Sake In The News: 11-05-19

Looks like the Government of Japan is going to ramp up support for sake as an export product!

Govt support for sake exports to get more punch
by via The Yomiuri Shimbun
November 5, 2019

SAKAIMINATO, Tottori — The government will strengthen its support for the expansion of sake exports, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday during his visit to a sake brewery in Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, that is committed to exporting its products.

Specifically, Suga said the government would support development of new products targeting overseas consumers; invite foreign buyers to Japan; and make use of the Geographical Indication system that regulates the intellectual property rights of agricultural products.

Read the Full Article >

Sake In The News: 03-02-18

New York has its first sake brewery and it is fantastic. The Taproom at Brooklyn Kura opens today and serves the freshest sake you can get this side of the Pacific: Just pressed sake on draft, lightly filtered Orizake as well as raw sake mash from the Tank. All of it delicious.

Born in Japan, and Now Made in Brooklyn: Sake
by Rachel Wharton, New York Times
March 2, 2018

At first glance, Brandon Doughan certainly fits the mold of the professional brewer in Brooklyn: The Portland, Ore., transplant has a tidy beard, a penchant for plaid button-downs, and is a former home-brewer well-versed in advanced fermentation.

Read the Full Article >

Sake In The News: 02-21-18

Nice article from a major media outlet about the growth of sake in the export market.

As Japan falls out of love with sake, brewers look to the West
February 21, 2018

KYOTO, Japan — Sake runs in Tokubee Masuda’s blood. He’s the 14th generation of his family to operate one of the many sake breweries in Fushimi, a small district in Japan’s old capital of Kyoto.

Masuda’s passion shines through as he escorts visitors around the Tsukino Katsura facility, explaining how high-quality rice and fresh groundwater is used to produce the traditional Japanese drink, sometimes described in simple terms as rice wine.

Read the Full Article >

Sake In The News: 02-20-18

Sake seems to be hitting its stride. Sake Exports increased 19% in 2017 and has tripled in volume over the last 16 years. Awesome news that speaks to the growing interest in and knowledge about sake with consumers outside of Japan!

Sake exports reach record high again
by The Yomiuri Shimbun
February 20, 2018

Japan’s sake exports increased 19 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 23,481 kiloliters, setting a record high for eight years in a row.

Partly boosted by a growing interest in Japanese cuisine overseas, sake exports have enjoyed an upward trend since 2006, when exports topped 10,000 kiloliters. Last year, the volume passed the 20,000-kiloliter mark for the first time, and the rate of increase was also the highest ever.

Read the Full Article >

Lecture at Japan Society: My Year at a Japanese Sake Brewery

I was honored recently to be able to speak at the Japan Society in NYC about my year living and interning at Hakkaisan Sake Brewery.  It was an amazing experience, and if you want to learn more, you can check out my lecture posted on YouTube.

Sake In The News: 02-14-18

Is Sake too cheap in Japan? I often hear that prices for premium sake in the USA are too high. But I always enjoy the very low premium sake prices whenever I visit Japan. This article raises many interesting questions!

Is Japanese sake too cheap? Many in the industry think so
by HISAO KODACHI, Nikkei Asian Review
February 14, 2018

TOKYO — Japanese sake is gaining enthusiastic fans around the world. Yet foreigners who are familiar with sake after drinking it at places like upscale restaurants are often surprised at how cheap it is in Japan.

“Sake tastes good but it is priced too low,” said Shinya Tasaki, president of the Japan Sommelier Association. Tasaki has a sake refrigerator at home and introduces sake to sommeliers from around the world.

Read the Full Article >

OOOOH, I love stories like this! Local Colorado sake brewers are working to change their state laws for our industry. Good luck guys!

Denver Sake Maker Pushes for Change in Brewing Laws
February 14, 2018

Colorado seems like the perfect place to make alcoholic beverages; just look at the proliferation of breweries and distilleries around the state, and the growing number of wine and cider makers. So what if your drink of choice is sake? That shouldn’t make too much of a difference when it comes to producing and selling something that’s not so different from beer and wine, right?

Read the Full Article >

Sake In The News: 01-30-18

I’m quoted in this article about the sake industry’s move to expand its market overseas. The Export market for Japanese brewers is an area of growth and I think they will continue to put lots of effort into growing demand for sake outside Japan.

Learning To Love Sake: Japan Ramps Up Efforts To Entice Foreign Markets
by JIM CLARKE, NPR: The Salt
January 30, 2018

Outside of Japan, sake is somewhat of a mystery, with its own terminology, styles and drinking traditions. But the country’s recent push to make sake more comprehensible to non-native drinkers is making an impact, especially in the U.S.

Sake can easily fall between the cracks for American drinkers. Because sake is brewed, relying on a mold called koji to convert the rice’s starches into sugars for fermentation, “it’s made like a beer but drinks like a wine” in texture, character and strength. A pint of 5 percent alcohol beer makes a sensible serving; a pint of 16-to-17 percent alcohol sake is a whole night of drinking.

Read the Full Article >

Interview on Japan Eats: My Year at a Japanese Sake Brewery

I was interviewed on the Japan Eats radio show. Host Akiko Katayama talked with me about my year in Japan. If you like please take a listen below! What did I think of my year?? Was I skilled at Sake Brewing?? What were my fun cultural activites?! Listen and all will be revealed!

On this week’s episode of Japan Eats, Akiko is joined in studio by Tim Sullivan, Brand Ambassador for the Hakkaisan Sake Brewery. Tim was the first person ever to receive a Cultural Activities Visa to study sake making in Japan! He founded, America’s longest-running sake website, and was awarded the title of “Sake Samurai” by the Japan Sake Brewer’s Association in recognition of his work promoting sake outside of Japan.

Writing About Sake? Here Are My Sake Reporting Pet Peeves… With Cats!

No one is more excited than me to see a news article, restaurant review or blog post mention sake! This means there is interest in my favorite beverage and the more the word gets out there the better! I want everyone to know about sake. However, every time I come across such a sake article, my joy quickly turns to slight trepidation. Most articles get a lot right (yea!), but more often then you’d think, there are some mistakes, misstatements or downright misinformation about sake reported in the news. A big part of the job for people in the sake industry is to dispel myths and fallacies about sake. I thought it might be useful to put together a list of the most common mistakes I’ve seen mentioned about sake in the media. Let’s start to get this misinformation cleared up! Inspired by critical cats restaurant reviews, I thought it might be nice to have cute kittens help me to get my message across and clear the air about my sake article pet peeves!

Don’t refer to the Sake Production Process as “Distillation”

“The drinks list is dominated by sake, of both the ginjo and junmai variety (the difference being added alcohol in the distillation process). “ 1

Sake is a naturally fermented beverage. In English, we usually refer to sake as being ‘brewed’ and being made at a sake brewery. Distillation is used for distilled beverages such as vodka or shochu, which are usually much higher in alcohol. Imagine for a moment you read an article that said something like “The use of grape skins during the distillation process helps add color to the wine” or “This beer uses hops from both Germany and the US during it’s distillation process.” Meow!

Don’t call Nigori Sake “Unfiltered”

“Nigori Sake is unfiltered. Nigori sake leaves the grain solids that are usually removed after the fermentation process, which produces a cloudy liquor similar in appearance to milk.” 2

I usually describe nigori as coarsely-filtered sake. The word nigori simply means murky, turbid or lacking clarity. To legally be sold as sake in Japan, the law requires that the sake mash first be passed through a filter. Some nigori sakes are made by fully pressing sake until clear and then adding some of the unfermented rice solids back into the sake or alternately, by pressing using a coarse filter that will let little bits of rice solids into the final product. Sake that is truly unfiltered (from the mash tank to your glass with no pressing or filtering out of rice solids) is known as doburoku, and it is illegal to sell in Japan unless you have a rare special permit.

Don’t call sake a “Spirit” or a “Liquor”

“Sake is the traditional spirit of Japan. Always present in religious rituals and social ceremonies, this liquor made from fermented rice is also highly appreciated all over the world.”. 3

Both a “spirit” and “liquor” are defined as distilled beverages, such as brandy or whiskey, and they are by definition distinct from fermented alcohol, such as wine or beer or… you guessed it, sake. Calling sake a spirit or a liquor perpetuates the misunderstanding that sake is a distilled beverage with a very high alcohol percentage.

Don’t Misspell Sake Classification Names

“Dassai 50 Junmai Daijinjo. Aromatic sake with tropical fruit – pineapple, lychee and mango – and a creamy texture, though pleasantly astringent. “ 4

I get it! Spelling industry specific words from the Japanese language, or from any foreign language, can be hard and the terminology can be confusing. But doing a quick spell check for key sake vocabulary or classification names is easy and will go a long way to help people take your article seriously. “Daiginjo”, as in the example above, is a commonly misspelled sake word. If you need help with spelling any nihonshu terminology, you can always double check using the Sake Glossary.

Don’t write “Sake To Me” or “Sake To Me, Baby”

“Sake To Me: Sake Bewitches The Spirit World” 5

Dear God, no. Just no.

Don’t Assume Junmai Is More Premium Than Non-Junmai Sake

“Sake without added alcohol is the more premium and is identified by the word “junmai.”” 6

Some people learn that “Junmai” means “pure rice” and assume that non-junmai sake (aka alcohol-added) must be impure or in some way inferior. Nothing is further from the truth. In the world of premium sake, both junmai and non-junmai types are delicious, fantastic and wonderful. They are just stylistically different. Adding a small amount of distilled alcohol can boost aromas and create rounder flavors and the palate. This is not better or worse than Junmai type sakes – just different. And I feel the more various styles of sake, the better.

Do you have any sake info pet peeves you’ve seen in the media? Let me know!

Stunning Sake Production Video from Matsumoto Brewery

Mastumoto Brewery is a well known Kura in Fushimi, Kyoto. Recently, they’ve produced a video that shows the beauty of the sake production process unlike anything I’ve seen before. Looks like the filmmakers also used a drone to get aerial shots of the brewery. However they did it, it’s stunning and worth a look for any sake fan. Check it out here:

Brewed in Kyoto with Shuhari Spirit from Shuhari – Sawaya Matsumoto on Vimeo.

Sake Dispatch from 1907 – “Potent Liquor is Sake”

Lafcadio_HearnI recently came across this century old description of Japanese sake and was thrilled to learn about it’s author, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), a greek born writer who became one of the first western writers to document Japan. He had a Japanese wife and lived in Japan from 1890 until his death in 1904.

The article I found is from a 1907 Colorado newspaper, the Littleton Independent, and was published about 3 years after Hearn’s death. The article outlines his musings on Japanese sake.

It is fun as it describes drinking traditions at Japanese banquets, which many modern day visitors to Japan will well recognize. I also love the description of the intoxication effects of sake: “Luminous exhilaration… then you get very sleepy.” Hope you enjoy this fun time capsule from the early days of sake’s introduction to the west.


Lafcadio Hern’s testimony as to Strength of Japanese Wine.

There is no liquor in the world upon which a man becomes so quickly intoxicated as Japanese sake (rice wine), and yet none of which the effects last so short a time. The intoxication is pleasant as the effect of opium or hasheesh. It is soft, pleasant, luminous exhilaration, everything becoming brighter, happier, lighter; then you get very sleepy.

At Japanese dinners it is the rule to become slightly exhilarated, but not to drink enough to talk thickly or walk crooked. The ability to drink at banquets required practice – long practice.

There are banquets of many kinds, and the man who is invited to one at which extensive drinking may be expected is careful to start in upon an empty or almost empty stomach. By not eating one can drink a good deal. The cups are very small and of many curious shapes. One may be expected to empty 50. A quart of sake is a good deal; two quarts require iron nerves to stand. But among the Japanese there are wonderful drinkers. At a military officer’s banquet a captain offered me a tumbler holding a good pint of sake. I almost fainted at the sight of it, for it was only the first. But a friend said to me: “Only drink a little and pass it back,” which I did. Stronger heads emptied cup after cup like water. – Letters of Lafcadio Hearn.

Littleton Independent Newspaper Feb 8, 1907

Become a Certified Sake Adviser with the Sake School of America Dec 1 in NYC!

2014_aug 6502

Do you want to take your sake knowledge to the next level and get certified as a Sake Adviser? Open to hospitality industry professionals as well as serious sake enthusiasts, this Sake Adviser course will dive deep into the world of sake. Learn about the history of sake, all about sake ingredients, sake tasting and the sake classification system. During the course of the seminar, we will also taste and examine 16 unique sakes to show you the depth and breath of sake production today.

Introductory Sake Course for Professionals and Serious Sake Enthusiasts. The Sake School of America is endorsed by the Sake Service Institute International (SSI), the largest organization of sake sommelier certification in Japan.

