Episode 43 Show Notes
Season 1. Episode 43. When buying sake, price is always a consideration, and compared to wine, imported premium sake usually comes at, well, a premium price. What makes a sake expensive? The first factor is often the “seimaibuai” or rice milling rate. The smaller the rice is milled, the more expensive the sake will be. Transportation costs also add to the cost of sake. But are there affordable sakes out there? Can you find a good sake and a rock bottom price? This week John and Tim explore sakes that are on the cheaper side, but still shine like a diamond. You don’t have to give up good taste to enjoy premium imported sakes. Just be aware that even the cheapest imported sakes won’t be quite as affordable as imported wines, but they will bring value if you enjoy them with food and friends. Let’s discover some bargain brews!
Skip to: 00:19
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy
Kinoene Masamune Migaki Hachiwari Junmai
Brewery: Iinuma Honke
Rice Type: Fusakogane
Importer: Mutual Trading (NY)
Brand: Kinoene (甲子)
Homare Tatsumigura Junmai Ginjo
Brewery: Homare Shuzo
Classification: Junmai Ginjo
This is it! Join us next time for another episode of Sake Revolution!
Episode 43 Transcript
John Puma: 0:22
Hello everybody. And welcome to Sake Revolution. This is America’s first sake podcast. I’m your host, John Puma from the sake notes. Also the administrator over at the internet, sake discord and the guy on the show. Who’s not a sake samurai.
Timothy Sullivan: 0:40
And I am your host, Timothy Sullivan. I am a sake samurai. I’m also a sake educator and I’m the founder of the Urban Sake website. And every week John and I will be tasting and chatting about all things, sake and doing our very best to make it fun and easy, to understand,
John Puma: 0:57
Tim, we are we’re marching into February.
Timothy Sullivan: 1:00
hard to believe.
John Puma: 1:01
Yeah, I wanted to, I want to check in on how is your, sake revolution resolution going, um, for, for those who, who maybe are a little late to the party here, Tim, made a goal to try and get outside of his comfort zone, with regard to sake, uh, how’s that been going?
Timothy Sullivan: 1:21
Well, it’s been going pretty well. And I think having a sake podcast, uh, that helps me to achieve this goal.
John Puma: 1:30
all right. Okay. So I should, I should, keep making sure that we do episodes on things that are not in our comfort zone. This is way you’ll try new
Timothy Sullivan: 1:36
that’s right. I think, having to produce a show every week and come up with new and interesting sakes to taste, this definitely helps me to step outside my comfort zone, but I do, I have to tell you, there’s been a little bit of a rebound effect too, where when I’ve been shopping for a sake, to, drink at home or, just enjoy on the weekend, I’ve been. Hugging some bottles close to me that are like, ones that I really, really, really love to comfort me back. So it there’s both sides of the coin going on here.
John Puma: 2:08
Okay. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. Having your happy place is good, but as long as you’re, as long as you’re being true to, to the spirit of your, resolution in your coming out and still trying the new things on, on top of that, I think that’s
Timothy Sullivan: 2:21
Yeah. How about you? Your resolution was to buy more locally and support local sake shops. How’s that been going for you?
John Puma: 2:29
it’s been going pretty well. I’m going to be approaching a local place in the near future. Cause I have some ideas about things I’d like them to carry. Now that I’ve had conversations with them about what they’re able to get. So can I have some chats about, uh, about what I. What I would buy if they had it and see if I can convince them to, to stock a little bit, a little bit more sake also, still, still, still getting on that bike everyday, Tim. Oh, not every day, I’ve learned, something the hard way home. that, uh, it’s it’s sometimes maybe it’s unrealistic to do a really big workout every single day. Uh, your, your body gets stuck. It doesn’t like that. It’s it hurts. You get sore after like the day after you’re like, wait a minute, I’m supposed to do this again. Uh, but you know, uh, true to the sake man lifestyle. I’m only taking a single day off every now and again. And then right back on the Peloton, that’s it. That’s, that’s what I’m going for. Tim, if you want to track my progress, you can find me on the Peloton, Cycling4Sake.
