Sake is one of those polarizing boozes, like sour beers or Jagermeister. You either love it, or you think it tastes like dirty socks. And I don’t think it’s one of those tastes that grows on you either. You can learn to love sour beers. But sake? I’ve never known anyone who grew into sake. Fortunately, it was love at first sight for me. Probably because I was dropping shots of sake into beer and drinking it all really fast, but still. I was wooed.
And when someone says they “don’t like sake,” they’re casting a pretty wide net. There are so many different kinds of sake out there, ranging from subtle and slightly nutty to so floral you think you’re drinking perfume. Some sake is cloudy and unfiltered, some is crystal clear and super purified. The styles of sake aren’t nearly as varied as beer or wine, but you have options and not all sake is made equal. Chances are, if you’ve only had warm sake while eating sushi, you’ve only had bad sake. I’m not judging you—for years, I only had bad sake (see the sake bomb comment earlier), largely because I had the habit of ordering the cheapest sake on the menu. Bad sake comes warm because when you heat the sake, it covers up any off notes. Full confession: I love crappy sake. It’s all I knew for so long. Like Busch Light, I formed a nostalgic attachment to it.
Soto is not crappy sake. It’s a Junmai Daiginjo sake, which is about as pure as it gets—they polish the hell out of the rice and use only pristine mountain water. You don’t heat this sake, you drink it as cold as you can get it.
Soto has an almost yellow tint to it when it’s in the bottle, but it pours fairly clear. There isn’t much of a nose, but I’ve never had a sake that smelled much like anything before. Like all great sakes, Soto has an easy drinking and slightly creamy mouthfeel. The most defining characteristic of any Junmai sake is a slightly sweet nuttiness, and Soto is no exception. That nuttiness is present, coming through in strong, buttery waves. There is also a weak floral element at play, and something vaguely fruity as well, but my palate isn’t sophisticated enough to single out what fruit, exactly. You get a bit of boozy heat on the backend, but it’s not strong enough to keep you from going right back for another sip.
This is a great sake, probably better than anything you’ll find at your favorite sushi joint. If you think all sake tastes like socks, move along. But if you love this often-misunderstood booze, keep an eye out for this bottle, which is just now hitting the U.S. market.
Soto recommends drinking their sake straight or mixing it in cocktails. I’ve never had a sake cocktail, unless you consider a sake bomb a cocktail. Which you shouldn’t. So I’ll stick to drinking this sake straight. Over and over until the bottle runs out.
Location: Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Style: Junmai Daiginjo sake
Availability: Year round