Sake for the Holidays

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I was asked to submit a few sake ideas for the upcoming Christmas Guide for The Bulletin, and decided to choose a few unique sakes this time around. Here’s a preview for you to enjoy. Kanpai!

Hakkaisan Junmai Sparkling Nigori

The snow-capped mountains of Mount Hakkai provide not only a lovely backdrop to Hakkaisan Brewery in Niigata Prefecture, its pristine spring water is used to make the brewery’s famed delicately light and crisp sake. Hakkaisan Sparkling Nigori is highly textured and perfect for entertaining. Nigori is sake that’s been roughly-pressed so some of the rice sediment remains in the bottle. This nigori, however, also has bubbles, enhancing the mouthfeel further. Lively and fun, this sake is mildly sweet with a dry, clean finish and the delicate fragrance of ripe persimmon and Anjou pear.

Pair with a nice medium fat brie or Manchego cheese. Serve lightly chilled.

Available at select BCLDB stores – $24.99 for 360 ml

Kozaemon Junmai Umeshu

This small brewery from Gifu Prefecture approaches their craft with deep respect for sake brewing tradition and a healthy dose of youthful innovation. The three-person production team–all in their 30’s–have incorporated sustainable and forward-thinking approaches to making sake, which bodes well for this 300 year-old brewery’s continued success. Kozaemon’s umeshu is unlike most in the market, which are typically blended with distilled alcohol like shochu and are cloyingly sweet. Kozaemon has created a junmai sake specifically for theirs, adding a depth and gentleness distilled-alcohol umeshu cannot emulate. Softly sweet, balanced with the rounded tartness of the plums, this is a delightful aperitif or digestif that’s perfect for the holidays. It also comes in a handsome elegant bottle that would make for unique and memorable gifting.

Pairs well with a fruit sorbet, but simply perfect on its own. Try it neat at room temperature or add a couple of ice cubes in a rocks glass and enjoy like a whiskey or scotch.

Available at Viti Wine and Lager, Kitsilano Wine Cellar, 16th Street Liquor Store (W Van), Liberty-Park Royal, Liberty-Granville Island – price will vary, approx. $75 for 500 ml

Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold Daiginjo

A more traditional sake than the above choices, this super premium sake, which hails from Hiroshima’s esteemed Kamotsuru Brewery (est.1623), comes with a twist. A technological sake pioneer, Kamotsuru was one of the first to utilize modern rice-milling machines, consequently producing some of the earliest ginjo and daiginjo grade sakes in Japan. The pinnacle of Kamotsuru’s sake is their Tokusei Gold Daiginjo—a lovely soft-on-the-palate sake. Lightly sweet, it’s clean and smooth with touches of anise and cantaloupe. The gorgeous teardrop-shaped bottle (shown above) is a conversation piece in itself, but if you look closely you will see sakura-shaped gold flakes (kinpura) dancing inside.

Pair this with sashimi or light fresh cheeses like burrata and ricotta. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Available at Legacy Liquor Store – $85.25 for 720 ml

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