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Sake Reviews

Karahashi Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki, 16% (720ml) – A Sweet and Joyful Celebration

Karahashi Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki 
The Karahashi Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki, paired with mackerel sashimi


Brewed by the Aizu Homare Sake Brewery, this Karahashi Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki was the winner of the 2017 International Wine Challenge Trophy. Hailing from the Aizu Fukushima region, Homare Sake Brewery is no stranger to winning awards, having won the gold award in the International Wine Challenge for five years in a row, and having won the Champion Sake award at the International Wine Challenge in 2015.

Homare Sake Brewery
The Homare Sake Brewery (Image Courtesy of SakeInternational.org)

With the promise of a premium grade, award-winning sake, I knew that once I had set my eyes on it I had to give this a try.

What’s in a name?

First, let’s talk about 2 components that are brought to our attention in this sake’s name – (1) Junmai Ginjo and (2) Yamada Nishiki.

According to Tastings.com, a Junmai Ginjo grade sake refers to a particular type of sake that has fulfilled the criteria of both “Junmai” and “Ginjo”:

Junmai refers to a sake that is a pure rice wine, one that does not have any distilled alcohol added. Ginjo refers to the fact that at least 40% of the rice polished away during the brewing process. This process for a ginjo sake is done at lower temperatures, which takes longer, but produces a sake that is light and fragrant with greater complexity. 

Types of Sake Classifications (Image Courtesy of TenguSake.com)


Given this extra care taken in the process to refine the sake, Junmai Ginjo sakes are recognized as highly premium in the world of sakes. The additional nuance and complex flavours of this grade of sake also leads to more sublime food pairings with Japanese food, seafood, and meats.

Yamada Nishiki refers to the type of rice used to make this sake – in this case, Yamada Nishiki is one variety of premium quality short-grain Japanese sake rice that is highly sought after by Sake brewers in Japan. Dubbed as “The King of Sake Rice”, Yamada Nishiki is known to produce fragrant sakes that are fruity, refined, and nuanced.

Yamada Nishiki
The highly sought after "King of Sake Rice" (Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Now that we’ve learned what we need to know, let’s get on to sipping and tasting!

Tasting Notes

On the nose: I’m greeted by an olfactory memory that sparks joy and festivity– a lush basket of fruits recalls memories of receiving gifts in the form of fruit baskets during special occasions and celebrations.

A gifted fruit basket always calls for celebration


A whiff of Japanese melon also introduces itself, “I’m a delicious, sweet, juicy melon and you’re in for a celebration!” – figuratively, of course.

I would be more terrified than celebratory if I heard a melon speak.

On the palate:
Just like the nose of this sake promises, I’m hit with the juicy honey-sweetness of Japanese melon, so much that I can almost feel my teeth sinking into the juicy flesh of the fruit.


Fleshy, sweet, and juicy Japanese melon.


If Japanese melon is the diva lead singer (think Beyonce) in this sake, the lingering notes of pear and tropical fruit are in Formation as fabulously well-synced back-up dancers – a wholly well-integrated ensemble of flavours that are sure to make you Drunk in Love. A sweet, aromatic, and joyful celebration indeed!

Beyonce and Sake
Flashy, sweet, and juicy Japanese melon and her fabulous dancers.

Light and crisp, going down really smoothly with the lasting warmth from the alcohol. I am reminded for certain, this is a refined Junmai Ginjo grade sake, not a mere fruity melon concoction.

 My Rating:


Sweet, cheerful, and uplifting. Sweet Japanese melon dominates the drink, with notes of pear and tropical fruit. A great sweet and fruity sake for the summer.

The saccharine Japanese melon clearly dominates the Karahashi Junmai Ginjo Yamada Nishiki, with notes of pear and tropical fruit. This also pairs wonderfully with fresh sashimi or sushi. My choice of pairing was slices of mackerel sashimi, with the sweeter flavours of the mackerel brought out by the juicy fruitiness of this sake.


Happy sipping!