Upon completion of the course and passing the Sake Adviser exam, you will receive the Sake Adviser certificate and pin.

SAKE TASTING SESSION (16 Sakes tasted)

Fee: $475.00

Instructor: Timothy Sullivan

Course #: SSA-148 English

Location: New York Mutual Trading, Inc.
77 Metro Way, Secaucus, NJ 07094
NOTE: Free Shuttle bus from Manhattan will be provided

Lecture Date: December 1 (Monday) Time: 8:30 AM ~ 4:00 PM

Exam Date: December 1 (Monday) Time: 4:00 PM ~ 5:00 PM

[On the Registration page, enter course #: SSA-143 English]

About the Sake School of America
SSA_logoSAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA is an education and training center of Sake, Shochu, and Japanese liquors, for Sake professionals and enthusiasts to expand knowledge and to explore further enjoyment of the category.

SAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA aims toward fostering higher appreciation and memorable drinking and dining experiences. We are fully committed in educating trade professionals and enthusiasts alike, to promote Sake in faraway countries at the same level of understanding and of enjoyment as is in its homeland of Japan.

In the 1980’s in Japan, Jizake fine artisan Sake climbed to popularity as consumers discovered tantalizing flavors and aromas from microbrewers crafted in remote breweries, some with legendary tales which date back centuries. When this best kept secret arrived in US during the 1990’s, Americans too were quickly enamored, charmed by “the novel Jizake”, the finesse, and pure joy. Then came Shochu, Ji-Beer, and now, a resurgence of Junmai and Honjozo Sake.

Nowadays, with a variety of specialized foods covering the spectrum, from casual dining, trendy Sushi bars, authentic Izakayas, to fancy Kaiseki, there’s a Jizake suitable for any dish and Nigori Sake, shochu, Japanese Ji-Beer, Umeshu, and other interesting brews. The world of Sake is a joyful exploration into Japanese culture, cuisine, and the brewing art.

New Cup on the Block: Azasu!

Houriasen cup sake with Takoyaki and French Fries

Houriasen cup sake with Takoyaki and French Fries

Longtime readers of Urban Sake will know that I am a devoted fan of Cup Sake! So much so, I organized a cup sake week back in 2009! Cup sake week never took off, but I still love my single serving cup sake every chance I get.

My hopes for a cup sake renaissance got a big boost this year with the opening of Azasu, a new cup sake izakaya on the lower east side. The masterminds behind Azasu are none other than Christy and Gaku Shibata, owners of the more upscale and much loved Yopparai.

The name “Azasu” is a fun and more informal contraction of the polite “arigatou-gozaimasu”, which means “thank you” in Japanese. The keyword here is informal, as Azasu strikes the perfect note between casual and cool. The seating is mostly large shared tables which is perfect for gathering in groups and making new friends.

Panda Cup from Gifu

Panda Cup from Gifu

A word about the food. The offerings are yummy Japanese comfort foods with an emphasis on deep fried deliciousness. Don’t tell my cardiologist, but the french fries at Azasu are darn near the best fried potato thing in New York. Another highlight is the Takoyaki or octopus pancake balls, which are house made and heavenly. The menu is rounded out by classic crust-less white bread sandwiches and potato salad.

What pairs perfectly with all these izakaya classics? Well, if you said Cup Sake, you get an A+! There are a wide variety of cup sakes on offer at Azasu. Some of my recommended favorites include:

  • Aomori Otokoyama by Hachinohe Shuzo in Aomori. Don’t be confused as there are two “Otokoyama” or Man’s Mountain sakes on the list at Azasu. I prefer the one from Aomori. This brewery is also the maker of the cult Mutsu Hassen sake that is currently only for sale in Japan. Their Junmai sake is rice-y, smooth and quite clean.
  • Panda Cup by Miyozakura Brewery in Gifu. The appeal of this Junmai cup starts with the playful panda design on the cup itself, but extends to the taste as well. You’ll appreciate the noticeably dry body of this sake with hints of lactic acid. Rice steamed rice aroma, too.
  • Houraisen Honjozo by Sekiya Shuzo in Aichi. Being an alcohol added honjozo style of sake, look for an enhanced aroma on this sake. It has a nice dry finish and full, round flavor on the mid-palate.

Whichever sakes you choose, no one goes home empty handed as one of the highlights of a night at Azasu is being able to take all your empty cups home with you at the end of the night. Frolicking panda cup pen holder anyone?

49 Clinton Street NYC
[email protected]

Become a Certified Sake Adviser with the Sake School of America June 30 in NYC!


Do you want to take your sake knowledge to the next level and get certified as a Sake Adviser? Open to hospitality industry professionals as well as serious sake enthusiasts, this Sake Adviser course will dive deep into the world of sake. Learn about the history of sake, all about sake ingredients, sake tasting and the sake classification system.

Introductory Sake Course for Professionals and Sake Enthusiasts. The Sake School of America is endorsed by the Sake Service Institute International (SSI), the largest organization of sake sommelier certification in Japan.

Upon completion of the course and passing the Sake Adviser exam, you will receive the Sake Adviser certificate and pin.


Fee: $475.00

Instructor: Timothy Sullivan

Course #: SSA-143 English

Location: New York Mutual Trading, Inc.
77 Metro Way, Secaucus, NJ 07094
NOTE: Free Shuttle bus from Manhattan will be provided

Lecture Date: June 30 (Monday) Time: 8:30 AM ~ 4:00 PM

Exam Date: June 30 (Monday) Time: 4:00 PM ~ 5:00 PM

[On the Registration page, enter course #: SSA-143 English]

About the Sake School of America
SSA_logoSAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA is an education and training center of Sake, Shochu, and Japanese liquors, for Sake professionals and enthusiasts to expand knowledge and to explore further enjoyment of the category.

SAKE SCHOOL OF AMERICA aims toward fostering higher appreciation and memorable drinking and dining experiences. We are fully committed in educating trade professionals and enthusiasts alike, to promote Sake in faraway countries at the same level of understanding and of enjoyment as is in its homeland of Japan.

In the 1980’s in Japan, Jizake fine artisan Sake climbed to popularity as consumers discovered tantalizing flavors and aromas from microbrewers crafted in remote breweries, some with legendary tales which date back centuries. When this best kept secret arrived in US during the 1990’s, Americans too were quickly enamored, charmed by “the novel Jizake”, the finesse, and pure joy. Then came Shochu, Ji-Beer, and now, a resurgence of Junmai and Honjozo Sake.

Nowadays, with a variety of specialized foods covering the spectrum, from casual dining, trendy Sushi bars, authentic Izakayas, to fancy Kaiseki, there’s a Jizake suitable for any dish and Nigori Sake, shochu, Japanese Ji-Beer, Umeshu, and other interesting brews. The world of Sake is a joyful exploration into Japanese culture, cuisine, and the brewing art.

4th World Sake Sommelier Competition

9470936a4e3240248b65a28aa94ac059Calling all Sake Sommeliers! SSI and Sake School of America are hosting the 4th World Sake Sommelier Competition! Are you a sake professional and want to get in on the action? Email by May 20th to apply your spot for regional competitions in LA, Chicago or NYC. Details below!

Sake Service Institute International presents
4th World Sake Sommelier Competition
Application Inquiry: [email protected]
Application Due : May 20th
US Pre-Selection : May 27th
Los Angeles Regional Competition : June 12th
Chicago Regional Competition : June 16th
New York regional Competition : June 25th
Semi-Final in Tokyo : September 19th & 20th
Final in Tokyo : September 20th

Apply Now!
Application Inquiry: [email protected]
To qualify, enter in: US Regional Competitions in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York

Competitors traveling to the Semi-Final and Final World Competition in Tokyo receive US$ 1,000 to cover travel fees, plus two nights’ hotel stay.


Sake Tourism to Japan: Sake Journeys!

SakeJourneys_Logo_sq400Have you ever dreamed of traveling to Japan’s best Sake regions, meeting the sake brewers and drinking the very best sake on the planet? Now you can!

I hope you’ll consider joining me on our next Sake Journey to Japan from March 12-19! The best way to learn about our tour is to visit the Sake Journey’s website. You can see our Detailed itinerary and learn all the details! Here are some highlights:

  • You’re guided on the tour by Sake Samurais and sake experts Chizuko Niikawa and Timothy Sullivan. Learn about sake from industry experts in Japan!
  • Dive deep into the hidden world of Tokyo Izakaya (sake pubs). We’ll be guided by Izakaya expert Kiwako Kurashima
  • Meet Sake Brewery owners and workers and get the rare chance to watch their work up close.
  • Enjoy and savor the best sakes on the planet. You’ll taste rare and exotic sakes you cannot buy – even in Japan!
  • Visit Japan’s largest sake festival – Niigata’s SAKE NO JIN!
  • Tour behind the scenes at three magnificent Breweries: Hakkaisan, Nanbu Bijin and Dewazakakura.
  • Our very small tour size gives you lots of time for questions, fun and sharing sake!

The Tour cost includes all accommodations in Japan, almost all meals and all travel within Japan. See our itinerary for all details on costs. I hope you’ll consider joining our tour! I can’t wait to visit Japan’s Sake Country with you!!

2013 Golden Masu Awards

Golden Masu Award!

Golden Masu Award!

Another year has come and gone. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the sakes of 2013… Year after year, I produce this semi-serious “Golden Masu Award” roundup, which is my totally biased take on the superior sakes, bodacious brews and nihonshu of note of the past year.

The biggest change for me was that this year I began working as Brand Ambassador for Hakkaisan Sake Brewery. This has given me the amazing opportunity to travel, teach and introduce Hakkaisan sake to the world. That’s a wonderful thing, since Hakkaisan was my first premium sake back in 2005 and really changed my life. To avoid any whiff of conflict of interest, going forward I’ll exclude Hakkaisan from my all-in-good-fun “Golden Masu Award“, but for me, Hakkaisan is already an Golden Masu All Star in the Sake Hall of Fame.

That being said, there is a lot of fun sake to celebrate. So with a fond memory of the ghost of kanpais past, and an eye towards the spirit of kanpais future, let’s check out the Golden Masu winners of 2013. No Sake, No Life…

“Best Sake Kicking it Seriously Old School”


Yatagarasu Taru

And the Masu goes to:
Yatagarasu Junmai Taru

When life gives you lemons – as the saying goes – of course, you make lemonade. And when your sake brewery is located smack dab in the middle of the famous Yoshino cedar forests of Nara Prefecture, it goes without saying, you make a Taruzake, or cedar cask aged sake. Taru sake was once very common in Japan as sake was brewed and stored in wooden barrels until steel brewing tanks came along in the early 20th Century. As such, Taru evokes an extremely old school and nostalgic sake vibe.

I’ve found that Yatagarasu Junmai Taru from the Kitaoka Honten Sake Brewery is a true classic of the Taru genre. For this style of cedar-laced sake, subtlety is king. Too much cedar and it’s like sipping grandma’s closet. For my taste, the Yatagarasu gets the balance just right. Enough cedar to invoke a lovely warm woody taste, but not at all overpowering. The clean, dry sake used is the perfect backdrop for the cedar taste. So, for the closest thing to sake time travel, transport yourself back to the days of the Samurai with just one sip of taru sake.

“Standout Muroka Sake”



And the Masu goes to:
Naraman Bin Hiire Junmai Muroka

Most premium sake you see out there as been charcoal filtered before bottling to achieve a clarity and crystal clear body you just can’t achieve otherwise. There is a growing movement, however, towards “muroka” style sakes, which skip this charcoal filtering step and lets a sake show more of its ‘back-to-nature’ character. Murokas can be more dimensioned, slightly amber-ish in color and full of personality.

One of my favorite muroka sakes is the Naraman Bin Hiire Junmai Muroka from Fukushima’s Yumegokoro Sake Brewery. This junmai offers a flavor-forward palate laced with a nice minerality, all while maintaining its balance. Great full flavors that speak to the depth of what a muroka style sake can offer. A slightly higher alcohol at 16.5% adds a bit of vrooom that murokas need to get off the ground. If you’re just getting started exploring muroka sake, be sure to try this offering from Naraman. No better way to get a splash of sake personality than with a muroka.

“Best Use of a Rare Sake Rice”



And the Masu goes to:
Wataribune 55 Junmai Ginjo

If you press any sake enthusiast for the name of a sake rice variety, almost everyone will say “yamadanishiki” which is well loved in the industry for its ease of use, outstanding quality and great taste. It turns out however, that Yamanishiki may be too well loved, as rumors about shortages abound – demand simply outstrips supply. This got me thinking about other rice varieties and what some brewers are doing with heirloom rice and one name sprang to mind instantly: “Wataribune.”

