Hasegawa Saketen 酒友 (Tokyo)

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Address: 4-12-10 Jingumae,Shibuya (3F) but various other locations
Website: http://www.hasegawasaketen.com/index_en.html

Hasegawa Saketen is a retail store with an onsite stand-up tasting bar.  With various locations across Tokyo, we stopped by the Omotesando Hills location situated on the third floor of an architectural high-end mall.

Sure you could have a glass of beer or wine, but what Hasegawa is known for is their artisan sakes. Their website describes Koichi Hasegawa, the president, as a powerful sake critic in Japan. But, he believes anyone can get to know sake and what it takes is more experiences with tasting it. Lucky for me, as up until this point I’ve only tried it a handful of times and know little about this Japanese rice-based spirit.

For the first round, we decided to rely on the expertise of the bartender and informed him, with the help of a Japanese speaking friend, that we like dry and crisp tasting sakes. He pours us three different kinds – my apologizes I can’t remember the names of them but the bottles are pictured for your reference and each shot ranged from ¥500 to ¥600.

When they are presented side by side, the differences are apparent simply by looking at them.  The cloudier one, we’re told, is younger and therefore has more impurities in it. In fact, the bullseye coasters are supposed to help you look through the sake to spot any sediment.

My favourite one was the one on the left, which had that clean & crisp taste and drier finish we liked. Meanwhile, the younger sake was a bit harsh for my palette and the one on the right a tad sweet.

For the second round, we ordered things off the menu which sounded interesting.  My choice was sparkling sake (¥400), which based on the menu changes daily. During our visit, it was gorgeous pink colour and arrived in a flute looking and even tasting like champagne.  My husband opted for the kanehachi genshu shochu (¥525; pictured on the right), another type of distilled spirit except in this case made with barley (although Hasegawa also offered another made with sweet potato). Shochu, with its 42% alcohol content, is like sipping tequila and I really could have used a lime afterwards.  In the middle, was another sake called ugonotuski Daiginyo (¥800) and interestingly was served in a wine glass. Perhaps, it’s the glass, but I loved being able to swirl it and stick your nose in to really smell it.  Out of everything I tasted, this was definitely the best – still a crisp dry finish but with a bit more body.

A huge thank you to our friend L. in Japan for introducing us to Hasegawa, it was a lovely end to an afternoon of site seeing.  Hasegawa also has a fridge the size of a wall filled with sakes to purchase and bring home.  If liquor isn’t your thing, there are also glasses, accessories and snacks that would make great souvenirs and gifts.

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