Timothy Sullivan: 3:35
Okay. I’ll have to take your word about that working out everyday things. But other than that sounds good.
John Puma: 3:44
Yeah. I said a little bit of an unrealistic goal. I’m getting, I’m just refocusing it. So it’s just, most days I’m getting on there and doing it.
Timothy Sullivan: 3:53
Yeah. Yeah. Well, John, your resolution was buying more sake locally, and I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone. And that leaves us both in a situation where we’re buying a lot of sake. Right.
John Puma: 4:04
I mean, you know, I, I am an avid sake drinker. I do have a sake podcast and that gives me an excuse to buy more sake. So, um, so yes, we are avid sake buyers.
Timothy Sullivan: 4:17
I think we buy more sake than the average person on the street.
John Puma: 4:21
I mean, if we don’t there’s something seriously wrong.
Timothy Sullivan: 4:24
Yeah. Well, that got me thinking about, how much this costs and, how much does sake cost and what’s some of the really good bargains that are out there, where can you find a really good we’re talking, imported sake not domestically made, but imported sake What are some of the best bargains that you can get without spending too much money?
John Puma: 4:48
well, a wise man once told me that there’s no two buck Chuck in a sake world.
Timothy Sullivan: 4:55
Was that wise, man?
John Puma: 4:57
that man might’ve been a sake samurai, sake educator, and the,
Timothy Sullivan: 5:01
Founder of the urban sake website.
John Puma: 5:05
however, that doesn’t mean. That there’s not really great sake out there that, that, that isn’t a bit of a lower, a lower price point. there definitely is. There’s okay. Especially when you find the sake that you’re really into, um, you can find things in your wheelhouse that, that are going to not hurt the wallet as much, I think.
Timothy Sullivan: 5:28
well, maybe we could talk about for a second. What impacts the cost of a sake? Like what makes it more expensive and how you can make it less expensive? So there’s a, there’s a few factors that go into that.
John Puma: 5:40
Okay. And, what can we do apart from maybe buying in bulk?
Timothy Sullivan: 5:43
Well, we can always buy in bulk, uh,
John Puma: 5:47
I mean, I always buy in bulk, but that’s not the point.
Timothy Sullivan: 5:50
well, the one factor that is really. I think the most important for impacting what the final end product cost is going to be for a sake is the rice milling percentage. And this is something we talked about a lot with sake. It influences the classification, but you have to think about it. If you’re a sake producer and you buy one ton of sake rice from the rice farmer to make your batch of sake, and you decide to Polish that rice down to 30% remaining. 70% of what you actually paid for is rice flour and not going to be used for the final product. So you need to buy a lot more to actually make that tank of sake. So this rice milling, how much you Polish the rice down, the smaller you go, the sake has get more smooth and elegant, but it has a really concrete impact on the cost of the sake. And if you stop and think about it, I think it makes perfect sense.
John Puma: 6:45
it does, but even there you have exceptions to that rule, you can get sake that has, Nicely polished rice, uh, at a really good price point still. So what else might contribute?
Timothy Sullivan: 6:56
Um, well, one other thing that can add to the. Cost of the sake is labor and time. So for example, you can brew sake in as short as two weeks. So the main fermentation period, if you run the fermentation very hot, you produce a lot of alcohol quickly. You can get from point a to point B with that moromi that fermentation mash in two weeks. Now, the sake that comes out of that process is, rougher, but if you bring the temperature down and you ferment for a month or even 40 days, that produces alcohol at a much slower rate, but generally it comes out smoother and cleaner and more easy drinking, but that’s a trade-off for time and the labor to maintain those tanks during that time. So the longer you ferment that also adds to the end cost as well.
John Puma: 7:52
Hmm, that’s an excellent, excellent point. So when we were talking about doing this show, did you, um, did you have a sake in mind or did you go looking and see like, well, what do I really like? And then try to find something that was kind of in that, in that area.