7th Generation Sake Brewery President Takaaki Yamauchi of Ibaraki’s Huchu Homare Sake Brewery is a legend for his revival of the heirloom wataribune rice strain. Yamauchi-san was looking for a local sake rice to use at his brewery and heard tell of wataribune, but local farmers were no longer growing it. In fact no one was growing it. He thought it lost to history until he found some frozen seedlings at a local agricultural research center in Ibaraki. Using a mere tablespoon of seed, he worked with a local farmer to revive the lost rice varietal and in 1990 produced his first sake using wataribune.

Today, this amazing legacy gives us Wataribune 55 Junmai Ginjo. I can sincerely say this sake is always a joy to drink. It’s exceedingly smooth and has a hint of richness on the palate that just entices you to take another sip – and then another. Also, Wataribune 55 is an exceptionally well crafted and technically masterful sake. You can taste the history, hard work and dedication in every ounce. I think perhaps Wataribune was destined for success here in the U.S. – who could resist the story of this ultimate sake rice comeback kid?

“Best Nigori Lover’s Nigori”



And the Masu goes to:
Kamoizumi Ginjo Nigori

Whenever I’m pouring sake at an event, I always get asked “Do you have any of that cloudy white sake? What’s it called?” Well, it’s called Nigori, and I’m always happy to introduce people to this unique style of sake. Nigori style sake is coarsely pressed after brewing, leaving bits of rice starch behind, which lend the milky white/cloudy character to its appearance. Styles of nigori vary widely from sticky sweet to quite dry and from thick and viscous to wispy and light.

If you find yourself with at least one foot in the nigori lover’s camp, take a gander at the much loved Kamoizumi Ginjo Nigori from the Kamoizumi Shuzo in Hiroshima. I know from personal experience, this is a Nigori Lover’s Nigori. It’s a ginjo grade sake, so you’ll note it’s lightly fortified with distilled brewer’s alcohol, which contributes much to the round and rich character of this creamy treat. The body is quite full and thick and will readily coat your glass. As this sake achieves a great balance between sweet and dry, you can pair it with many foods, but, with a nod to my sweet tooth, I especially enjoy it with desserts. A few sips of this nigori alongside a decadent wedge of chocolate cake or an over-sized chocolate chip cookie is a little slice of heaven. What better way to get your nigori on?! Kanpai!

“Best Mega Sake From a Micro Brewery”


Oze no Yukidoke

And the Masu goes to:
Oze no Yukidoke Junmai Daiginjo

Once upon a time, a wise gift recipient once said “The best gifts come in small packages.” Now, this person was probably someone who had just received a diamond ring or the keys to a Porsche. When it comes to sake brewery size however, I know there are top quality sakes made by large, medium and small sized breweries. And as for me, I’m always fascinated with top tier sakes coming from extreme micro breweries. We’re talking 2-4 people brewing a limited amount of sake. With a small team and a lot of determination, micro breweries can make magic.

One such place I got to know a little better in 2013 was Ryujin Shuzo in Gunma. Of the handful of brewery workers at Ryujin, TWO are guild-licensed Master Brewers known as “Toji”. Needless to say, having two master brewers on the team doubles the expertise and delivers some pretty outstanding sake. One such sake is the exquisite Oze no Yukidoke Junmai Daiginjo. This sake is smooth as silk and made with 100% yamadanishiki sake rice milled to 40% remaining. The palate sings with tropical fruit and banana notes paired with an enchanting aroma to match. Elegant, luscious, commanding and masterful – it is a sake to sip, savor and study. Truly a mega sake from a micro brewery.

Congratulations and Kanpai to all the Golden Masu Honorees! I am sincerely hoping that 2014 will bring many wonderful sake journeys to us all. Kanpai and Happy New Year to everyone!

See Previous Golden Masu winners here:

Sake and Nobu at De Gustibus Cooking School

Sakes served at DeGustibus

Sakes served at DeGustibus

Recently, I had the good fortune to get invited to introduce some sakes at a cooking class – but this wasn’t just any cooking class, this was a cooking seminar from the chefs of Nobu New York, Nobu Next Door and Nobu 57 at the renowned De Gustibus Cooking School inside Macy’s.

I was presenting 5 stellar sakes to pair with their wonderful omakase course which we were not only going to eat but also learn how to make.

Each course was presented by a different chef from Nobu and I introduced each sake at the start of each course. The pairings were fun and there was a lot of playing around with “umami”, that concept of savory deliciousness, in both the sakes and the nobu dishes.

The reaction from the students was enthusiastic! Everyone seemed to love the food and sake pairings as well. Check out the food pairings and lots of photos below to get a sense of the evening. If you’re interested in De Gustibus Cooking School, I can’t recommend it highly enough – it’s a great place study fine cuisine!

Joy of Sake Friends & Family Discount

josLogo_140pxWe’re all sake friends here, right? Well, lucky us because I have a discount code for friends and family of Urban Sake to get $15 off the cost of admission to the Joy of Sake! When you are buying your tickets use code “FAFNY”. Act fast this offer expires Sunday Sept 8th!!

Friends & Family $80/person ($15 off)
use code “FAFNY”
Expires Sunday, September 8
The Joy of Sake
The Altman Building (135 W. 18th Street)
Thursday, September 26, 2013, 6pm–9pm

The Joy of Sake has a record 384 sakes for you to taste plus amazing appetizers from 15 top New York restaurants. And the best part? We’re offering this to our Friends & Family at an exclusive $15 discount!

It’s our way of saying thank you for all your support. We love kicking off the Joy of Sake season with this offer, but like all good things, it must come to an end. So get your orders in at the online ticket store at (promo code FAFNY) or at the Joy of Sake hotline at (888) 799-7242. Remember, our Friends & Family discount expires at midnight on Sept. 8!

A few facts about The Joy of Sake:

This year there are 384 sakes come from every sake brewing region in Japan.
More than half are ultra-premium daiginjo sakes.
Sixty percent—223 sakes—are not available in the U.S. except at the Joy of Sake.
The sakes were bottled in July and arrive in New York in peak condition after an unbroken chain of refrigerated transport.
There are outstanding restaurants and appetizers this year.

For more information, go to

Urban Sake Upgrade 2013!

Geeking Out 2013!

Geeking Out 2013!

Back in 2006, just one year after starting my website, I was proud as a new papa of my fledgling Urban Sake website redesign. I was crowing about my new Sake Directory filled with a whopping 20 sakes! Well, as they say… times have changed!

I’ve known deep down it was time for a facelift, so instead of undergoing microdermabrasion myself, I directed my energies on a long overdue Urban Sake website overhaul. I’ve added a lot of new features and functions that I hope you will find useful for your sake learning and loving. Without futher ado, check out what awaits you in Urban Sake 2013. …and as always Kanpai!

Urban Sake 2013

1) Urban Sake Membership
You can now sign up for and become a FREE member. This allows you to establish a profile, record your tasting notes, communicate with and friend other members, add sake events as well as add sake locations to our City Guides. Check out the activity stream to see who’s doing what! You can also ask questions and get answers on our Urban Sake Forum.

2) Urban Sake Directory
Using the new and improved Urban Sake Directory, you can browse, research and comment on 500+ sakes. If you visit the directory home, you can use the filters on the right hand side to filter the results and browse through many sakes. For example, If you’re looking for a Daiginjo from Akita that uses Yamadanishiki sake rice, we’ve got you covered. You can also leave tasting notes, create custom sake lists and Mark sakes as your favorite. Keep all your sake stuff in one place!

3) Urban Sake Events Calendar
Visit my new and refreshed sake events listing to stay up to date on all the events happening around the nation related to sake. Don’t see your event listed? If you sign up as an Urban Sake Member, you are free to post your own events and get the word out about your sake happenings anytime! Let’s make some events happen!

4) Urban Sake City Guides
Want to know where to find a sake retail shop in Seattle? or sake bars in NY? or sake restaurants in Honolulu? Use our convenient Sake City Guides using google maps and directory listings to zero in on the best of the sake world wherever in the world you might find yourself. Don’t see your favorite sake place? No problem, you can add your favorite sake spots to our guide yourself. Let your fellow sake lovers know what you recommend!

I hope you’ll take the time to join us at Urban Sake and become a FREE member! If you have any questions about sake or about using our new website, don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to helping you discover your new favorite sake! Kanpai!

New Film: The Birth of Sake

UPDATE: Sept. 1, 2013. Good News and a Happy Ending! The “Birth of Sake” Kickstarter achieved its goal of raising $50,000 to complete their film! This is an amazing achievement. Congratulations to all the organizers. Can’t wait to see the final product. When the time comes, I’ll certainly post any news on screenings right here on Urban Sake, so stay tuned.

I’ve visited many sake breweries over the years and always have my camera or video camera in tow. I am always sure I’ll capture the perfect video to help convey the magic of sake making on film. Well – it doesn’t quite work out that way. Reviewing my raw footage, I am usually foiled by the lighting, sound, steamed up lens, bad camera angle, low battery or some other glitch. You can’t imagine my thrill when I heard about a new film being made called The Birth of Sake, which endeavors to capture the art, complexity, humanity and beauty of sake making on film.

filmingThe Birth of Sake is a documentary film about the workers and production seasons at Tedorigawa, a fifth-generation, family-owned sake-brewery in Ishikawa, Japan. Tedorigawa has been producing some of the world’s top award winning sakes since 1870, and still relies on time-honored techniques to hand craft sake in a traditional way. We love Tedorigawa and it’s the perfect place to show some of the real beauty in sake making.

filming2The filmmaker Erik Shirai was a cinematographer for The Travel Channel’s ‘No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain, and just started a Kickstarter campaign running through September 2, 2013 to raise money for finishing the film. I was lucky enough to attend a launch event for the kickstarter and got to see a short preview of the film and… it’s amazing. It really does sum up everything that is great about sake making in a visual way. Beautiful editing, cinematography, lighting and everything you would expect.

When completed, it will be an vital film to help champion the sake industry and well worth supporting! Can’t wait to get to see a full screening someday, but in the meantime, you can join me in lending your support over at Kickstarter:

you can watch a short preview clip here:

The 10 Commandments of Sake

18Well, good heavens! I’ve been teaching about sake since 2007 and believe me, I get it – sake can be confusing and even downright intimidating for those just getting started.

I always thought it would be a good idea to pull together a cheat sheet of core concepts to help everyone understand more about sake basics. Thus was born the 10 Commandments of Sake, my guide to get your bearings and to start enjoying the wonderful world of sake. Can I get an “Amen” in here?

Ⅰ. Sake is Japanese Culture in a Cup.
cultureRight off the bat it’s important to understand that Sake is deeply connected to Japanese culture. I call it “Japanese Culture in a Cup.” Sake is known in Japan as the “drink of the gods” and it has deep ties to both religion, ceremony, traditions and everyday social interaction. Get to know sake, and you’ll get to know Japan. Like so much in Japanese culture, on the surface, sake may seem simple, restrained or perhaps even plain, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a vast and colorful world of styles, tastes, methods and lore – and a devoted group of acolytes, committed to the quiet pursuit of perfection.

Ⅱ. Thou Shalt Pair Sake With More Than Just Sushi.
sushiFor better or for worse, America’s omnipresent sushi restaurants are the place where almost all of us get our first exposure to sake. This has lead some to conclude that sake should only be served with raw fish. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Sake pairs beautifully with a stunningly wide array of cuisines and dishes. Some of the top restaurants in the world have sake on their wine lists. Give premium sake a try with any of your favorite dishes – Roast Beef, Pizza or even Thanksgiving Dinner… There is a sake you can pair up with any of these. Experiment and enjoy!

Ⅲ. Thou Shalt Not Even Think About Calling Sake a ‘Rice Wine’.
Ok, I’ll admit it, this is not the biggest sin in the book, but it is a major pet peeve of mine, so I’m gonna get up on my soapbox. Sometimes people want to dumb down sake for the masses and rely on the crutch of calling sake a “rice wine”. Blasphemy I say. If you get out the dictionary and actually look up the definition of wine, it says a wine is alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of a fruit, such as grapes. Rice is not a fruit nor is it a plant that can produce juice. So, rice cannot produce wine. The finished product may drink like a wine, or even be served in a wine glass, but I think sake is important enough to merit it’s own category in the beverage world.

Ⅳ. Thou Shalt Not Bomb nor Shoot.

Just Say No.

Just Say No.

I feel that the Sake Bomb and Sake Shot are unfortunate vestiges of what I’ll call an unenlightened medieval period in the history of sake in the States. For the uninitiated, Sake Bombs involve dropping a small cup of cheap sake into a beer and drinking both quickly and Sake Shots involve slamming back an entire small cup of sake in one swift gulp. Both of these behaviors are now most likely seen during get-me-drunk-quick shenanigans during college, but in the wider world, we are happily moving well beyond the image of the sake bomb. More and more people recognize premium sakes as true artisinal works of art with craftspeople devoting their lives to its production and betterment. So leave the Sake Middle Ages behind and join us in the Sake Renaissance. Oh, and if someone asks you to do a sake bomb, do what Mr. T and Nancy Reagan recommend – “Just Say NO!”

