Issue 8.4: August/September 2005

For Goodness Sake


by Roland Gilmor
photo by Michael Yamashita

It’s true that sake has only two ingredients, rice and water, but don’t be fooled: What is pure isn’t simple. Take the milling of the rice, which removes the brown skin and the outer layer of the kernel beneath it containing most of the protein, oils and minerals. How much of a grain is milled away—anywhere from thirty to seventy percent—greatly affects the final flavor. And it only gets more complicated from there: Everything from the water’s mineral content to the humidity of the air in the brewing room can make or break a premium sake.

The end result is three classes—junmai ("superior pure rice"), ginjo ("premium") and daiginjo ("super-premium")—and currently somewhere in the range of 10,000 different labels produced by 1,500 breweries. One of the best places to sample the fruits of this delicate process is The Joy of Sake, an annual open tasting of 150-plus premium sakes from Japan and California. Throughout the evening, participants are free to wander from table to table, comparing tastes from across the sake spectrum. Thirteen restaurants will also be on hand—last year’s participants included Roy’s, Chai’s Island Bistro, L’Uraku, Kyo-ya and Orchids at Halekulani—serving a range of sake-inspired appetizers.

The fifth annual Joy of Sake will take place September 9, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Additional events are also scheduled for September 15 in San Francisco and September 27 in New York City. For more, visit

The Joy of Sake
(808) 739-1000