Timothy Sullivan: 8:09
well people ask me all the time, like what. Can I get for a good deal or, what do you recommend for someone just getting started? And there’s this mental cutoff I have in my mind of $20, $20 or less. So for me, I’m always like, if I want to recommend a true bargain for people, a lot of people buying wine, they expect. A 10, $12 bottle of wine to taste really good and just be an everyday easy drinking wine.
John Puma: 8:41
I’ve had great tasting wines at that price
Timothy Sullivan: 8:43
Yeah. And that’s the consumer expectation for wine, but when it comes to sake that, you know, $12 to $18 range is not very well served with imported premium sake from Japan, it’s just too far. And. Too expensive and the economics just don’t work out. But I look at that like 18 to $22 range, like right around $20 as the zone. If you can get a really good sake in that price point, uh, that for, for our world, it may not be, uh, you know, bargain basement drink for everybody. But in the world of imported premium sake, I’d say 18 to $22 is. A good deal. And I have a favorite sake that I like to drink that is at the bottom of that range.
John Puma: 9:35
And yeah. So you found one and, and then, and this is, this is, you already had this kind of in your back
Timothy Sullivan: 9:39
Yes. This is a sake I’ve I’ve had for a long time. And, uh, it’s a brand that is well-known for being affordable yet. Delicious.
John Puma: 9:49
All right. And, uh, I’m going to have to got to pry now. What, what do you have.
Timothy Sullivan: 9:54
All right. Well, this is a brand that I discovered a few years back. It’s called kinoene, So the is actually located in Chiba prefecture, which is just outside of Tokyo. So very close to Tokyo.
John Puma: 10:13
Right. No. In fact, I think mostly I hear it as I hear it referred to as kind of being a suburb of Tokyo. It’s kind of like people who work in Tokyo sometimes live in Chiba, so they it’s guys, if you ever, if you’re in the tri-state area, it’s kind of like New Jersey.
Timothy Sullivan: 10:32
You didn’t hear that from me. Yeah. So, uh, let me give you a quick rundown for the sake that I got. Now. This is their junmai sake and the big standout interesting thing with this sake is that the rice is milled to 80% remaining. And that is a very robust full-size grain for a premium sake. Uh, it’s 80% rice milling. The SMV is plus three, the acidities 1.8. So it’s a little bit higher and the retail cost is $19 for the sake. And
John Puma: 11:11
19. So they broke the $20
Timothy Sullivan: 11:14
Yes. And this is a 24 ounce bottle of premium imported sake from Chiba and it’s in 19 us dollars. So I think that’s an amazing deal. And we talked a moment ago about the rice milling, and I think that fact that they’ve milled this to 80%, that helps them achieve that lower price point.
John Puma: 11:35
Oh, that’s nice.
Timothy Sullivan: 11:37
So, John, what have you found on the. Affordable price range.
John Puma: 11:43
I also had a sake in my back pocket for just such an occasion as this, I wanna say a while back, uh, Myshell and I were at, an izakaya and we were looking at this sake list and yeah. Saw something we really didn’t recognize, but, it was a very low price. Junmai Ginjo. So we ordered it and we were shocked at, how light and delicious it was. It was going really well with all of our food, it got very inexpensive. And so that is the sake that I, uh, bought around today. It is, Homare Tatsumigura from, uh,Homare Shuzo in Fukushima. And this is a gohyakumangoku milled down to 50%. Yeah, that’s what I said, yeah, 50% milled. So they’re losing half of that gohyakumangoku and. This sake generally retails for around $22. So I couldn’t quite, I couldn’t quite hit the $20 barrier, but I think that $22 for a 50% milled junmai ginjo I think that’s really great.
Timothy Sullivan: 12:55
And, one other way that breweries can get a lower price point on their end product is to just make a ton of it. If they mass produce their sake, they can get the prices down. And I don’t think that’s the case for either sake that you and I have brought, but I wanted to mention that as well, that if they, like only make a few kinds and they produce vast amounts of it, that’s another way to get their prices down.
