For me, one of the most exciting aspects of the UNLVino grand tasting are all the tables of Saké that are available for tasting. This year, there were seven tables of Saké, all lined up together against one wall. It is rare to see so much Saké available at any single wine tasting event. The various distributors and producers seemed to be working together, helping to promote Saké. The people I met were very personable and passionate, and I enjoyed myself immensely as I tried some Saké that I had not tasted before.
The first Saké table belonged to Sidney Frank Importing, which distributes Gekkeikan Saké. They were at UNLVino last year, and I did not try anything from their table as I was already familiar with everything they had there.
The second table belonged to Takara Saké, who were also present at UNLVino last year. I have tried many of their products before but did try a couple others, flavored Saké, this year.
The Hana Fuji Apple Flavored Saké ($10.50) has a very strong apple smell and the flavor is like biting into a juicy green apple. It is rather crisp and refreshing though I don't get much of a Saké taste. It does seem a bit sweet but not cloyingly so. At this price, it is a good buy. Though you could drink it on its own, I think it might be best in a cocktail.
The Hana Plum Flavored Saké ($10.50) also has a strong plummy smell and taste, similar in style of the Fuji Apple. It is crisp and refreshing, and only a bit sweet. For this price, it is a good buy. Though you could drink it on its own, I again think it might be best in a cocktail. I should note they also have Raspberry and Lychee Flavored Saké.
Another of the stable belonged to SakeOne, who was also at UNLVino last year. I did not try any of their Saké this year, but did try a Shochu they had available.
The Tombo "Dragonfly" Shochu ($15) is a distilled liquor made from barley and white koji, with an alcohol content of 24%. I have had a few Shochus before and this would make for an excellent entry-level Shochu, something that would likely appeal to even newcomers to Shochu. It is full bodied with a smooth, mild and clean taste with subtle fruit notes. It reminded me of a smooth vodka. I could easily drink this on its own, or in a cocktail. And at this price, it is an excellent buy. I definitely recommend this, especially if you are just starting to learn about shochu.
There are more Saké reviews to come.