Ⅴ. Thou Shalt Avoid Heat and Light When Storing Sake.
sunHeat and light are the enemies of sake. If you want extend the shelf life of your sake, keep it in a cool, dark place. If you have room in there, the refrigerator is the obvious choice! Pasteurized sake does not need to be refrigerated, but it is always a better option if you’re able. Please note that those yummy unpasteurized “nama” sakes must be refrigerated at all times. Oh, and don’t patronize that liquor shop that put all their sake on display in the front window. That’s literally not cool.

Ⅵ. Thou Must Pay a Premium for Premium.
richIt’s worthwhile knowing that cost and quality classifications are attached at the hip in the world of sake. If you want to enjoy an extra special sake with a Daiginjo or Junmai Daiginjo super premium classification, be prepared to pay more. There is not much bargain hunting for undiscovered gems as you may have in the wine world. Rice milling directly effects raw material costs for sakes. As sakes rate higher on the premium classification scale, the rice used to make those sakes is more finely milled and that means raw material costs are going up, too. To be clear, yummy and quality sakes can be had in all classification levels, but the more finely milled sakes most often cost more. Explore and see what style you (and your wallet) like best.

Ⅶ. Thou Shalt Not Pour For Thyself.
cupIn Japan, the most basic etiquette rule of serving sake is known as o-shaku. The main tenant of o-shaku is that it is considered most polite to pour sake for others but never directly for yourself. This little ritual of pouring for others creates an atmosphere of social interaction and bonding and the small sake cups typically used in Japan allow for many opportunities for everyone at the table to pour and receive sake. I have often seen a friendly tug of war over a sake carafe as guests jockey to be the first to pour for the other. Be sure to note that when you are receiving sake, it’s viewed as most respectful to lift your cup up off the table, hold it with two hands and be sure to take a sip before setting it back down. Why worry about this here? Well, I think it’s a fun and endearing custom that gets everyone at the table interacting and gets the sake flowing – the perfect way to jump start any sake event!

Ⅷ. Thou Shalt Not Fear the Screw Cap.
Some wine people seem to have a true phobia when it comes to screw caps. They are reputedly the domain of inexpensive, low quality wines. Sake manufacturers, however, have taken a different tack and use screw caps almost exclusively for all bottles, from the bargain basement sakes to the most expensive Junmai Daiginjos. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Screw caps just make sense. They are easy to open, easy to re-seal and do the best job of keeping the sake protected from oxidation. Once you start drinking more sake, you’ll come to much prefer that ‘craaack’ sound of opening a sake screw cap to the crumbly pop of a wine cork, as I have. But please – don’t sniff the screw cap.

Ⅸ. Thou Shalt Experiment With Serving Temperature.
What is the correct serving temperature for sake? Hot? Cold? in between? In a nutshell, there is no strict right and wrong in serving temperature as both warm and chilled sake can be wonderful. It’s all about finding the right sake for the right temperature for your palate. In general, fragrant, floral and aromatic sakes are best for serving slightly chilled as that will enhance their aroma. And again, in general, full bodied, robust and dry sakes tend to be a great choice for warming as that brings forward the alcohol notes on the palate and will suppress aroma. But whatever temperature you pick, it’s good to note that sake is so flexible in this area. You can drink it warm when you come in from shoveling show, or drink it cold to escape the summer heat. Serving temperature is actually sake’s secret weapon in the battle of the alcoholic beverages. Sake 1, other booze 0.

Ⅹ. To Thy Own Palate Be True: Drink Whatever Sakes You Enjoy!
amenLast but not least is the true Golden Rule of the sake world, and the easiest sake commandment to follow. Never forget that at its core, sake is about enjoyment and having fun. Be sure to give yourself permission not to worry too much about pairing rules, milling rates or serving temperature. You can simply start out by finding a sake you like and really enjoying it – simple as that. If you want to dive deeper down the road, you can certainly geek out with me about all the classifications and regions and rice types of the sake world, but none of that really matters for sake’s most basic function: to bring people together for having fun. Trust your own likes and drink whichever sakes speak to you regardless of price, reviews or expert recommendations. Simply put: “To thy own palate be true.” Well, hallelujah, I’ll drink to that!

Daishichi Baccarat Sake Night at Hakubai

Mr. Ad Blankestijn and Mr. Hideharu Ohta from Daishichi and Chizuko Niikawa

Mr. Blankestijn, Mr. Ohta from Daishichi and Chizuko Niikawa


is a sake brand that is famous for two things – its exclusive use of the Kimoto brewing method, and it’s extreme elegance. That elegance was on full display at a recent sake dinner featuring Baccarat Crystal at the Hakubai Restaurant in the Kitano Hotel.

This was another amazing night at Hakubai. When I sat down, I couldn’t help but notice the table setting which was full of refined looking stemware from the the Château Baccarat line of Baccarat Crystal.

We also had some special guests – Mr. Hideharu Ohta, the 10th Generation Owner of Daishichi, and Mr. Ad Blankestijn, a sake sommelier from Daishichi. Ad-san introduced each sake as it was poured.

Daishichi Sakes

Daishichi Sakes

Ms. Kaoru Parker from Baccarat was on hand to introduce her glasses and she encouraged us to try Daishichi Minowamon Junmai Daiginjo in both a standard wine glass and the Château Baccarat glass. It was amazing, but I must admit, the Baccarat glass somehow concentrated the flavor.

This event also gave me the rare opportunity to try the stunning Daishichi Myoka Rangyoku, which is without a doubt or any exaggeration one of best sakes on the planet. Supplies were understandably limited, and we got a small serving each and I really enjoyed that with a finish that doesn’t quit, you can really savor each delicious sip.

What a fun night! Stay tuned to the Urban Sake Event Listing to find out about upcoming sake tastings near you!

Win a Free Ticket to the Masumi Arabashiri Tasting at Cherry!!

Welcome to our Masumi Arabashiri Tasting Giveaway! To enter, log into the widget below and answer our trivia question about Masumi sake! All entries with the correct response will be entered to win a ticket to the April 10th Masumi Arabashiri Tasting at Cherry (355 West 16th Street, New York) from 6-8pm. This is a $50 value! Good luck! The winner will be notified by email at 2pm,Tuesday April 9th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Urban Sake on NBC

The upcoming “Sake and the City” event on February 12th in NYC is going to be an amazing evening of enjoying Nihonshu. As part of the promotion for this event, I was invited to appear on NBC as part of their live (LIVE!!) 7pm local NYC newscast to talk about sake and the event. Luckily, everybody at NBC put me at ease and I really enjoyed the segment. I was interviewed by Pei-Sze Cheng who couldn’t have been nicer. You can check out the video and some pics below.

2012 Golden Masu Awards

Golden Masu Award!

Golden Masu Award!

2012 zipped by in a flash. Where has the time gone!? I can only stare into the bottom of my empty sake cup and wonder.

For me, this year was a whirlwind of great sakes, old and new. It’s also been a year of learning and teaching. I’m discovering that sharing my love and passion for sake is becoming one of the great joys in my career. If you’re interested in learning more about sake, I hope to see you in one of my seminars in 2013!

My yearly “Golden Masu Awards” roundup is my biased take on the best, boldest and most bodacious brews that caught my eye and tickled my taste buds in 2012. Without further ado, I give you the winners…

“Best 720 Under $30”



And the Masu goes to:
Okunomatsu Tokubestu Junmai

It seems our economy improved some in 2012, but that didn’t stop me from looking high and low for sake bargains. For a high quality 720 ml bottle of sake under $30, I found myself returning again and again to Okunomatsu Tokubestu Junmai. Retailing for a price between 25.00 and 27.99, this Fukushima sake has become a reliable standby for everyday enjoyment. Dry, smooth and delicious, this sake will pair well with many different kinds of food and I’ve enjoyed it with everything from roast chicken to pad thai. In New York City, the local grocery delivery service “Fresh Direct” even offers this sake for home delivery. What could be better than getting Okunomastu right along with your bananas, butter and brussel sprouts?! Without a doubt, this sake is an incredible value for the price – and a great way to support Tohoku! Kanpai!

“Best Junmai Ginjo Debut”



And the Masu goes to:
Fukuju Junmai Ginjo

These days, Junmai Ginjo is a crowded category in the sake market. Given this, it’s hard to make an impression, but one sake this year did just that. Fukuju Junmai Ginjo was a sake I tried for the first time in 2012 and boy oh boy, what a treat. Made in Japan’s Kobe region, this sake is smooth, delicious and an important achievement. The quality of sake coming over from Japan is always improving and Fukuju is a prime example of this. A smooth and delicious brew which is exceeding balanced and light on palate, this sake will seduce you. You can enjoy it with a wide range of foods – a true sign of a high quality sake. Try Fukuju and believe!

“Most Delicious Sake in Custom Packaging”



And the Masu goes to:
Tenryo Hidahomare
Junmai Ginjo

Some sakes try to distract from their lack of quality with a fancy bottle shape or a unique wrapping or bow. This kind of trickery only works once for most consumers. One brand that knows about handmade quality is Tenryo. They make the famous Tenryo Hidahomare Junmai Ginjo with its unique, hand-woven and locally-sourced bamboo basket packaging. This basket is not just a thing of beauty, but a reflection of the hand made quality of this most famous sake from Gifu prefecture. You can expect a versatile and delicious Junmai Ginjo with hints of its unique Hidahomare sake rice on the palate. This is one case where the packaging does match the beauty of the sake within.

“Best Nigori Debut”



And the Masu goes to:
Shichihonyari Junmai Ginjo Nigori

It’s not everyday that a new nigori sake hits the market. Nigori, or cloudy sake, can be divisive among sake fans. Some love it, some… not so much. But I think the new Shichihonyari Junmai Ginjo Nigori maybe changing some hearts and minds this year. This nigori strikes the delicious balance between sweet and dry with a consistency that is a touch on the fuller side. It’s perfect for pairing with grilled or fried foods. The Brewer even encouraged me to try this nigori on the rocks. What the? Well, I did and it was great! This was just the reminder I needed that our tastes and preferences are an ever evolving thing. When it comes to sake, let a fun new nigori get you out of your sake rut.

“Best Expensive Sake Worth the Price”



And the Masu goes to:
Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo

Some sakes in the upper echelon of quality can give you a serious case of sticker shock. However in some cases, the high price is worth it. Such is the case with Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo. The cost for a bottle of this elixir is upwards of $420 in a restaurant. Mangekyo has the transcendent taste of a perfect daiginjo. Smooth, soft and silky, this beautiful sake is aged at a low temperature for two years for added depth. Production of this sake is limited to only 400 bottles per year, adding rarity to it’s many allures. I had the good fortune to taste this sake this year as part of a tasting set at a Tedorigawa event at Sakagura. Rare, expensive and worth it.

“Best in Show”



And the Masu goes to:
Masumi Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu

For the first time, my “Best in Show” sake is going to a junmai ginjo… and what a jumnai ginjo it is. The yearly release of the Masumi Brewery’s Masumi Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu is an event anxiously awaited by many a sake fan, myself included. The reason this sake was picked is its infallible drinkability. When in season and fresh, this nama is so good, I’d take it on an IV drip – you just can’t get enough. Bold, rich in fruit flavors on the palate and exceedingly smooth despite the 18% alcohol content, this dreamy unpasteurized brew is a consistent winner. So here’s a toast to what you can call “Springtime in a bottle” a.k.a Masumi Arabashiri. This could very well be the perfect Nama!

So there you have it! Congratulations and Kanpai to all the winners! I’m looking forward to a sake filled 2013 with lots of sake sipping, learning and loving. My special thanks to all sake producers and drinkers I met in 2012 – let’s make next near the year of sake in the USA! Kanpai and Happy New Year to everyone!

See Previous Golden Masu winners here:

Exploring Sake in Glorious Gifu

I recently visited Gifu Prefecture for the first time. I was lucky enough to be invited to tag along on Sake Discoveries’ tour of Gifu guided by JETRO this past October. Over just a few days, we crisscrossed the Prefecture, visiting many sake breweries and experiencing some truly unique parts of Gifu’s culture. It was like discovering a new side of Japan’s sake scene that I didn’t know existed. Below is a brief outline of what I experienced and the highlights of this unforgettable trip exploring sake in glorious Gifu!

