Retro Review: A true classic sake to try

A trip down memory lane with a entry-level sake.

Gekkeikan sake | Japan | LCBO Code: 145433 | $10.10 750 ml | 16 g/l res. Sugar

We all know this label. It is perhaps the most famous sake in the world and it’s the first sake many of us ever tasted. We also tasted it “hot” as was the parlance back then. It was never meant to be hot but rather just warm. Well, we learn through trial and error.

With something as new to the North American market as Japanese rice “wine” (sake is brewed, wine is fermented) it was a smart marketing decision to encourage people to warm their sake. To this day most people assume that sake is always consumed warm. That’s hardly the truth but yes, certain types of sake are enjoyed this way.

This type of sake, which comprises 60 percent of all sake made in Japan, is named “Futsu.” It’s an entry level designation and offers a style of sake that is versatile. It can be consumed warm or cold, in cocktails or in marinades involving soy, miso, and mirin (sweet cooking rice wine).

There will be a more thorough examination of sake terms in next Thursday’s Insider newsletter.

Gekkeikan has operated now for almost 400 years and it’s impressive that they can deliver a clean, well made product for about $10 here in Ontario. The company now has two operations; one in California and the original in Kyoto where they continue to produce higher-end sake.

For people more experienced with various quality levels of sake, this Gekkeikan is not terribly interesting. Tasting it blind I would never guess that it has 16 g/l of residual sugar because it does drink rather dry.

Beyond a little yeastiness suggesting freshly baked brioche there’s a hint of under ripe asian pear but not much more on offer.

If you are new to sake by all means grab a bottle and experiment with either serving temperatures or cocktails.