Traditional crafting and modern technology have led to “America’s favourite sake.”

Takara USA, the American branding for leading Japanese sake brewery Takara Sake, is touted as having the bestselling sake across the border. Based in Berkeley, CA, Takara USA takes advantage of the crisp, pure snow melt of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and rice from the Sacramento Valley. The result is an easy-drinking sake that has people talking.

Takara USA draws on Takara Japan’s 150 years of brewing tradition to offer a range of high-quality sake, from dry to sweet, inexpensive to premium. With such a rich history of sake-brewing tradition behind the brand, it’s no wonder the company’s flagship brand, Sho Chiku Bai, is known as America’s favourite sake.

To get a sense of the fine quality of Sho Chiku Bai sake, it’s necessary to know a little about how the quality of sake is determined. The seimaibuai, or grade of sake, is based on how much the rice is polished. Polishing the rice removes the outer layer to reveal the starch underneath, with more polished rice generally making more refined sake.

Table sake will typically use rice that is polished very lightly or not at all. Honjozo sake falls in the middle; rice for honjozo is polished down by at least 30%. Ginjo sake, the most refined, is made from rice that has been polished down by at least 40%.

Sho Junmai Ginjo sake and Sho Ginjo Nigori sake are two of Takara’s most popular brews. Described as a “connoisseur class” sake, the rice for these beverages is polished down all the way to 50%.

The Sho Junmai Ginjo is made from California rice and ginjo yeast. The yeast allows for a longer fermentation process than usual, which results in sake that goes down ultra-smooth. As well, the ginjo yeast gives Sho Junmai Ginjo a fruity and floral flavour with notes of plum. It has a clear colour and a light, refreshing profile that is great on its own, though it also goes well with mildly flavoured dishes. Try it with sushi or salad.

The Sho Ginjo Nigori features the same silky texture but has a milky colour and a sweeter flavour profile. This sweet Nigori sake is brewed the same way it was 2,000 years ago when sake first appeared in Kyoto, and the traditional brewing process results in some rice settling at the bottom of the bottle, so it’s recommended to give Sho Ginjo Nigori a shake before serving. And both Sho Junmai Ginjo and Sho Ginjo Nigori are best enjoyed chilled.

Ready to get a taste of America’s favourite sake brand? Takara’s Sho Junmai Ginjo and Sho Ginjo Nigori are a great place to start. Both can be found at select LCBO stores in Ontario.