John Puma: 13:23
Well, um, I’m very, I don’t know if I’ve had the junmai, from a kinoene, so I’m very curious to hear what you have to say about it.
Timothy Sullivan: 13:31
All right. Well, let’s get it in the glass. Okay. Looking at it. I see that there’s a little bit of color. Going on. It’s a very light straw color. And when a rice grain is milled to 80% remaining, you know, on the outer layers of the rice grain. We have more of the fats and proteins and the starches more towards the center. That’s true for, for sake rice in general, but when you don’t Polish away, a lot of those outer layers, you get more of the fats and proteins into the sake, and that can help bring in a little color as well. So we have a little bit of a light straw color here and let’s give it a smell. It has a sweeter smell to it. So. Light fruity. It makes me think of like Apple skins, like pear or Apple, like, you know, when you smell an Apple before you bite into it, yet that Apple skin smell a little bit of that. It’s really, really nice. It makes me think of Apple pie too an almost like, uh, Apple juice as well. So there’s an Apple we smell for
John Puma: 14:47
There was a lot of Apple going on. All right.
Timothy Sullivan: 14:50
All right. So it’s very, very lovely smell. $19 well spent so far. All right, so I’m going to give it a taste. Hmm. Yeah, it’s good. It is. It’s a touch on the sweet side. It tastes very much like it smells, there’s a little bit of like, uh, an Apple or pear flavor. It is relatively clean, simple, straightforward. So I don’t think we’re going to get a lot of complexity in the flavor. It’s really straightforward, but simple, clean, and it tastes really good.
John Puma: 15:36
Timothy Sullivan: 15:37
But, uh, the acidity is 1.8 again, and you really feel that on the finish. So it has, a lot of the things I’ve been describing kind of hint towards sweetness, but that acidity, they raise it up. It’s 1.8, which is relatively high, uh, usually between 1.0 and 2.0, so this is on the higher end of what most sakes would be. And it really brings a good sense of balance to that. And. You’d think with 80% rice milling, that this would be all about like eating a bowl of rice and you’d get nothing but like toasted rice flavors. And this is not the case at all.
John Puma: 16:15
At 80%, I think I was expecting like risotto.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:18
exactly. Yeah. Or, um, bee BIM bop or something like that. I don’t know, but no, it’s, it’s, uh, very gently sweet, really balanced, nice acidity. This is an easy drinking, easy sipping sake for $19 a bottle all day. I can drink this all day. Really good.
John Puma: 16:42
Excellent. Well, that’s nice. I like to hear that.
Timothy Sullivan: 16:45
Now, John, I’m super interested to hear about your Homare sake from Fukushima. Let us know.
John Puma: 16:52
Will do so let’s get this opened up. So this looks a little bit lighter than yours. It’s still not completely clear, but it is a tiny bit of sh like a light, very light straw. We’ll say The aroma is very, very faintly fruity, uh, item. I’m trying to avoid the gentle wafting comment, but, but it’s there very subtle, a very light melon on the nose perhaps nearby.
Timothy Sullivan: 17:36
John Puma: 17:37
Hm. And then the flavor that melon visits again, but the sake is nice and dry. This is a, it’s not going to be of value on this is a three, so it is almost neutral, but. It leans a little bit dry. The acidity is 1.6. So not quite as high as yours, but it’s there it’s present. And yeah, as we’ve talked about on the show before the gohyakumangoku kind of known for, for a crispness. that, cause I, I know this gets used in a lot of, a lot of Niigata sake and he got to this very much known for that. Uh, that’s kind of part of where that I think where that, uh, that reputation comes from is this rice. And this is no, it is light. It is a little bit fruity, but there’s a certain richness to it, mostly in the finish, but it really, really comes in smooth and gentle. This is, very sippable. And I think, it’ll pair well with some mild foods, like your, your, meats and fishes and stuff like that. I, this is not, this is not the, the Curry special, this is not going to go with, uh, with chili or, or, or your spicy Thai food and stuff like that. But. I think your, your grilled meats are going to get along with this very well. And then same thing with fish. That’s what I’m getting out of this here. This is very nice. And again, $22, you can’t go wrong.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:07
And again, that rice milling has such an impact. To the cost in general, the raw materials costs and gohyakumangoku is one of the most used very standard premium sake rice. So they’re not, they’re
John Puma: 19:21
I’m guessing that maybe they got a deal on a lot gohyakumangoku I guys I’ve actually no idea why it’s, why that happened.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:31
Yeah, but that’s a great price for a 50% milled sake rice. And it sounds like a great everyday sipper. Like I got as well.
