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Review: Tippsy “Sake Box” Service and Shirataki Jozen Sakes

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We have long had online wine clubs and beer clubs, but sake? Tippsy, which launched in November 2018, is quickly positioning itself to be the US’s major online sake retailer and yes, online sake club. Is the quality of the service and sake worth the monthly cost? Drinkhacker was sent July’s box for a tasting. Before we dig in, though, a little history behind the brand.

Tippsy’s founder, Genki Ito, conceived the idea after his time working in business analytic and sales strategy for Wismettac Asian Foods. “I would do tastings with breweries showcasing their sake and noticed a lack of communication between the brewers and their customers,” explains Ito. “They would showcase their sake, but not tell its story, detail the work that goes into making it, or describe its flavor. Tippsy aims to make enjoying sake easier by clearly communicating what makes each of our selections unique while offering a wide variety to suit every palate.”

Ito further described the challenges of reaching new customers. “Those new to sake can be intimidated. Should I drink a sake hot or chilled? What foods will pair with a particular sake? Each selection in our box comes with an information card detailing everything you need to know to enjoy the sake at its best.”

Tippsy delivers on its promise; the cards tell an excellent story and are full of relevant information. For example, the narrative of Jozen “Rich 80%” is colorful and entertaining: “Every year the snow melts and sinks into the ground to begin a fifty-year journey during which the water is purified and absorbs minerals. The water is pumped up straight from underground with no treatment to make delicious sake.” Sounds good, but how’s it taste? (Prices included are representative pricing to give you a sense of the service’s value; Tippsy does not sell these individually.)

Shirataki Jozen “Rich 80%” is savory on the nose, yet in a clean way with little earthiness. Think steamed white rice rather than brown, and white mushroom rather than cremini. Touches of lemon peel and banana bread contribute to its complexity. Its an enticing aroma, but the palate is where this sake really shines. True to it’s name, it boasts a rich, creamy, mouth-filling texture that’s pleasant served either slightly chilled or room temperature. There’s plenty of structure here with elevated levels of acidity, alcohol, umami and a long finish. 16.5% abv. A- / $NA

Shirataki Jozen “Aged” isn’t the most aromatic ginjo we’ve come across, but its blend of honeydew, kiwi, and honey is delicious nonetheless. The tasting card describes it as having plum, cherry and raisin aromas but it smells lighter-toned to us. It’s the lightest bodied of the three with a vibrant feel and the most agreeable flavor. While it lacks the power and complexity of it’s brothers, it’s the most refined and is remarkably pleasant to sip. 15.5% abv. B+ / $24

Shirataki Jozen “Aqua” is mismarketed. One look at that sky-blue bottle and you may expect what I just described for “Aged,” but “Aqua” features a powerfully aromatic, musty, earthy nose not unlike a portobello mushroom cooked in soy sauce. Although the info card recommends serving this one cold, I think it’s best at room temperature: the impressive aromatics are restrained when chilled and the high alcohol content becomes overwhelming when warmed. It’s an umami bomb on the palate with a salted pretzel flavor on the finish. It’s the most challenging to drink, but also the most rewarding. 17.5% abv. A- / $33

All said, Tippsy succeeds in its mission to provide not only great sake, but comprehensive and relevant information about each and every one of their selections. While I may not have agreed with every tasting descriptor or suggested serving temperature, I do admit that details like these are personal. If you’re looking to buy sake online, it’s hard to do any better than Tippsy.

(For the service): A / $59 per month for 3 bottles / tippsy.com

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Stephen Allison

Stephen Allison holds Certified Sommelier, Certified Cicerone, and WSET Level 3 Award in Sake distinctions and is a former Sommelier with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

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