3 sakes that show sake isn’t only made in Japan
The traditional notion that sake is only made in Japan is being placed on its head. Here are three sakes that are as similar as they are different.
YK3 Yu Junmai Nama Genshu, British Columbia ($20/375ml)
Heady pear, anise, orange creamsicle fills the cloudy, glycerine-filled palate of this Nama (unpasteurized) sake. Grapefruit zest seasons and lush melon fills the punchy palate. The finish lingers with pickled ginger heat. It is also Junmai (no added alcohol at all), and Genshu (undiluted with water), key translations to know if you’re new to the sake nomenclature. YK3, so named because the Toji (brewmaster) and two founders all share these two initials, is based in Richmond, BC. The rice is Calrose, imported from Sacremeto, California, where most of the North American sake rices are sourced from. Since this is a Nama sake, it needs to be refrigerated at every point along its journey, including restaurant / store shelves, and your home. Unpasteurized sake is not inherently better or worse than pasteurized sake; it is a stylistic choice. I would choose to pair this with savoury Japanese custards or mushroom sautés.
Yamagata Masamune Junmai, Yamataga, Japan ($40)
Though this is the brewery’s entry level sake, it is certainly not simple, nor neglected. From local Dewa-san-san rice owned and organically farmed by the brewery (rare), this has a rice polish rate of 55 percent, SMV +3, and 16 percent alcohol. The result is a lighter, delicate and nuanced Junmai (no additional alcohol added), with quince, pear, and Asian pear notes, and an alluring swing of fennel and white pepper spicing on the finish. It’s interesting to taste with a little age weight on it; making this ready for sablefish or sashimi.
G Sake Joy Junmai Ginjo Genshu, United States ($18.50/300ml)
Let’s start with the lingo. This is a Junmai (no added alcohol), Ginjo (top 4 premium sake grades) Genshu (undiluted with water) Sake. From Oregon, no less. With Calrose sake rice grown in the Sacramento California. Being undiluted, this is at the upper scales for sake alcohol content at 18 percent. And you can feel it: a punchy, bold, smooth and full bodied sake with lush melons, perfumed Anjou, Asian pear crispness and a sweet cereals note on the weighted, glycerol palate. There’s a riff of grip on the sides.