I had the great pleasure of tasting sake a few weeks back from one of my favorite Sake Importer Company's, Joto Sake. The tasting was so comprehensive and informative that I felt compelled to open up my tasting book and share my thoughts.
Sake is a fermented beverage made from rice, it is brewed like a beer (starch converted to sugar, sugar into alcohol) but it is served like a wine. Most people are familiar with hot sake, as was I when I first started in the business. I would drink Sake Bombs, by dropping a small ceramic cup into a tall Pint of Sapparo. Now I know that premium sake is generally served cold or at room temperature. Sake is graded into levels based on the amount the external part of the rice is polished. The more you polish the rice, the more refined and pristine the resulting sake tastes. Honjozo/Junmai (least polished) are the fullest and fruitiest, the Gingo/Junmai Ginjo are a little fruity and medium bodied with a cleaner finish and the Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo are elegant and pure with less body.
Just like wine, producer influence, location, types of rice (grapes for wine), yeast and water all influence the flavor profile and nuances of sake. Here are some of my notes from the tasting
Eiko-Fuji, Ban Ryu ( means 10,000 ways b/c of its versatility with food)-honjozu, gingo style, 35% of rice is polished away-tasted like tea soaked with cherries and cloves, full flavor
Yuho (means happy rice) Junmai-from the Ishikawa Prefecture which is in the middle of the country. Yellow plums and violets, higher altitude aromas and ashy finish.
Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto, Extra Dry-tastes like an earthy white wine and pairs great with crab and smoked cheese. Additional hints of chestnuts and marshmallow with a pulpy finish
Shichi-Hon-Yari-15th generation sake kura, founded in 1540, 6000 cases produced, unfiltered, deep and earthy nose, eel and dried mushrooms. Because of the complexity of this sake, I would recommend serving it slightly warm.
Taiheikai, Tokubetsu (means special-usually lower polishing) Junmai-honeycomb and apricot, charantais melon. I imagine eating roasted duck with a sweet sauce with this sake.
Chikurin, Karoyaka, Junmai Ginjo-this kura grows its own rice, a local and special type called Yamanashiki, it is a farmers brewery, estate bottled and full flavored. They even blend in some vintage sake which adds to its 'mochi-like" texture
Yuki No Bosha, Junmai Gingo-undiluted, grilled pineapples and strawberries, hints of blue cheese.