Nihon Izumi Shuzo

The Takeyama Brothers make Nihon Izumi Sake in Gifu City

Moments after arriving in Gifu City’s Shinkansen Station, I was already walking into my first Gifu Sake Brewery. This is because Nihon Izumi Shuzo is just steps away from the station. It’s an extremely unique brewery run by the Takeyama brothers. What makes this small Brewery special is that all their production takes place in an office building basement! The production scale is small, but the sake they produce is top notch and really delicious. Given its compact size, touring the Brewery took just minutes, but I wanted to linger much longer over the tasting. This first stop in Gifu really surprised me. Sake can be made anywhere and Nihon Izumi proves it deliciously.

Hayashi Honten

Eiichi Brewery in Gifu

Our next stop was a short drive from Gifu City, taking us to the town of Kakamigahara. This is the home of Hayashi Honten, makers of Eiichi brand of sake. The Toji gave us a personal tour. The first thing that struck me was the size and vast scale of this Brewery. They are currently making a lot less then their capacity, but now their focus is on quality over quantity. Specialty items include a oak barrel aged sake and a fun pop art influenced “sakedelic” brew. They certainly get points for creativity! I really enjoyed visiting Eiichi.

Nagaragawa Ukai, Cormorant Fishing

Fireworks signal the start of the Ukai Cormorant Fishing on the Nagaragawa River

Cormorant fishing, known as Ukai in Japanese, is synonymous with Gifu’s Nagaragawa River. It’s an ancient form of fishing practiced at night, under a bright burning wood fire, where captive cormorant birds are used to retrieve river fish using their natural hunting instincts. We met Cormorant Fishing Master Masahiko Sugiyama who gave us the low down on how this all works. The title of Cormorant Fishing Master, as designated by the Emperor, is strictly hereditary and handed down from father to son only. Ukai watching parties are popular and you can go out on a boat and watch the birds up close. it’s an amazing experience, and we got so close, that I could feel the heat from the fire on my face. Incredible to see up close. Our boat even had a Gifu Maiko who entertained us non stop until the birds were ready to do their thing. truly and unforgettable night!

Ohashi Ryoki Masu Factory

Mr. Ohashi instructs us on the ins and outs of making Masu

Sake culture extends beyond just what you can drink. A perfect example of this was our visit to the Ohashi Ryoki Masu Factory. Now a masu is a square wooden box traditionally used for drinking sake. Mr. Ohashi’s family has been making these masu for over 60 years.

In the sake business, you see these masu everywhere, but I had never stopped to think how they were made. A visit to Mr. Ohashi’s factory cleared up all that. I learned about the elegant Japanese Cypress, better known as “Hinoki” that is used to craft these beautiful boxes. Hinoki is the wood chosen to make the oldest wooden temples in Japan and is also often used to build Japanese baths as well.

The wonderful morning spent at Ohashi Ryoki Masu Factory really opened my eyes to the work that craftsmen like Mr. Ohashi are doing not only to preserve the ancient craft of making a Masu, but also to advance the art. A case in point is the fun new shapes that they are using – not just four corners any more! and also laser etching designs on the boxes allows for fun and exciting design! Kanpai for masu! the best is yet to come.

Takeuchi Sake Brewery

President Masafumi Takeuchi shows us his sake museum

Located in Ogaki city, Gifu, Takeuchi Shuzo is a brewery with a little something extra – namely, a wonderful tribute to the history of sake brewing. Up the stairs and to the left, behind the door is the old Koji room, which brewery president Mr. Takeuchi has converted into a makeshift museum. Here you can see many of the implements used to make sake in the past centuries – most interesting of which is the husk fill in the koji table itself… a 19th century solution on how to retain heat and keep the koji warm.

Mr. and Mrs. Takeuchi welcomed us with a wonderful tasting and a spirited discussion of all things sake… from bottle shape and size to taste and preferences of the foreign market. A beautiful time and a wonderful brewery.

Tenryo Sake Brewery

Some of the amazing sake selections at Tenryo!

Located in Gifu’s Gero City, Tenryo is arguably the most famous sake from Gifu.

Gero is famous around the world for it’s hot springs and osen culture. what better place to look than Gero city for some of the best water there is. Tenryo does not disappoint with a rich but clean taste. I learned from the Brewer’s family that their taste matches particularly well with the local cuisine and I had a great chance to try that out for myself.

One of the most famous treats was the local Aiyu (sweet fish) that was caught locally and is absolutely delicious. Since Tenryo is widely available in the U.S., I hope you get a chance to try this great sake soon! And there is no law against drinking this sake in the onsen, that’s for sure!

Sake Breweries in Furukawa, Gifu

Streets of Hida Furukawa, Gifu

Next we visited two sake breweries in Hida Furukawa, Gifu. This charming town is laced with wide canals filled with bulky koi fish swimming against a strong current. First we visted Kaba sake Brewery with a tour guided by their toji. After the tour, the Managing Director Atsuko Kaba gave us a delicious tasting of their sakes.

Next we walked down the street to Watanabe Sake Brewery, makers of Horai brand Sake. Brewery President Mr. Watanabe toured us around his beautiful brewery and we also met Cody-san, their American Kurabito. We sat down for a wonderful tasting and discussion about promoting sake in both Japan and the States. Furukawa is a beautiful town with beautiful sakes!

Sake Breweries in Takayama, Gifu

At Hirase Sake Brewery

Last but not least was our wonderful visit to Takayama, Gifu. This town is very well known within Japan as a major tourist destination, and once I arrived there, I understood why. The old city of Takayama is beautifully preserved in the Edo style, and feels quite a bit like stepping back in time. Another beautiful thing is the number of sake breweries that are concentrated in this quaint little town. We visited at least five in one day. They are all visitor friendly and within easy walking distance of each other.

The breweries we visted included Hirase Shuzo, makers of Kusudama brand sake, Harada Sake Brewery, Makers of Sansha brand sake, Niki Shuzo, Funasaka Sake Brewery and Kawashiri sake brewery, Makers of Hidamasamune koshu sake. In short, Takayama was magical… for now it feels like my hidden little secret, but won’t be for long!

Koyoido Sake “Toy Box” Ceramics Exhibition in Kyoto

Ceramic artists Ren & Rie of Koyoido at the Sake “Toy Box” exhibit in Kyoto

When I was a small child, our dentist would (if we navigated the appointment without too many tears) let us pick out a toy from this giant toy chest in his office. I remembered those fun moments of rummaging through Dr Woods’ toy chest when I found out my recent trip to Kyoto in Japan was overlapping with the latest and greatest sake ceramics exhibit by the cutest sake couple in Kyoto, Ren and Rie Uehara of Koyoido Ceramics Atelier.

The exhibit was a blast with the theme being nothing less than: “The Joyful Toybox for childlike Drinkers“. Yes, we’re talking toy-inspired sake cups, carafes and all kinds of extremely fun sake stuff. The Ueharas recently welcomed a new addition to their family, their daughter Horo, and I can only surmise that tripping over a baby toy or two may have been the inspiration for the toy box sake exhibit.

I was completely charmed not only with the cute as a button Uehara family, but also with their smart and funny sake ceramics. Everything they created for the show demonstrated dedication, skill, and a keen wit keeping with their history of intelligent design.

vroom, vroom! sake cups on matchbox wheels.

Lots of Cups, Ochoko and Masu have funny winking smiling faces on them, which I think gets to the core of their exhibit – exploring the smiley, child-like state we can get into after a few rounds of excellent sake.

One of my favorite pieces included a working spinning-top sake cup with a bold red stripe design that would appeal to any child-like drunkard. How they got that balance to work so perfectly is beyond me, but it was a wonderful sake toy to be sure.

Another winning piece was what I call the “Matchbox ochoko”. a cute sake cup on a pair of matchbox wheels. If it wasn’t spilling my Daiginjo, I would be popping wheelies all the way down the kitchen table. These cups were serious FUN!

My special thanks to Ren, Rie and Horo for welcoming me to their wonderful exhibit. I haven’t had this much fun since my last filling!

Visiting Tomita Shuzo – Shiga’s Shichihonyari

Tomita-san sprinkling Koji spores on freshly steamed rice at Tomita Shuzo

I first saw Tomita Shuzo in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture on a visit I took there in 2008. It’s interesting to note that it seems both a lot and nothing has changed. The brewery is still making small batches by hand with a small staff and achieving amazing results. But on the other hand, you can sense that Shichihonyari is now a more famous and sought after brand and even a destination for sake-loving tourists, whom I saw popping into the brewery sake shop with regularity on this most recent trip.

Hanging right above the entrance to the brewery is a wooden plaque carved with the name “Shichihonyari”. This plaque is famous as it was carved by Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883 – 1959), who is widely acknowledged as a creative genius in Japan and is most well known for his works in ceramics and as a master of calligraphy. It also doesn’t hurt that Shichihonyari was Rosanjin’s favorite sake.

Famous “Shichihonyari” sign carved by the creative genius Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883-1959)

On the day we were there, we saw rice steaming in action. This was a hot, fast-paced maneuver. Rice was steamed and hoisted over to the cooling conveyor belt on which the warm rice, that was heading for the koji room, also got a sprinkling of koji spores. As Tomita-san supervised and regularly checked the rice temperature, the kurabito shuffled the rice into bins that were then whisked to the koji room. Speed was of the essence and everybody brought it – working together, sweating and working hard. So much goes on behind the scenes that translates into that bottle of sake on your table. It was amazing to watch.

I think the magic of Shichihonyari is that it is an ancient brewery – one of the oldest in Japan, still working on an artisanal scale, but powered by young people wanting to make a difference. If that doesn’t qualify as “craft sake”, nothing would. In the U.S., Shichihonyari is now selling 3 sakes which will give you an excellent idea of the taste and vision of this brewery. I hope you get a chance to try Shichihonyari soon, and experience for yourself everything that made Rosanjin such a big fan.

Visiting Shata Shuzo – Ishikawa’s Tengumai

Shata’s Toji gives us a taste of the Moromi!

One of the most well known sakes in Ishikawa Prefecture is Shata Shuzo’s Tengumai. I recently had the opportunity for return trip to Ishikawa and didn’t want to miss another chance to see the latest goings on at Tengumai. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the brewery by the Master Brewer (Toji) and I enjoyed sampling sake right from the moromi tank… this is a rare treat!

Koji ready for the next step!

We also spent a fair amount of time touring the Koji Muro or Koji making room. Outside the koji room itself were large trays of stacked koji, fished and waiting for it’s next step – addition to the main mash or yeast starter. Each batch of Koji was marked with unique markings that tell which step of the brewing process the koji is meant for. These markings are quite beautiful and fun to look at… and a piece of living sake history too

At the end of the tour, we got to sample some sakes which included Shata’s Go-Rin brand as well as Tengumai. The weather was beautiful this day and coming off such a beautiful brewery tour, it make the sake taste just that much more delicious.

Visiting Miyasaka Brewery – Nagano’s Masumi

Outside Masumi’s beautiful “Cella Masumi Sake Shop” with Mr. & Mrs. Miyasaka.

Miyasaka Shuzo’s Masumi is a well known and well loved brand of sake in the U.S. and one that was among the very first sakes I ever tried. It was therefore a long, long overdue visit, when the stars aligned and I got a chance to visit Nagano Prefecture for the first time and see the home of the beloved Masumi Arabashiri for myself!

Plaque at Masumi marking the location of the birthplace of “Nanano” or #7 yeast.

Mr. Miyasaka, President of Masumi, gave us a tour of the two Masumi Breweries, the original “Suwa Kura” and the larger “Fujimi Kura” which opened in 1982. The Suwa Kura is still in operation and has the distinction of being the birthplace of the famous “nanago” or Number 7 sake yeast, first identified in 1946, when Masumi swept the national Sake appraisal awards using this newly discovered yeast. A plaque marks the location of that first fermentation tank that used number 7 yeast… a yeast that is still used by 60% of breweries throughout Japan and a true point of pride for Masumi Brewery.

Inside the beautiful “Cella Masumi Shop”

The Brewery Tour concluded at the Cella Masumi Shop – a wonderful store managed and curated with great love and attention to detail by Mr. & Mrs. Miyasaka. The shop is one of the most beautiful stores of it’s type I’ve ever seen. Certainly, there is sake for sale in a beautiful refrigerated cabinet. But the shop also features a glorious selection of sake cups, carafes, trays, sets and the like, all of the highest quality. The shop also features food, gifts, and all manner of wonderful goodies for the sake inclined. If you’re anywhere near Nagano, it’s worth a trip to Suwa to drop in on Cella Masumi Shop, for sure.

My sincere thanks to the Miyasaka family for welcoming me so warmly to their home and brewery. I have a deeper appreciation for their wonderful sakes having seen where they are made up close and personal. Now I know next year’s Arabashiri will taste all the better for it.

