As with 2017’s Sake Competition, sake aficionados and novices alike are sure to find a brand to suit their tastes in this year’s selection of Sake Competition winners, which only features the best of the best in the industry across Japan and the globe. This year, 455 brewers and 1,772 sake types battled it out in eight categories — a new one was created this year to increase awareness of sake brewers based abroad. Each category features up to 10 gold winners, and as many silver winners that have earned enough points to warrant a place on the list. We’ve rounded up the top three in every section to make finding the best sake — of any type — a breeze. (Once you’ve chosen your favorite, find inspiration on new ways to drink sake here.)
Known for its rich and full flavor, junmai is made with only rice, water, yeast, and koji — there is no distilled alcohol added. 146 competitors vied for a top spot in this category.
1st Aizu Miyazumi, Junmai-shu, Miyaizumi Meijo (Fukushima)
2nd Atagonomatsu, Tokubetsu Junmai, Niizawa Jozoten (Miyagi)
3rd Zao K, Junmaishu, Zao Brewery (Miyagi)
Often boasting fruit and flowery notes, this variety is also made without the addition of distilled alcohol. Contenders totaled 534 for this category.
1st Zaku, Megumi no Tomo, Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten (Mie)
2nd Toyo Bijin Ippo, Junmai Ginjo, Yamada Nishiki, Sumikawa Brewing (Yamaguchi)
3rd Toyo Bijin, Junmai Ginjo, 50, Sumikawa Brewing (Yamaguchi)
This rice used in this variety of sake has been polished until at least 50 percent of the grain has been removed, offer full and complex flavors. The judges selected:
1st Nanbu Bijin, Junmai Daiginjo, Nanbu Bijin Ltd (Iwate)
2nd Sen, Shiragiku Shoten (Ibaraki)
3rd Zaku, Miyabi no Tomo, Nakatori, Shimizu Seizaburo Shoten (Mie)
The selections here vary in variety, but all are representative of the very best that their brewers can achieve. There were 48 contenders in this category.
1st Kamosu, Senkin Inc (Tochigi)
2nd Hakutsuru, Cho Tokusen, Tenku, Junmai Daiginjo, Hakutsuru Brewery (Hyogo)
3rd Taiheizan, Junmai Daiginjo, Tenko 20, Kodama Brewery (Akita)
At a slightly lower alcoholic level than standard sake types, this bubbly version averages about 10 percent, making it a light and refreshing option. The number one winner for this category is boasting a second year at the top. This category had 74 entrants.
1st Nanbu Bijin, Awasake Sparkling, Nanbu Bijin Ltd (Iwate)
2nd Ichidai, Misen, Chugoku Brewery (Hiroshima)
3rd Yatsushika, Sparking, Nijin, Yatsushika Brewery (Oita)
Ginjo sake uses distilled alcohol and generally has a very aromatic profile. A total of 198 contenders battled it out in this category.
1st Kiwami Hijiri, Daiginjo, Miyashita Sake Brewery (Okayama)
2nd Fukuju, Cho-Tokusen, Daiginjo, Kobe Shushinkan (Hyogo)
3rd Sanran, Daiginjo, Tonoike Shuzoten (Tochigi)
Internationally Produced Sake
A new category for 2018, there was only one winner grabbing the coveted gold category for this one, out of a total of 17 contenders from all over the world.
1st Junmai Ginjo Nama, Arizona Sake LLC (USA)
While we know it’s what’s important that counts, with so many different sake varieties it’s important to stand out. Here are the three top designs that caught the judges’ attention.
1st Shinryoku no Harimaji, Fukunishiki Brewery (Hyogo)
2nd Meisei Kishikai, Abe no Tsuru Brewery (Yamaguchi)
3rd Monochrome+, Koimari Brewery (Saga)