Golden Masu Award!

Golden Masu Award!

For me personally, I’ll look back on 2009 as a year with some struggles, some fun and some really great sake! …And, at least for me, sake helps with both struggles and with fun.

It’s the time of year again when we salute some of the best sakes of the year… Just like the Oscars with lots more sake and a lot less movie stars. This year’s list of winners runs the gamut from honjozo to cup sake to the finest junmai daiginjo. All of it delicious in it’s own special and unique way.

Without Further ado, I give you the 2009 UrbanSake.com Golden Masu Awards!


“Best Honjozo”

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Ban Ryu

Ban Ryu

And the Masu goes to:
Ban Ryu “10,000 Ways” Honjozo

In the U.S., honjozo style sake (fortified with added distilled alcohol) are relatively hard to find. People hear “alcohol added” and think “jet fuel”! I’m here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. Honjozo style sake can be expressive, rich, fragrant and enchanting. To prove this to yourself, look no further than Ban Ryu Honjozo. Look for that signature velvety finish and a great flavor profile and several temperatures. chilled, warm or hot, this sake will please you in 10,000 ways. This versatile sake is not to be missed.


“Best Cup in the U.S.”

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Oyaji Gokuraku

Oyaji Gokuraku

And the Masu goes to: Chiyomusubi Oyaji Gokuraku

“Here’s looking at you!” I have a special place in my heart for sake sold in the “one cup” size. No one cup stole my heart this year as did the Chiyomusubi Oyaji Gokuraku sake cup. The design of this label is based on the the anime “Ge-Ge-Ge no Kitaro“. Created by the famous Japanese artist Shigeru Mizuki (水木 しげる), Kitaro has had a wide impact on Japanese popular culture. The Oyaji character is the father of the lead character and he’s bascially a walking, talking eyeball who loves sake. Only in Japan, folks! In any case, the brewers at Chiyomusubi chose Goriki sake rice for the Oyaji flavor. This is a stroke of genius in my book. Goriki has a great nostaligic flavor that is not too pretty or quaint and a perfect match to the sake-loving Oyaji character. Cup sake is a treat… and this one is a treasure!


“Most Delicious 500ML”

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Manotsuru

Manotsuru

And the Masu goes to:
Manotsuru Four Daimonds Junmai Ginjo

Sometimes, 300ml isn’t enough, but 720ml is just too much. Enter the 500ml bottle. They are few and far between, but well worth a look-see. One of my very favorite of these sakes is the Manotsuru Four Daimonds Junmai Ginjo. Produced by Obata sake brewery in beautiful Niigata prefecture, this sake is something special. It’s a full on genshu sake bordering on 18% alcohol. This doesn’t diminish in any way the quality or well crafted feeling of this brew. I enjoy it slightly chilled and find it quite versatile as far as food pairing goes. Another win for Niigata sakes – and another win for 500ML! Thank you Obata-san!


“Best New Junmai Import”

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Wakatake

Wakatake

And the Masu goes to:
Wakatake Junmai

New sakes are imported into the USA every year without fail. I’m always on the lookout for something new. What surprises me most is when something new comes from someone so familiar! We all know and love Wakatake Junmai Dainginjo sake, but the folks at Wakatake brought in their Junmai sake this year. It’s got a slight creaminess that I just find irresistible and yet, it maintains that wonderful feeling of shizuoka simplicity that makes the junmai daiginjo such a hit. This is a great expression of what a Junmai can be and a welcome addition to the Junmai lexicon in the US. Kanpai!


“Best Extra Dry Sake”

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Kasumi Tsuru

Kasumi Tsuru

And the Masu goes to:

Kasumi Tsuru Extra Dry Junmai

“What do you have that’s DRY?” Oi, If I had a first class ticket to Japan for every time I’ve heard that question! Many folks State-side have gotten this notion into their head that the best sake is Dry sake. Super dry sake is super yummy in my book, so I love to have a primo example of what dry really is at the ready when people ask for it. My textbook example is the delicious Kasumi Tsuru Extra Dry Junmai. It’s dry without being over-exaggerated and unbalanced. Imported by Joto Sake importers and a product of Hyogo Prefecture, this sake has a delightful depth and distinct dry edge that make it in my book the great exemplar of what a well rounded dry sake can be! Enjoy this gem at all temperatures!


“Best in Show”

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Kirinzan

Kirinzan

And the Masu goes to:
Kirinzan Junmai Daiginjo

I first tasted this sake at Sakagura Restaurant on New Year’s Eve a few years back. Our server left the stunning bottle on the table for me to admire as I sipped on the sake. This left all my senses pleased! Kirinzan makes a balanced, clean and pure Niigata Junmai Daiginjo that is a treasure in and of itself, but the beautiful bottle just adds to the enjoyment of this sake all the more. This “total package” is a feast for the senses and a true testament to everything a sake can be. For me, this is one of the very best. Enjoy it yourself for a special occasion, with friends or simply on it’s own. Without a doubt you’ll taste the quality that is it’s own reward.

Well, there you have it. Congratulations to all the winners and I’ll be on the look out in 2010 for any new sake stars on the horizon… Kanpai and Happy New Year!


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