It’s widely believed that sake’s first introduction to the U.S. occurred when American soldiers stationed in Japan after World War II returned home with a taste for it. While this prompted an increase in sake importing and popularity among restaurateurs and despite numerous sake varietals in the marketplace, the vast majority of American’s are only familiar with the choice between having house sake, served hot or cold. Since the time it was introduced in America there has been little change in the diversity breadth of diversity of sake offered – until now.
From the renowned fifth-generation-run sake producer Umenoyado in Nara, Japan comes the unique “Haikara Sake.” Building upon a traditional foundation, this new fruit-infused sake was created in celebration of the popularity of Japanese culture throughout the United States serving to meld the cultures of east and west.
The Western influence in Japan has brought new trends in style, fashion, and culture, which inspired Umenoyado to name this new sake “Haikara.” Literally translating to “High Collar,” in reference to the collared shirts worn by Westerners, but meaning “Fashionably Western, this term is now recognized as a way to describe the synergistic blending of cultures. The popularity of “Fashionably Western,” in Japan as well as the admiration of Japanese cultures in America was the catalyst that shaped Haikara’s development, including the flavor profiles, the recipe and even the packaging.
“One may think a company that has been making sake for over 100 years would be stuck in their ways, however, this is not the case for Umenoyado,” said Kayo Yoshida, the President of Umenoyado. “Umenoyado is a leader in sake innovation and prides itself on being an industry pioneer while staying true to the age-old craft of making sake. There are two things Umenoyado will not compromise on: water and rice. The water flows from Mt. Katsuragi and the rice is nurtured in Hyogo. This ensures that the sake, no matter how innovative, always maintains the legacy and roots of its origin.”
Haikara is currently available in two varieties: ‘Yuzu,’ which is made with a Japanese citrus fruit that looks like a small grapefruit; and ‘Momo,’ which is derived from a type of Japanese peach that is larger and softer than Western peaches. GSN received a bottle of the Yuzu for review.
Haikara Yuzu Sake (12.5% abv)
Visual: Cloudy yellow-white.
Nose: Grassy citrus with an unusual semi-musky funk.
Taste: Tart and very citrus forward. The sake supports the yuzu with a soft creaminess, but make no mistake this is akin to a sour mix in character, which makes it perfect for use in cocktails.
Finish: Medium long, with the sweeter notes coming out of hiding after the tang has faded.
Overall: A very interesting and surprisingly addictive beverage. We tried it room temperature straight, on the rocks, chilled and even in a few sours, and it worked every time. The consensus is that chilling helps the flavors cohesiveness, but that’s up to you.
GSN Rating: A
For more information go to: Haikara Sake