Photo of C. Niikawa-Helton

C. Niikawa-Helton

Professional Sake Expert

Best Sake & Japanese Sake

Many sakes come from small breweries, some of them are hundreds of years old and use ancient springs of the purest water. When you close your eyes while smelling and tasting a fine sake, you can imagine a particular rice raised with pure mountain spring water and almost see the rice field against the mountains of Japan, the brewer's work seems like the act of a monk to me, so I always feel sacred when I visit breweries....

Sake is basically rice wine. Generally, there are five types of sake that are made with a slightly different process:

Daiginjo, Junmai Daiginjo (Super Premium)
Ginjo, Junmai Ginjo (Premium)
Tokubetsu Junmai (Special Pure Rice)
Junmai (Pure Rice)

Junmai Daiginjo and Daiginjo sake are considered the best of all sakes because it is brewed with very highly polished rice (to at least 50%) an intense process, and some of them are aged. They are the most fragrant, and complex of all sakes – a true work of patience and art.

Here are Chizuko’s choices for five best Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo sakes:

Sipping the best sake is traditional to drink with Japanese sushi. But Japanese sake also goes great with any meal or alone for a special night with family or friends.

Best Sake by C. Niikawa-Helton

The Best You Can Get

  • Watari Bune

    C. says: This may not be a very famous sake yet, but I consider it to be one of the best in the world. Watari Bune is the name of an ancient rice that was no longer used due to its delicate nature. The Fuchu Homare Brewery of Ibaraki prefecture, a very small brewery, is the only brewery that uses Watari Bune rice. This sake is very smooth, clean, and complex with the aroma of Japanese apples, peaches, and berries.

    It has a beautiful clean finish and goes great with fresh sea urchin sashimi and sea salt, grilled fresh king crab, seasonal vegetable appetizers, or something simple and fresh. I am deeply grateful to this brewery when I sip this sake.

    • Junmai Daiginjo Sake
  • Daishichi Myoka Rangyoku

    C. says: Brewed in Fukushima prefecture by the Daishichi (Big Seven) Brewery, a family owned and operated brewery since 1752, this sake comes from a long established tradition of excellence. All Daishichi Sake are brewed by a long-established traditional process called the Kimoto method.

    When I visited this brewery I had the feeling that the god of sake had been living there for a very long time although it is impossible for me to explain exactly what gave me that feeling. This sake is aged for three years but brewed limitedly, so it is rare and difficult to get. Named after a Japanese musical drama from the 14th Century, the way it flows in your mouth is just as dramatic as a musical orchestra. This sake is special and what I would want to drink to celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary!

    • Junmai Daiginjo Sake
  • Urakasumi

    C. says: This is a wonderful sake is made by another popular brewery, the Saura Brewery of the Miyagi Prefecture. This seaside region is a very famous for its tuna. It goes really well with any type of fish dishes, but especially tuna dishes! It has a delicate fragrance and tastes of red Japanese grapes. Everybody loves this sake!

    • Junmai Daiginjo Sake
  • Kakunko

    C. says: This sake is made by the Sudo Honke brewery which is the oldest sake brewery in Japan(the history is over 860 years!). Located in the Ibaraki prefecture, this brewery is well known to wine connoisseurs too because the Sudo Honke brewery was awarded three prizes at IWC (International Wine Challenge) in 2007. It has an aroma that is simply transcendent. From the moment the cap is opened I can't think about anything else, it is light and smooth yet deep, complex, and purely romantic. Most people say "wow" when they sip this sake for the first time – it's Jean-Georges favorite sake!

    • Junmai Daiginjo Sake Nama (unpasteurized)
  • Masumi Yumedono

    C. says: This sake is made by one of the most popular breweries in Japan - Miyasaka brewery of the Nagano prefecture. The name, Masumi Yumedono translates "mansion of dreams", so you will feel in a dreamy state of mind when you taste this sake. With the fragrance of honeydew and fresh green apples, it is smooth and crisp with a sharp end like a smart young gentleman!

    I would recommend this sake as great gift for an important person.

    • Daiginjo Sake

You will be happy with any of these

  • Kacho Gesseki

    C. says: This sake made by the Saiya brewery, is from my home prefecture of Akita. It is Genshu (undiluted sake), and aged for about two years, so the flavor is very rich and mature. It has a flowery fragrance like roses, with a light taste of grilled apples and honey with a spicy finish. Most Daiginjo goes well with appetizer dishes but this sake goes well with a grilled dish like Kobe beef steak! Another amazing thing about this sake is that it tastes great warm! It is unbelievable!

    • Daiginjo Sake Genshu
  • BORN Yume Wa Masayume (Dreams Come True)

    C. says: Brewed by the Kato Kichibei brewery from Fukui prefecture, this sake was awarded the first prize for aged sake in the Japan's National Liqueur Competition in the Autumn of 2003. This sake is undiluted and aged for five years. It is flavorful like juicy pineapples and mangoes. Many famous Japanese celebrities celebrate with this sake after making their dreams come true!

    I recommend having this sake for the New Year, then your dreams for the new year will come true!

    • Junmai Daiginjo Sake
  • Taiheizan Tenko

    C. says: The Kodama Brewery in Akita prefecture which makes this sake is also known for its miso and soy sauce company! This sake is very well balanced with the soft aroma of Japanese apples and the palate is as smooth as silk. It is delicious served warm like the Kacho Gesseki; you will experience a great difference in the taste, very enjoyable!

    I recommend you try this sake with some local food from Akita prefecture, like grilled sand fish, which we call Hatahata. It's the perfect combination of tastes from my hometown!

    • Junmai Daiginjo Sake
  • Nanbu Bijin

    C. says: This sake is made by the Nanbu Bijin Brewery of the Iwate prefecture. The name translates to "Southern Beauty", but the word Bijin also translates to "Beautiful Woman" and yes, this sake's fragrance and taste is like a beautiful Japanese woman! It smells like wild strawberries and fresh apples with a clean and mild taste. I had the pleasure of trying a bottle of this sake that had been aged for ten years with a group of my co-workers at Sakagura for my birthday a couple of years ago. The taste was amazing!

    The brewery's owner, Mr. Kuji, told me it was a very memorable sake because it was the first Daiginjo that he brewed after graduating college. The taste was clean like fresh snow on a mountainside. This sake became my most memorable Daiginjo too!

    • Junmai Daiginjo
  • Fukukomachi

    C. says: This sake is brewed by the Kimura Brewery, also from my home prefecture of Akita. It is a very well-balanced sake and has the sweet aromas of Japanese apples, pears, and even bit of vanilla ice cream! The palate is light and smooth but also very flavorful. It is a reasonably priced Daiginjo. In New York City, you can enjoy this special sake at my favorite sushi place, Sasabune, and Sakagura Restaurant, where I work.

    • Daiginjo Sake

Related Articles

The best sake is made with very highly polished rice in an intense process and then often aged for the most fragrant and complex Japanese sake. This Japanese sake is the perfect choice for Japanese sushi but also complements other meals with its sweet taste. We recommend the best Japanese sake wine at the best price, including Nanbu, Kacho, Urakasumi, Kakunko and other delectable sake.