The Best Japanese Sake Comes from Female Distillers

O Ya's Sake Sisters are shining a light on why you should be drinking these spirits year-round

The Sake Sisters | Photo: Brian Samuels

The rise of women in the spirits industry is no recent breakthrough—in Japan, female sake distillers have been shaking up the male-dominated field for years. And not only that, they're brewing some of the best the country has to offer.

Just ask Nancy Cushman, co-owner of acclaimed omakase restaurant and sake bar O Ya, with locations in NYC and Boston. The certified sake professional leads the restaurant's female-dominated staff who have become affectionately known as the Sake Sisters. Their curated list of spirits even earned O Ya a 2017 James Beard nomination for Outstanding Bar Program. And throughout March, they're showcasing the best of Japan's female tojis, or master brewers, with a selection of their premium sakes. Can't make it to O Ya? Here are some of Cushman's favorite women-brewed sakes you should be sipping and talking about year-round—not just today.

Tae no Hana Junmai: Moriki Brewery

For fourth-generation owner Rumiko Moriki, being honest with her customers involves "a lot of hard work in the making of the best-quality sake," which is why she chooses to do all of the labor-intensive processes by hand. Her resulting spirit brings a smooth mouthfeel with hints of pear and warm spices balanced by a finish of crisp apple. 

Crane of Paradise Junmai: Kawatsuru Brewery

Recently promoted to Kawatsuru's toji, Miki Fujioka makes sake that's been described as umakuchi, or having a mix of flavors that are simultaneously sweet, dry and savory. As a result, her Crane of Paradise sake manages to balance flavors of grapefruit and aromas of fresh-cut grass with hints of salted pineapple. 

Imada Fukucho Biho Junmai Ginjo: Imada Shuzo Brewery

Miho Imada is in the process of taking over Imada Shuzo Brewery, which specializes in ginjo sake, one of the spirits most premium grades. Only local strains of rice are used in Imada's small-batch process, resulting in aromas of wisteria and refreshing green grapes.