Sake Discoveries & Kaburaki Kutani Ware at BoConcept

Chizuko with Mr. Kaburaki

Last night was a night of beautiful sake and Kutani Porcelain at the elegant BoConcept store in Chelsea. Organized by our friend Chizuko of Sake Discoveries, the event featured a range of top end sakes and a display of gorgeous porcelain made by Kaburaiki Kutani Ware and on hand as a special guest was kinomo-clad Mr. Motoyoshi Kaburaki, the 8th generation owner.

The sakes presented were really an all star lineup! There was Dassai, Tengumai, Hakkaisan, Amabuki, Tatenokawa, Daishichi and Nanbu Bijin. I think that premium sake and the beautiful porcelain from Kanazawa was a match made in heaven. I am a firm believer that sake tastes better from more beautiful glassware. It certainly enhances the experience and heightens the senses.

The setting of BoConcept was also fun. It felt like being in an elegant Manhattan loft… well, one that had 7 stylish living rooms! Oh, and yummy hors d’oeuvres provided by Moto Creative Services. Loved the chicken teriyaki bites over rice.

All in all, a beautiful night of sake, fun and wonderful people… and it doesn’t hurt that I was able to pick out a new sofa and coffee table for my dream apartment along the way.

Learn more about Kaburaki Kutani Ware here:

Kaburaki Shoho Kutani Ware
1-3-16 Nagamachi,Kanazawa city, Ishikawa, 920-0865
Telephone +81 76 221 6666

Akita Fall Sake Tasting 2012

Akita Sake Happi Coat

The genius behind the Akita Sake Club’s bi-annual tasting event is that, contrary to the name, they don’t limit their sakes to Akita sakes only. About half are from Akita, but it’s a wonderful chance to taste sakes from all over Japan with an emphasis on Akita.

This event was also the debut of some spiffy new Happi coats (featuring Akita’s famous Namahage) worn by volunteers pouring sake.

The event was packed! Lots of sake fans came from all over the city to eat some traditional Akita foods and pair that with wonderful Akita Sakes.

IWC award winning sake Fukukomachi

A special treat this year was the Daiginjo Fukukomachi from the Akita Kimura Shuzo. This sake was the International Wine Challange Champion Sake for 2012. What a treat to try this brew! I went back a few times for a taste of this delicious, smooth and subtle sake. It had a wonderful rounded flavor with a short finish – and sublime balance. Well done!

If you want to attend a Akita sake event in the future, Check out the Urban Sake Calendar regularly or like us on Facebook to keep up to date on all the Akita events!

Fukuju Night at Sakagura

Fukuju Tasting set

Last night, I enjoyed another fun night of sake at Sakagura. Fukuju brand, made by Hoygo’s Kobe Shushinkan Brewery was celebrated and they offered a tasting set for all the guests.

Visiting directly from the brewery was Mr. Kubota. Each guest who ordered the tasting set received a cute ochoko (sake cup) with the Fukuju logo. Mr. Kubota visited each guest and introduced his sakes personally. This type of one on one connection is something I feel really helps the sake industry to connect with the U.S. market.

Mr. Kubota, Yukie Hashimoto and Mr. Akaboshi at Sakagura’s Fukuju Night

The three sakes in the set included the delicious Fukuju Junmai Ginjo and the Fukuju Mikageko Junmai as well as the delicious Fukuju Junmai Unpasteurized (not yet for sale in the U.S.).

The event was a wonderful exploration of this sake from Kobe. Smooth, delicious and food friendly, all the things you want in a well-crafted sake. Look for Fukuju on a sake menu near you!

Hiyaoroshi Hijinks: Nov. 2012 Urban Sake Tasting Club!

Hiyaoroshi Time!

Last night was the second Urban Sake Tasting Club Event! We held our event at Sakagura and focused this time on Hiyaoroshi Sakes, which are also known as “Fall Namas”.

We started the meeting with a fun “kagami biraki” which is a ceremonial breaking open of the sake barrel. We had a handy tabletop version (from Shichihonyari Brewery) that we used to formally open our event. It was a lot of fun cracking open the barrel! The first sake was then poured for everyone to enjoy and to do our Kanpai!

Kagami Biraki

The three Hiyaoroshi sakes we sampled at this meeting were Denshin Aki Namazume Hiyaoroshi Genshu Junmai, Urakasumi Tokubetsu Junmai Hiyaoroshi Namazume and Wakatake Aki No Ki-Ippon Namazume Hiyaoroshi Tokubetsu Junmai. Phew! those are some long names, but Hiyaoroshi boils down to the fact that it is only pasteurized once, before storage/cellaring for about 6 months. It’s released in the autumn season and had a distinctive, fun flavor that pairs beautifully with autumnal foods.

Speaking of foods, Sakagura prepared a wonderful appetizer of seared scallop over cucumber with a mango-egg yolk sauce. Delish!

Everyone with their favorite Hiyaoroshi!

After a brief lesson on Hiyaoroshi, we tasting all the sakes and compared our notes. Everyone had their own favorite! Then for the final hour of our meeting, we just let our hair down and had a lot of fun.

If you’re interested in joining the club yourself, you can sign up for our December 2012 Urban Sake Tasting Club event now! See the event listing here. Hope to see you there!

Thanks to Sakagura and to all the Urban Sake Tasters for joining me! See you in December!

Fukuju Sake Tasting at Sakaya

Mr. Kubota from Fukuju

Hyogo’s own Kobe Shushinkan Brewery recently made their debut of their “Fukuju” brand at New York’s most famous sake store Sakaya.

Mr. Kubota came directly from the Brewery to introduce his sakes here in New York. On this night, he was pouring Fukuju Mikageko Junmai and Fukuju Junmai Ginjo.

Fukuju Mikageko Junmai is an elegant but full bodied junmai sake. it was fun to try this sake at room temperature to really pick up on the lovely Hyogo rice taste on the palate. Hyogo Prefecture is so famous for rice, so this was a perfect fit.

The delicious Fukuju Junmai Ginjo was served slightly chilled which brought out the delicious fruity aromas and smooth body of this premium sake. Clean and beautiful, this sake is milled to an astounding 50% which lends such an air of elegance to this sake. It’s really enjoyable!

Be sure to check out Fukuju sake the next chance you get. The quality is superb and it’s a sake from the heart of Japan’s most famous sake rice region of Hyogo. Get ready to be wowed!

Kyoto Brewery Visit: Kinoshita Shuzo – Tamagawa

Earlier this year, Mr. Philip Harper, master sake brewer at Kyoto’s Kinoshita Sake Brewery came to NYC to promote his outstanding Tamagawa brand of sake. I used the opportunity to snag not only an interview with Philip, but also finagled an opportunity to visit his brewery in Kyoto.

Outside Kinoshita Shuzo, Makers of Tamagawa

When I was planning my trip to Japan, Philip warned me that his workplace was, well, let’s say ‘off the beaten path’. While it’s certainly within Kyoto Prefecture, it’s a solid 3 hour train trip each way from Kyoto City itself. I persevered, as there was, outside of touring the brewery and having the amazing opportunity to taste the full time of Tamagawa sakes, one thing driving me: the chance to taste the famous Tamagawa sake soft serve ice cream, which I really enjoyed.

Below is a gallery of photos from Tamagawa. Check them out and be sure to give Philip’s sake a try if you can. It’s unique, bold and really popular on both sides of the pond. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to taste the aged sakes. My special thanks to Philip Harper and Kinoshita Brewery for the wonderful tour, which I won’t soon forget.

Kyoto Brewery Visit: Masuda Tokubee Shoten: Tsukinokastura

Masuda Tokubee Shoten, makers of Tsukinokatsura brand sake are famous in Japan and throughout the world. They sell their sakes from Kyoto to New York, Paris, Berlin and beyond. I received an invitation to visit the brewery and got to see what makes Tsukinokatsura special. This brewery was founded in 1675!

Tokubee Masuda-san pours a tasting at his Kyoto Brewery

Tsukinokatsura makes several wonderful sakes for sale in the U.S., but one thing I learned on this trip, was that they have been aging sakes for years. Seeing their storage room for aging sakes was a revelation! I got to try some of their aged sakes too – just fantastic. Unfortunately, not for sale in the U.S. yet, but I got to sample a few of their aged sakes and they were fantastic.

Visiting the Tsukinokatsura brewery left me understanding better their dedication to sake and it’s traditional methods. But they also help forge a new path and have been aging sake for decades! Look for their sake everywhere!

Sake Samurai Ceremony 2012

This month, I had the wonderful the opportunity to travel to Kyoto, Japan to celebrate with three friends who were each awarded the title of Sake Samurai 2012!

I had the good fortune to be awarded Sake Samurai in 2007, and I’m over the moon to relive these good memories with good friends!

Meet the new Sake Samurai for 2012!

First up is Ayuchi Momose. I first met Momose-san when she was a sake sommelier at Sakagura restaurant. I always had lovely memories of Momose so kindly introducing me to new sakes and so many good nights at Sakagura. Momose has gone on to become the owner of a hot new sake bar in Hong Hong called Sake Bar Ginn. Check it out if you’re ever in Hong Kong!

Next is Sylvain Huet, who runs the popular La Passion du Saké Sake Blog in Paris. Sylvain is the premier sake authority in France and a wonderful guy to boot! We first met in NYC several years ago and connected as fellow sake bloggers. He’s spreading the good word of sake in the capitol of wine. Salut!

Chizuko being awarded Sake Samurai at Shimogamo Jinja in Kyoto Japan. Together with Sekiya-san of Horaisen Sake Brewery.

Last but not least is our dear friend Chizuko Niikawa Helton. Chiz also started her sake career at Sakagura Restaurant and went on to found her own sake PR and promotion company called Sake Discoveries, LLC. Chiz is well known in NYC for organinzing all kinds of sake event, tastings, fundraisers and, well, you name it! Anything related to sake, and Chiz is most likely a part of the action. I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with Chiz for several years. Congratulations!!

The Ceremony itself was little changed since 2007. I’ve found more than anything, I’ve changed! Since I became Sake Samurai 5 years ago, I’ve left my day job and devoted my work full time to the sake industry. It’s been quite the evolution! I still remember how nervous I was in 2007, but I hope I’ve grown a lot since then.

Sake Samurai Ceremony 2012 at Shimogamo Jinja in Kyoto Japan.

I want to extend my sincere congratulations to Momose, Sylvain and Chizuko. Three fantastic Sake Samurai doing good sake work around the globe! Here’s a Kanpai for lots of good sake events ahead!

Our First Urban Sake Tasting Club!

Urban Sake Tasting Club

One of my big sake goals for this year was to start a tasting club in New York City. My idea was to create a monthly meeting where folks can come together and learn a little something about sake, taste something delicious and, of course, have some fun!

Well, as of Oct 8th, we’re wheels up on Urban Sake Tasting Club!

Tenzan, Narutotai, Born: All Genshu!

The Genshus for our tasting set were Jizake Tenzan Junmai Genshu, Narutotai Nama Genshu Ginjo and Born Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai Daiginjo.

Sakagura also provided us with a wonderful appetizer to enjoy with our Sake. This time it will be a delicious “Kinoko no Ohitashi” (Seasonal Mushroom seasoned with Bonito Infused Soy). This was a great mix of several fall mushrooms! yummy!

Check out our Urban Sake Tasting Club page for updates and info about our next meetings! Hope to see you there!

NY Mutual Trading Show 2012

Mutual Trading Company has a wonderful trade show each year showcasing their food and sake products. It’s not open to the general public, but for industry folks, it’s something to look forward to each year.

Somehow, this year again, I managed to finagle my way in and enjoyed a lot of good sake. Check out the gallery below for snapshots and comments on the different sakes to discover at Mutual Trading! Kanpai for lots of good sake!

Sake Day Adventure at Sakagura

Sake Day!

Santa Claus has Christmas, Leprechauns have St. Patrick’s Day and I’ve got Sake Day. Designated as the official start day each year to the fall sake brewing season, it’s also a darn good reason to get out there and taste some sake.

Sakagura had an offer I couldn’t refuse. We’re talking about 7 Daiginjo sakes by the glass for a special price of $10.01 each (regular price $50 -23 per glass each). Mama mia, that’s the way to celebrate Sake day!

I started with Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo. This sake has the transcendent taste of a perfect daiginjo. Smooth, soft and silky, this beautiful sake is aged at a low temperature for two years for added depth. Production of this sake is limited to only 400 bottles per year. Clean, light, bright and seductive, drinking this sake at $10.01 a glass was virtual highway robbery, but I enjoyed very sip.

Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo

Next I tried the iconic Daishichi Horeki Junmai Daiginjo Kimoto. This is a pristine, perfect Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo as only Daishichi can do it. If you think Kimoto type sake is rough and tumble, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted Daishichi. Elegant, effusive, beautiful and pure, this sake is a masterpiece!