John Puma: 19:39
It is, it is a very sippable, very, um, I think I’ve talked about in the past, I like, I like a sake that I can like, sit on the couch, and sip. And, and, as our recent guests, Monica, Samuels said, uh, you know, accidentally have a whole bottle of it.
Timothy Sullivan: 19:56
John Puma: 19:57
Okay. This is that this fits into that category. For me, it’s just such a light, easy drinking sake I go, what is this, this sake pairs well with television, I could just sit on the couch and sit down and watch TV and zone out and, and just enjoy the day.
Timothy Sullivan: 20:14
This sake pairs well with Queen’s Gambit.
John Puma: 20:19
We’re going to like find actual, like specific shows. Yeah. I want to say when I sip this, I think of season three of terrace house. right?
Timothy Sullivan: 20:29
Well, let, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this. We’ve we’ve been talking about these affordable, but yummy sakes. What are your thoughts on treating yourself to a really expensive sake and by that, I mean, $80 or more.
John Puma: 20:44
I’ll do it. Um, I’ll do it for Christmas. That’s like, I’ll buy myself something nice for, for Christmas. Um, I think I most recently I did, for this past Christmas, I bought myself a bottle of the Toko, the divine droplets. Yamagata. Based Junmai Daiginjo that uses the shizuku method, which is the, we talked about this a little bit in our series on sake production, but this is basically where they, the moromi is actually in bags and it just literally drips down at that’s the sake And, it was decadent and light and aromatic and delicious, Do I think there that the gap maybe was worth it? Probably not, but it is treating yourself, right? tim, after all.
Timothy Sullivan: 21:35
Yeah, I, well, I love to drink expensive sake It is so fun. You can achieve flavors and texture profiles with certain methods that do inherently just cost a little bit more money to produce and achieve. But the question really is, do you want to drink that every day? Like if money was no object, would you want to drink like this? 10 Year aged Junmai Daiginjo, every day. I don’t
John Puma: 22:03
well, if you’re talking about the, I think you’re talking about the answer might be yes,
Timothy Sullivan: 22:09
Okay. There we have it, ladies and
John Puma: 22:11
Timothy Sullivan: 22:13
No, I, I mean, if I think variety is the spice of life and, you can’t buy the cheapest sake in the room every day. You can’t buy the most expensive sake in the room every day. You need balance. And I think trading off between getting these real delicious bargains every now and again. And for that special occasion, I couldn’t agree with you more like for Christmas or anniversary or birthday, treating yourself to a bottle that’s a little more expensive and just really savoring it. Like that’s fantastic as well.
John Puma: 22:46
Yeah. Um, you know, but there’s nothing wrong at all with finding a nice, very inexpensive sake that punches above its price point. And I I think we both did a nice job of finding some really tasty stuff this week that, you don’t have to wait till Christmas to get a bottle of, Kinoene, um, or this, tatsumigura, although I think the secrets out on the sakes get a little harder, uh,
Timothy Sullivan: 23:13
John Puma: 23:14
but it is, it is quite delicious. Quite good.
Timothy Sullivan: 23:17
Yeah. Mine was really good as well.
John Puma: 23:20
uh, what about, uh, food pairings for years? What do you think.
