|Product: Gekkeikan Plum Sake|
Producer: Japanese Plum Gekkeikan
Approximate Retail Value: $11.99 for 750ml
Country of Origin: Japan
Reviewer: M.S. Barnhart
Flavor – Strong, biting.
Feel – Heavy syrup.
Finish – No aftertaste, goes down smooth.
By: M.S. Barnhart
My fascination with Japanese culture started back in 2001. Along with the fascination came the discovery of a well-known and loved drink among the Japanese called sake. Sake is the Japanese version of wine. It’s the Japanese choice of drink as it's made from rice, and since rice was always abundant sake was always offered.
Sake may be called wine but it isn't produced the same as we produce our wine by fermenting the sugar naturally. Instead it's produced more like beer, in which the sugar is converted from starch. But sake differs from the beer process as well. In beer, the conversion from starch to sugar and then sugar to alcohol occurs in two steps, whereas with sake it occurs simultaneously. The alcohol content in sake is also much higher compared to beer or wine. Beer consists of 3-8 percent, wine 9-16 percent and sake 18-20 percent, though it's usually lowered to about 15 percent by diluting it with water before bottling.
What makes sake even more fascinating is that its origins are unknown. The first written record was in the Book of Wei. It's a third century Chinese text that speaks of the Japanese drinking and dancing. Sake in Japan has been through a lot of ups and downs, being banned, being outrageously taxed and not being brewed at all for a time in World War II. Today sake is made internationally, with brewing plants located all across the world. While productivity is high around the world, consumption has actually dropped in Japan.
I've tasted a lot of sake in the past several years—some extremely good, some extremely bad. Straight sake is a bit too harsh for my taste buds, so I've pretty much stuck with plum sake which adds a slight sweetness to it. I have never tried the brand Japanese Plum Gekkeikan, but it said it was imported straight from Japan so I figured it'd prove to be a delicious beverage.
I first tried it at room temperature which caught me off guard with its heavy syrup, strong smell and very subdued plum taste. Next it was chilled, which ended up not being as strong; everything was subdued—the sweetness, the syrup, and even the alcohol. When I tried it in water, everything was even more subdued; there was far less plum but the syrup taste came back making the drink heavy. It tasted akin to heavy apple juice.
The common practice of drinking sake is to heat it up, so that's what I did next. The smell was overpowering; it went right up my nose. It tasted like straight liquor with no plum at all. Now, it was like warm apple juice with a smooth finish.
The back of the bottle suggested a few mixers. The first mixer I tried was Coca Cola. The cola totally took over; it became coke with a hint of plum, though it was very subtle.
They also suggested orange juice. There's really no other way to describe it except that it tasted like orange juice with alcohol. No plum was detected, both in smell and taste. It smelled just like orange juice and I couldn't even smell the alcohol.
Japanese Plum Gekkeikan stayed true to sake, but lacked when it came to the plum. My favorite blend was when it was mixed with water to make it taste like apple juice. This is definitely a brand that you'll want to mix with something else. Drinking it straight is a tad heavy but over time you could get used to it.