Finally I ponied up for a fantastical Junmai daiginjo from Fukui. We’re talking of course about Born’s Yume Wa Masayume Junmai Daiginjo aka “Dreams Come True”. This aged sake is beautiful and rich with a clean palate that leaves you wanting more. It’s said that if you drink this sake, then you have dreams of our future that night. I think I clearly had dreams of drinking more Yume wa Masayume.

Grilled Ika

To wash down all this sake, I ordered a simple Sakagura appetizer of grilled squid. This was perfect to balance out all the fine flavors of sake with some clean grilled ika. delicious!!

Here’s hoping you had a wonderful, sake filled “Nihonshu no hi” or “Sake Day”! Sake production has stared in Japan and we’ve only got more and more wonderful sakes to look forward to in this brewing year! And here’s a big Kanpai to that! Thanks to Sakagura for the wonderful Sake Day celebration! Here’s to next year! Kanpai!!

Joy to the World: The 2012 New York Joy of Sake Tasting

That’s a lot of sake

The Annual Joy of Sake Event is the largest sake tasting outside of Japan, featuring over 350 sakes to taste, study and enjoy in an action packed 3 hours. This year’s Joy of Sake was a fun whirlwind as usual with table, upon table, upon table of delicious sakes to explore and lots of great sake friends, old and new, to catch up with.

Separated over two levels, sake and food from several top restaurants, are well placed and easy to navigate. The sake was judged back in July at the U.S. National Sake Appraisal held in Honolulu.

The results of that blind tasting are discernible on the tables – The entries that receive the highest scores at the Appraisal are marked with gold and silver stars accordingly. These stars let you know what the team of 10 judges liked, but the true test for anyone is to sample for yourself!

Yoshida Family Pouring Tedorigawa

Going up against this many sakes is certainly overwhelming to mind, body and palate, so I try to keep it fun and enjoy myself along the way.

This event also gives you the chance to talk to Sake Brewers who fly in just for this tasting. If you didn’t make it this year, don’t miss your chance next September!

One thing is for sure, by attending this mega-tasting, you’re certain to befriend a new sake… and find a new sake friend! Here’s to both! Looking forward to seeing you next year, Joy!

JFC Sake Expo 2012

Akiko Ohashi with Akira Sake

JFC is one of the premier importing companies that bring sakes into the U.S. and as such they have a yearly trade show which I was lucky enough to attend this year.

JFC has some wonderful sake brands in their portfolio and this year, I got to do one of my favorite things – to meet sake brewers from Japan and talk to them about their sakes. I got in a few questions in my broken Japanese, but in the end we all spoke the language of Nihonshu!

Let’s start with some of the brands that were new to me this time!

Takenosuke Yasufuku with Fukuju Sake

I really enjoyed trying this sake from Kobe – we’re talking about Fukuju sake from Kobe Shinshukan Brewery. This sake in the beautiful blue bottle was extremely balanced and elegant. Refined and pure – Loved it! Brewery President Takenosuke Yasufuku introduced me to this gem. Delicious!

Next I enjoyed a brew from Yamagata Prefecture. I’m talking about a delicious sake from Hatsumomidi Brewery: Harada Muroka Nama Junmai Ginjo. I enjoyed speaking with Brewery President Mr. Yasuhiro Harada. I think I surprised him when I mentioned I’ve been to Yamaguchi several times. This sake was rich and delicious. It’s a satisfying, full bodied, undiluted Muroka style sake.

Later, I got a chance to try some brands that I knew already and really enjoyed trying again, looking under the hood and kicking the tires.

Takakasu Nate with Kurosushi Sake

One recent favorite was Kuroushi Black Bull Junmai Ginjo from Nate Shuzoten Sake Brewery in Wakayama. This Junmai Ginjo is milled to 50% and is a fresh, smooth and citrus-y brew with a touch of richness. It’s instantly like-able and so easy to enjoy.

I got a chance to talk to Brewery President Takakazu Nate and he seemed quiet and reserved, but I think I know – he let’s his sake do the talking. Once sip and you’ll get it.

Next I enjoyed meeting Mareko Shinjo, Senior Managing Director at Suehiro Sake Brewery. This Fukushima brewery has a wide range of sakes being imported into the USA. The most well known may be the Suehiro Ken Daiginjo. It has a fruity aroma and a bit of a dry finish.

Kakutaro Kubo of Ippongi Sake Brewery with Yukie Hashimoto from Sakagura

Now JFC has lots of well known breweries, which made this event such a wonderful experience. In addition to the above, I also enjoyed talking to Akiko Ohashi representing Akira Organic Junmai Sake. I had the pleasure of visiting Kanazawa Daiichi and it was great to see Ohashi-san again! I also caught up with Kubo-san from Ippongi Kubo Honten Sake brewery and I got a taste of his secret Umeshu – Spicy! Plus they had their wonderful seasonal Nama selection on display – watch for it around town.

Shindo-san pouring Gasanryu Sake!

I also had the pleasure of seeing Mr. & Mrs. Murai from Asabiraki Sake Brewery. I’m still dreaming of my sip of Kyokusen Junmai Daiginjo. Last year I also visited Masunobu Shindo in Yamagata. He brews the outstanding Gasanryu Sakes. Always delicious!

Last but not least, I also tasted the wonderful sakes of Daishichi Sake Brewery in Fukushima. These sakes are wonderful and really transport you to another place and time. Really wonderful to enjoy these sakes and taste the full range again. They represent a true achievement in Kimoto sake brewing technique! give them a try!

The JFC event was so much fun, and I learned, and tasted a lot, too. It is always so eye opening to meet the brewers who make the sake happen. Always a thrill. Can’t wait to explore the JFC brews next year!!

Getting to Know Asabiraki at Sakagura

Mr & Mrs. Murai from Asabiraki Sake Brewery with Sakagura General Manager Yukie.

I didn’t know much about Asabiraki Sake Brewery in Iwate, but Sakagura gave me a chance to fix all that. They invited Brewery President Mr. Yoshitaka Murai to introduce his sakes at a special tasting event last week.

First things first. As soon as I got there I sat down and ordered the tasting set – it was an eclectic, engaging and ranged from Junmai Daiginjo to Honjozo to Umeshu. Here is a rundown of the Asabiraki tasting set I enjoyed at Sakagura:

Asabiraki Tasting Set:

The Kyokusen Junmai Daiginjo was dreamy and intricate. Hints of dark fruit on the palate with a light handed finish. This sake is expensive and extremely high quality. I chose to drink this sake first and as I was waiting for my food, I simply savored every sip. It’s wonderful as an aperitif.

Asabiraki Tasting Set

Next I tried the Honjozo Namachozo. Brewery President Mr. Murai told me that it’s been his longtime dream to bring this sake the the U.S. This sake is light and clean with a definite brightness. I really enjoyed this sake with my Sakagura tuskune Japanese chicken meatball. This Honjozo is almost tailor made for some yummy izakaya food. Another point is that this sake is delicious but made to be affordable. The bottle is also cool. Murai-san told me it was his custom design. It looks like a frozen ice, which reflects the recommendation to serve this sake a bit colder. delicious.

Asabiraki Honjozo Namachozo

Finally, I enjoyed the Ume Kanon Junmai Umeshu. This sake is made from pure junmai and has a nice balance between sweet and tart. I also enjoy plum sake like this that is lower in alcohol. the Ume Kanon clocking in at a light and breezy 12.5%. Enjoy this chilled, with dessert or even AS dessert!

Even though I didn’t know a lot about Asabiraki Brewery before, I’m sure glad I got a chance to acquaint myself with them last week. They import quite a few sakes, so I’m looking forward to learning even more. But the one thing I do know for sure – trying new sakes always leads to great, and delicious, discoveries!

Sake Night at Family Recipe

It’s always fun to try a new restaurant, but it’s especially fun to try a new restaurant when they are having a big sake party! This was my recent experience with Family Recipe, a Japanese home style cooking place open since 2011 down on Eldridge Street.

On August 29th, they held their first Family Recipe’s Sake Social Night! Sakes were provided by KuramotoUS with a wonderful food menu made by Family Recipe.

One of my favorite dishes of the night was the delicious Heritage Pork Belly Buns. I wish I had a picture to show you, but I was so focused on actually eating them, there was absolutely no time for snapshots. There was time however for pairing with sake – and speaking of sake, here is an overview of the evening’s sakes:

Sake Selection at Family Recipe’s Sake Event!

As for pairing, The Chiyomusubi Ryo Junmai Ginjo was an excellent match for the pork bun – it had a great dry backbone that worked exceedingly well with the juicy heritage pork.

As for dessert, they served super cute mini ice cream cones with either sake kasu or green tea icecream. Again, I was eating too fast to take any pictures, but trust me – super cute and yummy. For the dessert-y beverages, I really enjoyed both the plum-y acidity of the Ippongi Ginkobai Umeshu and the refreshing bit of the Yuzu Omoi Junmai, which one guest described as “Sake Limoncello” – yup, that pretty well sums it up!

Thanks to Family Recipe for the great event – Can’t wait to try this place again for dinner. And I promise I’ll eat slowly enough to get pictures next time.

Joy of Sake Kick Off Party at Blue Ribbon Izakaya

Tasting at the Joy of Sake Kick Off Party

Sake Season is upon us! Things seemed to really get cooking with a recent event at Blue Ribbon izakaya. It was a lovely evening at the event was hosted out on the “kanpai garden” terrace – a really beautiful setting… with the backdrop of the setting sun!

Chris Pearce got things rolling with an introduction to the event, how we would be tasting and of course a mention for the main Joy of Sake event happening on September 20th. But, this event was like an appetizer… a sake amuse bouche, if you will, to get our palates in shape for the main event.

This was my first time to Blue Ribbon Izakaya and I have to say the space impressed. The Joy of Sake kickoff party was in the “kanpai garden” space – a beautiful outdoor terrace… and it was a perfect night to be outside – not to hot, not too humid – just perfect!

The sake selection was perfect, too! There were over 40 sakes in all to try and about 18 of those were not for sale in the U.S. Of the 40 sakes on offer tonight, a full 50% were Daiginjo grade – not bad! One of my favorites was a non-imported “shizuku” or drip sake from Tochigi prefecture called Saran Daiginjo Shizukuzake. It was light, delicate with the slightest hint of minerality on the palate. Imminently drinkable and a smooth operator.

On the Ginjo table, I loved a favorite of mine, the Dewazakura “Omachi” Junmai Ginjo. Wonderful Omachi Rice flavor with that signature Dewazakura fruity-melon component. Like all their sakes this one is an absolute pleasure.

This event left me wanting more and excited for the main Joy of Sake event on Sept 20th. Get your tickets now, if you haven’t already. The Joy of Sake is the big event of the year and you DON’T want to miss it! See you there and check the Urban Sake Events Calendar for all upcoming sake events. Here is to the utter joy of the Joy of Sake! See you in September! Kanpai!

Tatenokawa Times Two!

Kurosu-san with Tatenokawa

Who doesn’t love a twofer?! You know, a good old fashioned two-for-one deal? I recently enjoyed two times the fun in one night exploring consecutive sake events both dedicated to Yamagata’s fantastic Tatenokawa Brewery.

The evening started at a free tasting of Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo at Sakaya. Doling out the goods was Brewery Rep Kurosu-san. It was great to taste this elegant sake again. With an insane milling rate of 33%, this luxurious treatment of the rice ensures a smooth as silk and easy drinking sake experience. Well priced and well received, this is a sake to savor.

Grilled white asparagus

The next stop was just down the block from Sakaya – we’re talking Robataya. Oh, ya ya ya! Robataya was offering a special tasting set on this night – a tasting of Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo and Tatenokawa 50 Junmai Daiginjo. Priced at only $10, this tasting set was the steal of the century – incredible sake quality for a song.

At Robataya, I paired my sake with some grilled dishes. The summer white asparagus and purple Japanese imo potato caught my attention and we really enjoyed them with the delicate sake. This left me as one happy sake camper. Made me wish once again, every night could be a sake twofer.

Holy Cow: Tedorigawa Sake at Takashi Yakiniku

As a frequent traveler to Japan, when it comes to “challenging” food items I’ve come across (think fish eye collagen, fermented squid intestine, slimy natto soybeans) I own up to my limits and know when to wave the white flag and admit defeat. Raised on the standard American diet, sometimes my palate just goes on strike when faced with an exotic Japanese delicacy worthy of Fear Factor.

As I learned on a recent visit to Takashi Yakiniku Restaurant for an outstanding Tedorigawa Sake event, I don’t have to travel all the way to Japan to have my gastronomical limits tested. The event was hosted by World Sake Imports and featured special guest Yasuyuki Yoshida, the 6th Genergation Kuramoto from Yoshida Sake Brewery, makers of Tedorigawa brand sake.

