori. Serving Temperature: Chilled (50˚F) to warm (105˚F).
Where to Buy Imported Sake
When you’re looking for the finest imported sake, from festive sparkling sake to highly-acclaimed traditional offerings, Takara Sake is your source. We take great pride in, and have the utmost respect for, the art of sake brewing. With a background steeped in Japanese tradition but also well-versed in original American brewing methods employing modern technology, we are deeply confident in our ability to provide a wide range of exceptional products. Read more about our original and imported sake from Japan, then find and purchase online — and enjoy!
*Notice for online shoppers: Shipment of alcohol products are regulated by each state, and there are states in which we cannot ship imported sake directly to consumers. Please refer to our Legal Limit page for more details.