Japanese sake is experiencing a renaissance in the west. More information is available for demystifying Japan’s national alcohol, while sake-related organisations, breweries and sommeliers are breaking down misconceptions about nihonshu and experimenting with a variety of amazing flavours.
One of the most dynamic western markets for sake is the UK and there are some great places to get it if you know where to look. With that said, here are six of the best places to get your sake fix in the UK!
- Sorakami UK
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could get nihonshu delivered to your front door by specialists? Sorakami does exactly that by offering a personalised sake subscription service that provides a different bottle of sake every month along with tasting notes, a sake review magazine and member card discounts.
If you’re new to the sake world, Sorakami also provide a starter kit of different grades so you can compare tastes and determine which type you prefer.
2. Tengu Sake
Sake bottles have some of the most beautiful packaging. The colours are bright. The material is eye-catching. The calligraphy and kanji are elegantly printed. But if you’re like me, then trying to read the Japanese characters isn’t always easy!
The founder of Tengu Sake, Oliver Hilton-Johnson, helps to solve that issue with a clever icon system that highlights whether a bottle is sweet, rich, cold, light, fragrant, aged etc. Product descriptions are informative and cater to people who’re trying nihonshu for the first time and those who’ve been drinking it for years. There’s information on rice polishing rate, flavours, food pairing and more.
Oliver is committed to never running out of stock and goes the extra mile to meet customer demand. Plus, Tengu Sake also stocks shochu and awamori, making it one of the most comprehensive sake shops in Europe.
3. London Sake
London Sake offers a wide range of nihonshu and company founder, Andy Travers, is passionate about sharing his love of sake with a wider audience. This can be seen from the amount of detail that goes into every product page, with food pairing suggestions, serving temperature recommendations and easy-to-digest information.
Another great touch is that London Sake shares the history of every brewery on the website. From Asahi to Urakasumi, the story of each brewery is as important as the alcohol they craft. It’s this human element and extra touch that makes London Sake one of my recommended suppliers.
4. The Japan Centre
Tucked away on a corner of Leicester Square in London is a shop that’s entirely devoted to Japanese culture. The Japan Centre is part supermarket, part restaurant, part café and part sake bar. The Centre has an impressive variety of sake, which range from delectable namazake to premium junmai daiginjo.
Look out for a small collection of shochu behind the counter, featuring barley, sweet potato and rice varieties. Whether you fancy going into the store or ordering online, the Japan Centre has got you covered.
As the UK’s first independent sake bar and shop, Moto makes nihonshu the star of the show. Located in Covent Gardens, this cozy venue stocks rare Japanese booze from some of the hardest-working breweries in the world.
Each sake comes with tasting cards and food recommendations from some of the friendliest staff you’ll ever meet. Co-founder Erika Haigh is knowledgeable and warm, happy to chat about the drinks, while also taking the time to get to know the customers.
Moto also functions as a retail space, with all the sake on the menu readily available to buy and take home. Every bottle comes with tasting notes and further recommendations, so you’ll be able to enjoy a heightened drinking experience in the comfort of your own home.
6. Kanpai Brewery
Visit an unassuming industrial estate in Peckham and you’ll be greeted by vibrant street art of Japan nightlife and an elegant geisha holding a sake cup. Welcome to Kanpai, the UK’s first sake brewery. Founders Tom and Lucy Wilson have created something truly magical with craft sake on tap and regular sake brewing workshops and tours.
The brewery’s flagship booze, Sumi, is a rich and fruity junmai tokubetsu with notes of lychee and pear that goes with a larger flight pairing. There’s also the ultra-premium ‘no evil’ series of junmai daiginjo to try at the taproom or buy online.
You can also sip shochu, awamori, Japanese craft beer, umeshu and cocktails. Kanpai is a must-visit venue for anyone with an interest in sake.