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Sake Reviews

Sakes For Dessert? Ozeki Pineapple Nigori Sake & Strawberry Nigori Sake

 

It’s become a bit of a sombre notion that, for the past few years, domestic consumption of sake within Japan has been steadily declining. Local sake breweries increasingly find themselves coming up against greater competition, not just amongst themselves, but also with other new spirit categories that are gaining the interest of the Japanese consumer base. In fact, the Brewers Association of Japan estimated in 2021 that over the past decade, domestic demand for sake had actually shrunk by around 30%.

But all is not lost for Japan’s sake breweries just yet. On the flip side, the painful loss of sales on the home turf has been somewhat soothed by the exponential rise in sake exports to overseas markets, where appetite for Japan’s national drink has been growing. The tale of two trends, opposing and ironic as it may seem, reflects the fact in markets abroad, sakes enjoys a certain novelty value that is not available in Japan - where consumers are already well acquainted with the drink. 

Consequently, many sake makers in search for growth have pivoted to the strategy of converting new consumers abroad. And to do so, they’ve had to try new ways of making sake more accessible and approachable for newbies to the category. 

 

 

One such producer is Ozeki Brewery, one of the oldest sake breweries existing today, having been founded in 1711 in Hyogo Japan. More recently, Ozeki Brewery started rebottling their Nigori sakes into sweeter, flavoured forms designed to be friendlier and more approachable for sake newbies. Specifically, Ozeki released the Pineapple Nigori Sake - combing the Ozeki Nigori (meaning “cloudy” in Japanese) Sake with Costa Rican pineapples, and the Strawberry Nigori Sake - which blends the Ozeki Nigori Sake with Californian strawberries. 

I’m always up for sake for dessert, so let’s get to it! 

Pineapple Nigori Sake - Tasting Notes

Aroma: Very bright and sweet notes of canned pineapple juice. 

Taste: The body is quite light and syrupy. Sweet notes of pineapple with some undertones of jasmine rice.  

Finish: Short, with lingering pineapple hard candy notes.  

My Thoughts:

This is really tasty! It has a great, refreshing texture that doesn’t feel too cloying with sweet, juicy pineapple flavours that perked me up. I think this would be great with oiler foods, as it can cut through those greasier textures well. 

Strawberry Nigori Sake - Tasting Notes

Aroma: Sweet plum notes, and a creamy strawberry milk scent.

Taste: The body is quite light, with a slight citric twang. Strawberry is not the most prominent flavour though - the sweetness comes across more closely to sweet plums and it reminds me of umeshu. 

Finish: Short, with subtle notes of strawberry gummies.

Overall thoughts: I do find that with flavoured drinks, I always anticipate a stronger, clearer appearance of the advertised flavouring, but in this case, the strawberry notes were not very pronounced. Instead, this tasted a bit more like a plum-based drink which was a tad bit unsatisfying for a palate primed for strawberry. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasant sipper with subtle sweetness that’s enjoyable nonetheless. 

Final Thoughts

While both might be pretty one-note and straightforward in flavours, they are nonetheless pretty tasty! I can think of a few friends that aren’t big on alcohol, and I would keep a bottle or two of these sakes in my fridge for when they come over. After trying these bottles, the use of Nigori sake makes a lot of sense as a base spirit, because the cloudiness of the sake works well to soften and balance out the tangier, tart flavours of the fruits.

Ozeki Brewery has had a history of innovating on their sake product formats to try and make sakes more approachable - dating back to the 1960s when their product innovation team had the novel idea of bottlings their sakes into small ready-to-drink glass cups, which became a hit among regular daily commuters seeking an accessible and convenient refreshment.  Hence, I’m not surprised to see Ozeki embracing such new product lines. I’m personally someone who suffers from a chronic case of sweet-tooth, so you won’t catch me complaining about these liqueur-style sweeter sakes. Consider me a converted consumer! 

 

Happy sipping! 

@lotusroot518