Discover Japan’s Kosher Sake

Japanese brewers brought together two ancient practices to produce kosher sake. Now these products are finding success overseas and the high demand for these bottles just keeps growing.
From left to right; Kikusui Junmai Ginjo, Kikusui Kuramitsu, Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai and Tamanohikari Junmai Ginjo / Photo by Meg Baggott

Two ancient traditions come together in an unexpected way: Sake, made from water, rice, koji (a type of mold) and yeast, is a perfect match for biblical kosher laws.

In the mid-2000s, as the word “organic” was on everyone’s lips, a couple of breweries expanded upon the trend and adopted kosher standards to appeal to consumers who were looking for an added level of care or oversight in production. A few years later, kosher sakes from breweries like Kikusui debuted in places with large Jewish populations like Los Angeles. Demand grew quickly. Other breweries, seeing sales of kosher sake increase “20% year over year,” according to Toshio Ueno from importer Mutual Trading Company, soon followed suit.

Kosher Sakes to Try
Ama No To Heaven’s Door Junmai
Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo
Katoukichibee Shouten Born Gold Junmai Daiginjo
Kikusui Junmai Ginjo
Kikusui Kuramitsu
Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai
Tamanohikari Junmai Ginjo

Along with its kosher-compatible ingredients, sake’s production practices align with kashrut regulations. Most sakes are pasteurized, a process used to make some kosher wines.

Only junmai sakes, which don’t use additives like alcohol (adhering to kosher’s strict purity standards), are eligible to receive the kosher seal. Tamanohikari, which dates to 1673, only produces junmai, so “certification was an easy step,” says Yuji Fukai, from the brewery’s international sales division.

Science Gives Sake a Modern Upgrade

Monica Samuels, national sake sales manager for importer Vine Connections, thinks the kosher trend will continue. She says that it reinforces the message of quality.

Kikusui has seven kosher sakes in its lineup, while Ama No To received certification a little over a year ago.

Tsuneki Kakizaki, president of Asamai Shuzo, the company that brews Ama No To, says the company’s “philosophy of purity will resonate further throughout the world, thanks to kosher certification.”

Published on July 16, 2018
Topics: Spirits



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