Is the Most Expensive Sake the Tastiest? Not Always

Saki Kimura

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    Sake has a range of prices ranging from reasonable to luxurious. Sometimes, buyers say, "Let's buy higher-grade, more expensive sake than usual as a reward to ourselves for our hard work,” or "I’ll celebrate the anniversary with exciting sake!” Like wine and whiskey, the high price bottle is one of the yearnings that fans want to drink.

    On the other hand, although high-quality sake is delicious, of course, the idea that delicious taste is in proportion to the price is not always the correct answer. Let's unify the relationship between "price" and "deliciousness" of sake this time.

    The Secret of Daiginjo (Most Premium Sake)

    Sake has various nicknames according to the manufacturing method, but in general, sake attached with the term "Daiginjo" is set at a higher price than other types of sake. "Daiginjo" means sake has been made by polishing more than 50% of raw rice. To cut a lot, we have to use a lot of rice, and it takes time and labor, so the cost is reflected in the price. Check the Sake Guide for more information on what sake is and how it’s made.

    When you polish rice, the result is a refreshing flavor with a neutral taste (compared to sake with lower degree of rice polishing) and an appealing aroma. For that reason, the high-class sake with "Daiginjo" is suitable for drinking in a wine glass, many of which have a gorgeous fragrance. It can be said that it is a perfect item for a special dinner atmosphere.

    Dassai “23”

    Dassai “23” is widely regarded as one of the best | Courtesy of Asahi Shuzo Co., Ltd. (Dassai)

    In line with that exclusive impression, there are many reasons for sticking to designs, bottles, packages and so on. There are cases where the cost is reflected in the price.

    Your Preference Determines Sake King

    Daiginjo is a gorgeous and tasty sake. However, if Daiginjo is the king of sake and it is "the most delicious", it is not so. Junmai sake, ginjo sake, honjozo sake, futsushu--each kind of sake has their own good points. And "tasty" is determined by your drinking preference.

    Let's think about whiskey, for example. For whiskey, the longer the aging year is, the higher the price will be. Long-aged whiskey (25 years, 30 years... etc) requires maintenance and storage, and these costs are reflected in the price. While aging adds particular characteristics to the taste, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better quality. Some people like aged whiskey with complicated flavors. On the other hand, others prefer younger whiskey (8 years, 12 years...etc.) because it is smooth, easier to drink, friendly to their taste. Aged sakes in fact do cost a bit more than non-aged sakes.

    Daiginjo has a good scent and fruity profile. Other people love sake with different qualities.

    "I like more junmai sake with more rice taste."
    "There is not much scent, refreshing honjozo is easier to drink.”
    "I want to enjoy unique acidity and umami in Yamahai or Kimoto.”

    These are the things some people say. Of course, the person who says, "I want to enjoy various sake by mood!" is my choice companion!

    Various sake

    Sake flights are a great way of experimenting and finding your favorite sake!

    Prepare a Stage Where Sake Shines

    Also, taste is determined not only by your preference but also by the situation. Combination with food is especially important. Sometimes drinking a fruity-scented daiginjo together with sashimi may not be a good pairing, or pairing with a greasy meat dish may overpower the fragile qualities of premium daiginjo. Depending on the cuisine, other types of sake such as junmai or honjozo may be more delicious than daiginjo and vice versa. However, there are various types of Daiginjo so this may not always be the case.

    Although generally speaking, in many cases it often works to drink Daiginjo simply on its own, or just pair it with light appetizers or fruits and vegetables.

    Also, the taste largely changes based to your condition or how long you have been drinking. For example, some rich aromatic daiginjo may not taste as good after a few glasses.

    In other words, each sake has its own suitable occasions.

    Everyone has preferences, and sake of any price has its “occasion” where it can shine. What matters the most is to be flexible and a bit adventurous because the same sake can provide different experiences based on food combinations, dining situations, and even your drinking companions! To be able to truly appreciate sake’s qualities, the secret is to not stick with guidebooks but to believe your senses.

    Saki Kimura

    Saki Kimura

    As a professional writer and editor based in San Francisco, Saki Kimura shares her passion for culinary culture with special focus on Japanese sake. Her extensive knowledge and extraordinary love for sake lead her to becoming a certified sake sommelier. With her unique perspective on flavors and versatility of sake, she guides you through new discoveries and appreciation that you never knew existed.

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