Timothy Sullivan: 23:23
I think given the weight, it’s a little bit on the lighter side, it has a little bit of that. fruitiness going on. I think that I’d like to pair this more with the kind of the appetizer side of things I’m thinking of like your salad courses, your steamed, veggie courses, those, those types of things, I think might pair a little bit better with this versus a grilled or charcoal, grilled meats, things like that. Because it does have a little bit of that hint of sweetness to it, a little bit of that Apple. Aromatic going on. I like it more like if you think about it, if there’s for me, there’s notes of Apple here, would I rather have Apple chopped on a salad or would I rather have Apple chopped on a piece of charcoal, grilled chicken? I’d rather have it on the salad. So that’s how the pairing works for me. I think that the flavors and overall aromas here would pair really well with those lighter vegetable driven dishes like salad.
John Puma: 24:24
Sake is a little higher price than, than other things. sake is, as for the reasons you mentioned earlier, sort of inherently, more expensive than a lot of other comparable beverages here in the States. And it’s nice to be able to find a way to, to have really great sake experiences, at these lower price points. I hope that this helps people kind of go out and find their own maybe, uh, Great sake is out there Great sake bargains out there. I’m hoping that we get some of that.
Timothy Sullivan: 24:59
absolutely. I hope these sakes can work as a stepping stone. And, when you get into sake as a hobby, once you begin to spend $20 a bottle, then you can move to 25 30 when it becomes a hobby and you get value. Out of that drink, it brings value to your life and your enjoyment of food. Uh, it’s really worth it. And it does cost a little bit more than perhaps a comparable bottle of wine. But, I know when I was first getting into it, the value it brought to my dining experiences and my times with friends was really worth it. And that’s what captured me and got me really into sake
John Puma: 25:36
So Tim, where can our listeners find you, on the internet?
Timothy Sullivan: 25:41
Well, if you want to get in touch with me, you can always reach me through UrbanSake.com which is my website. I’m also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @UrbanSake
John Puma: 25:54
Hmm. Keeping it very simple.
Timothy Sullivan: 25:56
Yes. All unified. How about you, John?
John Puma: 25:58
Uh, I’m a little more, diverse. Uh, so, A lot of my sake stuff goes, thesakenotes so Instagram and Twitter, things like that, and my more personal day-to-day goings on. Are, John Puma NYC. And the reason I had list these separately is that a lot of people, when they want to shout me out about the podcast, they seem to go to either one of the two accounts. I’m kind of saying like, okay, normally the sake stuff goes here. Normally the, the personal stuff goes there, but really you can follow me on either or both. And, and, we’ll chat.
Timothy Sullivan: 26:33
Okay. So if I want to slide into your DMs, now I know what to do.
John Puma: 26:39
Timothy Sullivan: 26:39
Oh gosh. I’ll try. I won’t take that personally.
John Puma: 26:45
My DMs are restricted to friends, so you’re, you’re there.
Timothy Sullivan: 26:47
All right. All right. Well, this was really fun now. I I’m super excited to go out and find some more bargains. And if any of our listeners find a good sake bargain that they love, let us know. Well, I want to thank our listeners so much for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed the show on sake bargains. If you’d like to support sake revolution, one way you could really help us out would be to take a couple of minutes and leave a written review on Apple podcasts. It’s honestly one of the best ways for us to help get the word out about our show.
John Puma: 27:20
and. If you can’t do that, maybe you should just go and tell a friend directly to listen to our show. Um, and then have your friends subscribe wherever he or she downloads their podcasts. And then you should do the same thing this way. Every week when we upload a new show, it will magically show up on your device of choice and you will not miss a single episode, which is exactly how we like it.
Timothy Sullivan: 27:45
And as always to learn more about any of the topics or the specific sakes that we tasted in today’s episode, be sure to visit our website, sake revolution for all the detailed show notes.
John Puma: 27:58
and if you have a sake question that you need answered, if you have sake bargains that you think we need to try, we want to hear from you. Reach out to us, then email address is [email protected] So until next time, please remember to keep drinking sake and kanpai!