The Sake

Sakes served at this event:

Yasuyuki Yoshida

The event description for this evening promised “four fantastic sakes plus a special surprise sake”. Now, when a sake brewer says he’s bringing a “special surprise sake”, you pretty much have to go. (Spoiler Alert: I kinda fell in love with the special surprise sake.)

Yoshida-san did a sake brewing internship at Dewazakura Sake Brewery, so he included the delicious Dewazakura Tobiroku Sparkling Gingo in his sake selection. It was a genius choice – the clean and dry sparkle and bubble tasted great with the steak!

The highlight of this group of really, really good sake was the surprise Tedorigawa “Kokoshu” Daiginjo. Aged for 3 years at very cold temperatures, this Koshu/aged sake was a dream. The body of this sake was ultra smooth and the palate had a ‘loft’ to it that was truly remarkable… it was akin to drinking clouds, if they were made of sake, of course. Needless to day, I heart Tedorigawa “Kokoshu” Daiginjo! From start to finish, all the sake was flawless and flowed generously!

Shock and Eeeew

I give you Testicargot with a side of lemon

On to the food. I stumbled a bit with a few of the “Horumon” dishes served at Takashi. Horumon literally means “discarded goods” and refers to serving organs, guts and offal. (I PROMISE no offal/awful jokes!!!).

The first dish that caused me pause was Nama-Senmai: Flash boiled cow third stomach with spciy miso sauce. This didn’t get better when I was presented Takashi’s Testicargot: Cow testicles served escargot style. The final stumbling block was the Horumon Moriawase: Chef’s selection of offal including cow first stomach, cow fourth stomach, heart, sweetbreads (thymus gland), and liver, all to be grilled at the table yakiniku style. I didn’t touch any of the above with a ten foot pole. But did I go hungry? Not on your life!

Other Meats
Where Takashi really shines for me is in the standard cuts of beef, dressed in delicious marinades and grilled right in front of you at the table. These cuts included beef belly, kobe short rib, harami skirt steak and thinly sliced beef tongue. Followed by a nori wrapped rice ball and some fantastic salty caramel soft serve, I was set!

Hands Across the River

Hands Across the River

As the event was winding down, Yoshida-san thanked all the guests for coming and said a few parting remarks. He explained the meaning of his brand name “Te-Dori-Gawa” which roughly translates to “Hands bridging across the river”. This is a reference to they way people used to cross the river before a bridge was there – people would join hands and form a human chain to span the water.

Then suddenly, without prompting, all the guests at Takashi spontaneously clasped hands down the length of the restaurant and cheered for Te-dori-gawa! Ladies and Gentlemen, that is sake magic at work!

This was a delightful, really fun and gastronomically adventurous event, even if I skipped the really scary stuff. And, seriously, you can’t beat that delicious Tedorigawa Sake. I’d stare down a whole corral of Testicargot for just one more sip of Kokoshu!

Ten-Qoo Tuna and Sawanotsuru at Inakaya

FIsh heads, Fish heads…

Thanks to my friend Chiz over at Sake Discoveries, I was recently able to get a front row seat to something unusual – a bluefin tuna butchering at Inakaya Restaurant. Now, I know the mere mention of bluefin tuna sets off all kinds of eco alarm bells for those of us rightly worried about overfishing and depleted oceans, but this was tuna with a twist. A product of Ten-Qoo Maguro, this tuna was billed as the first farm raised, environmentally friendly and sustainable bluefin tuna production in the world.

When I arrived, we were greeted with a wooden masu full of Sawanotsuru Junmai Genshu as a welcome sake. The 70 lb tuna was laid out on the table and I snagged a front row seat to catch all the Kill Bill action close up. If you’ve ever filleted a whole fish at home, it’s just like that, but just a whole lot bigger.

Sawanotsuru Genshu Junmai

The first step was to remove the head, which was held aloft triumphantly, once it was finally separated from the body. Next the fins and then the top flank were removed to essentially cut the fish horizontally in half and expose the backbone. Next, the other flank was removed and the tail and backbone finally removed.

The big hunks of tuna were then quickly processed down into smaller uniform slabs and removed to the kitchen. Before I knew it, there was very fresh o-toro sushi in front of me ready to eat! Now I know why sushi is considered the original fast food! The taste? it was delicious. And great to enjoy with the Junmai Genshu from Sawanotsuru Brewery.

If you want to see the spectacle of a huge tuna fillet for yourself, Inakaya is offering two more shows on August 17 and 24th, 2012. Check the Urban Sake Event Calendar for details.

Ice, Ice Baby: Enjoying Shichihonyari On the Rocks

Yasunobu Tomita

The good folks at Sakagura have put on another fun and exciting sake brewer event! This time it was Mr. Yasunobu Tomita, executive director of Tomita Shuzo from Shiga. I visited this brewery waaaay back in 2008.

Tomita-san arrived with a trick up his sleeve… he brought with him a new kid on the block: Shichihonyari Junmai Ginjo Nigori sake. I asked him about the profile for this new sake and he told me his goal was to create a nigori with a thick body that was not sweet but more dry and clean. Next, Tomita-san kinda shocked me. He recommended I try his nigori Junmai Ginjo on the rocks. I’d had Nama Genshu sake on the rocks, but not really a nigori.

Chillax! Shichihonyari Nigori on the rocks.

Well, I gave it a try and wowza, was it good. I actually tried on the rocks side by side with the identical nigori with no ice. There really was a difference. I think it effected the temperature, chilling the nigori a bit more and also bringing down the alcohol just a touch with the melting of the ice. Whatever it was, it works! I might have ordered a second carafe of Tomita’s nigori to experiment more with temperature – all in the name of sake science mind you.

Shichihonyari Tasting Set

The Shichihonyari tasting set was rounded out with their elegant but strapping Shichihonyari Shizuku Junmai Daiginjo and the classic, robust and beloved junmai for serving warm, the Shichihonyari Junmai. Everything was delicious and truly indicative of their artisanal nature – hand crafted, solid and elegant.

As a young sake brewer, Tomita-san is part of the new generation of Kuramoto leading us to find unique and fresh ways to enjoy their sake. On the rocks, gently warmed, room temp, chilled in a wine glass – sake can do it all. Now let’s get out there and start experimenting with temperature! I’ll bring the ice.

Tenryo Night at Sakagura

Yummy Tenryo Sakes

Last night was another fun sake tasting event at Sakagura! This time, we were enjoying the sakes from Tenryo Sake Brewery. On hand to introduce the sakes was Mr. Matasuke Uenoda, marketing director of Tenryo Brewery. Tenryo is in Gifu Prefecture – a place I’ve never been and honestly don’t know much about. Uenoda-san brought some brochures showing the beauty of Gifu Prefecture – beautiful landscapes, Japanese hot springs and cultural heritage sites… it all looked very intriguing. I think I have to make a plan to visit Gifu soon!

The Tenryo tasting consisted of 3 sakes:

Tenryo Tasting Set:

Sakagura’s GM Yukie-san with Uenoda-san from Tenryo

Each sake had it’s own unique character. The Tenryo Tobikiri Tokubetsu Junmai doesn’t appear to be sold in the U.S. and uses the special Hidahomare sake rice from Gifu. The second sake, the Tenryo Hidahomare Junmai Ginjo is a beautiful sake that goes well with izakaya food. this sake was so good, I ordered a carafe for myself after my tasting set was long gone. Last but not least I enjoyed the Tenryo Junmai Daiginjo Koshu. This smooth operator of a sake uses pink nadeshiko flower sake yeast and a three year aging process in the bottle in cold temperatures to deepen and round out the flavors. It’s very easy drinking and just plain delicious.

Well, the Olympics may be going on in London right now, but I feel like I won a gold medal in sake appreciation right here in New York City. All those years of training paid off! Thanks to Tenryo and Sakagura for making my Olympic dream come true!

New Video Series: Sake Q&A Tuesday!

Do you have questions about Japanese Sake?! Well I’m serving up sake answers! Today we’re launching a new sake web video series called “Sake Q&A Tuesday!” You can send me your sake questions and each Tuesday I’ll answer one reader’s question in a web video. To submit your question, you can email me at [email protected] or visit and fill out the form to submit your question!

Here is our first question and video, a great question about how to store sake. You can see all videos in the series here. Thanks for watching!

Tedorigawa Glitters at Sakagura

Tedorigawa Tasting set

The event packed schedule at Sakagura rolls on! Last night’s event centered around a beautiful Tedorigawa sake tasting set featuring three standout Tedorigawa Sakes. Each set was presented by Yasuyuki Yoshida, the 6th Genergation Kuramoto from Ishikawa Prefecture’s Yoshida Sake Brewery, makers of Tedorigawa brand sake. Yoshida-san visited every table that ordered the tasting set and introduced his sake and his brewery to the guests. Here is the skinny on the tasting set:

Tedorigawa Tasting Set:

Yukie-san and Yoshida-san

The three Tedorigawa sakes were standouts. The Tedorigawa Kinka Daiginjo Nama is a wonderful summer unpasteurized sake, fresh and juicy. Next, the Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai was a classic yamahai style sake that is a real winner for the lovers of dry sake. Last but not least is the super luxurious Tedorigawa Mangekyo Daiginjo. Yoshida-san told me that they only produce a mere 400 bottles of the beautiful sake every year, making it exceedingly rare. It’s an ephemeral daiginjo with a smooth, silky and elegant body. It’s expensive and worth it.

Gold leaf on Kinka Daiginjo

Yoshida-san treated me to a Ishikawa specialty. Ishikawa prefecture is world famous for it’s production of gold leaf. The Japanese believe that consuming gold leaf is good for your health. I received a sprinkling of gold leaf to top off my cup of Tedorigawa Kinka Daiginjo Nama. You can’t taste the gold when you drink it down, but I couldn’t help feeling like a million bucks on the inside.

As Yoshida-san explained to me, creating the Tedorigawa Kinka Daiginjo Nama was a way to try to express the beauty of Ishikawa Prefecture in a sake. “Kinka” means golden blossom and represents two things Ishikawa is famous for, the plum blossom and gold leaf. The taste is fresh, elegant and evocative, just like beautiful Ishikawa Prefecture. This sense of place and depth of meaning in their sake is one thing that makes Tedorigawa so special. Remember, all that glitters is not gold – it may be your sake! In The Press

Click on a year below to view our Press

March 12, 2018 |
By Mallory Carra
How to Pair Sake With Your Dinner

March 2, 2018 | New York Times
Timothy Sullivan quoted in:
Born in Japan, and Now Made in Brooklyn: Sake

January 30, 2018 | NRP: The Salt
Timothy Sullivan quoted in:
Learning To Love Sake: Japan Ramps Up Efforts To Entice Foreign Markets

April 20, 2017 | LA Weekly Online
Saké Is Beer, Not Wine — and This Documentary About It Is Beautiful

Quoted Tedorigawa Daiginjo Koshu Tasting note:
“As with Jiro Dreams of Sushi, viewers will have an urge after seeing the film to head to the nearest izakaya or sushi bar. In Los Angeles, Sushi Go-55, Mori Sushi and n/naka often carry the Tedorigawa daiginjo made by the Yoshida brewery. Timothy Sullivan of describes it as so light on the palate that it tastes like ”drinking clouds made of saké.” Insight into the traditional beverage-making process will add a new layer to any future saké drinking. “

Press listings from 2016 to be posted soon.

April 2015

NHK World
Our Spring 2015 tour was featured on Japanese TV on the NHK world channel.
Watch the Video

January 1 2014 | Japan Airlines AGORA Magazine (Japanese)

Nov 18, 2013 | Asahi Shinbun, Tokyo
My Point of View (Japanese) [PDF]

July 2, 2013 |

May 23, 2013 |
GOODS: Yaletown’s Minami To Host Event With “Sake Samurai” & Hakkaisan Brewery

April 26, 2013 | Daily Sun New York
大七酒造 (Japanese)

April 2, 2013 |
Hot or Cold Sake?” on


March 12, 2013 |
New York’s Sake Culture Is the Best Outside of Japan

Feb 27, 2013 |
How to Understand a Sake Menu” on


Jan 23, 2013 | NBC 4 New York News

March 2012 | Chopsticks NY
Sneak Peek into Tatenokawa 18 and 50 [PDF]

September 30, 2011 | The Japan Times
Foreign volunteer group helps brewers to rebuild [PDF]

October 2010 | Chopsticks NY
Special Sake Talk

October 1, 2009 | The Japan Times
Sake Day Special: ‘Sake Samurai’ spreads the ‘nihonshu’ word [PDF]

December 2007 | Chopsticks NY
Voice from Dassai 23 Enthusiast [PDF]