It feels like summer was only yesterday, and behold, it’s already the end of the year! We are rushing around from one office party to another, trying to see all our friends we didn’t even speak to during the year, buying presents, racking our brains about where to put up the Christmas tree this time and planning a menu for a Christmas and/or New Year party.
Champaign and prosecco are two obvious choices to celebrate the end of the year. But why not to be more adventurous? Sake is probably the most versatile alcoholic drink on planet Earth and it will be a great choice for any celebration.
So what sake is the best to pick for the end of the year’s festivities? Here are my 5 choices.
Sohomare Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo “Tuxedo”
The “Tuxedo” nickname suits this sake very well. It’s a very noble and elegant sake with a delicate aroma of pear and toffee. The kimoto brewing method gives it a fuller body and a soft and pleasantly creamy texture. Sohomare Kimoto Junmai Daiginjo “Tuxedo” is a classy sake, which will work perfectly as an aperitif at your Christmas party or pre-dinner drinks.
Serve it in large wine glasses to appreciate the flavour and with umami-rich snacks like goat cheese, Iberico ham or tuna sashimi. Don’t be afraid to experiment: the deeper flavour achieved through the kimoto brewing method will work with a wide range of foods.
Where to buy
Keigetsu “John” Sparkling Junmai Daiginjo
Keigetsu John is an ultimate New Year sake. It’s sparkling and it’s festive. This sake is lighter and fruitier than champagne but drier and more complex than prosecco. Made from carefully brewed junmai daiginjo, It’s clear and has a nice consistency of the bubbles achieved by the carbonation method rather than second fermentation favoured by other breweries.
Keigetsu John is made from locally grown rice and beautifully soft water of the Kochi prefecture. As explained by Muneki Matsumoto, whose family has owned the brewery since 1877, he ” made this Sake for a good friend John, who had always requested a dry style Sparkling Sake and I wanted to meet his kind expectation.”
The sake has a fruity aroma with citrus and young melon notes. It has a relatively dry taste with a pink grapefruit flavour and a slightly zestier finish with enough complexity and body to enjoy on its own as a welcome drink or toasting to a New Year.
Sparkling “John” won the IWC Trophy medal in the sparkling sake category at the IWC Sake Challenge in 2016, the highest award for a sparkling sake in this very prestigious competition. The sake is priced in line with mid-range champagne and is worth every penny!
Where to buy
Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai
Well, so far we have been looking at the pricier end of the sake range. However, it doesn’t have to break a bank. There are plenty of affordable sake you can toast the old year and greet the new one. Nanbu Bijin is one of them.
Translated as a Beauty of the South, Nanbu Bijin became an iconic brewery after its current owner and 5th generation president, Kuji Kosuke, was featured in an excellent documentary about sake, Kampai! For the Love of Sake!
The sake won the “Champion Sake” award at IWC International Wine Challenge in 2017. Tokubetsu in the name means “special” and refers in this case to the 55% polishing ratio, which is much higher than usual 70% for a junmai sake.
Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai is a medium-dry sake with a fruity aroma and a clean finish. It’s amazingly versatile in terms of food pairing. You can easily pair it with a seafood salad or sashimi or with heartier winter food such as a roast chicken or turkey, pies or terrine. Try it and you will love it!
Where to buy
Kasumi Tsuru Kingyo Sparkling Yamahai Junmai Nigori
This nigori sake made by Kasumi Tsuru Brewery, which boasts almost 300 years of history, is a perfect for anyone who prefers sweeter drinks. Nigori means a cloudy sake with some tiny rice particles left after the filtration. It has a very nice creamy texture and usually sweeter than clear sake.
However, Kasumi Tsuru Kingyo is not only sweeter but it’s mildly fizzy which creates a very celebrative character. The sake has a nice fruity aroma with melon and apple notes and a bit of white floral spice. The sweetness is very well balanced by acidity coming from the yamahai brewing method. The alcohol level is relatively low with only 12% ABV.
Another good thing about this sake is that it’s sold in small 250ml bottles, so you can keep then in a fridge to have it always nicely chilled. It’s a bit pricey because of that but hey, it’s New Year time! Overall, it’s a very attractive casual drink to relax at a New Year party and will go with a wide variety of party food.
Where to buy
Golden Amber Junmai Koshu
Now, most of the guests have already left and only your most close friends stayed behind for the last drink. What could be better than the vintage aged sake? Voted “Perfect Sake for a Gift” in 2012’s UK Sake Awards and winner of Silver Award at IWC 2013, Golden Amber is a superb example of a koshu or aged sake.
Golden Amber Junmai Koshu is a lavish mellow gold sake, which has been aged for 12 years four of which are in an oak barrel designed for ageing whisky. It has an amazingly complex Christmasy aroma dominated by blue cheese, jam and chocolate but with notes ranging from almonds and apricots to soy sauce and whiskey.
Golden Amer’s taste is full of nuances. You will find chocolate, almonds, smoky oak, vanilla, caramel and spices, which will remind you of single malt whiskey but with less than a half of alcohol, acidity and (sic!) calories. It has oily and spicy texture and a long finish. A perfect finish for a perfect party!
Where to buy
End of the year is a great time to try new sake. Not only there are plenty of opportunities to try it at various tastings but also it’s a good way to celebrate the New Year a bit differently with a glass of sparkling sake at the midnight or a tumbler of nice mellow koshu at the end of the night. Try it and let me know, how your festivities went!