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The Sake Handbook: All the information you need to become a Sake Expert! Paperback – November 15, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The best currently available sake guidebook in English is The Sake Handbook by John Gauntner, an American living in Japan."—San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

John Gauntner is recognized as the world's leading non-Japanese sake expert. A longtime Japan resident, he is well known among sake brewers and others within the sake industry. He wrote the Nihonshu Column in the Japan Times for many years before writing a weekly column on sake in Japanese for the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's and the world's most widely distributed Japanese newspaper. In 2006, John received the Sake Samurai award, the first year it was awarded. He has published five books on sake.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; 2nd Edition, Second Edition edition (November 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804834253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804834254
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Gauntner is recognized as the world's leading non-Japanese sake expert. Originally hailing from Ohio, he worked in his original vocation as an electrical engineer in Japan before fate pulled him, although hardly kicking and screaming, into the sake world.

A longtime Japan resident, he both speaks and reads Japanese fluently, and is well known among sake brewers and others within the sake industry as the window to making sake popular outside of Japan. He wrote the Nihonshu Column in the Japan Times (Japan's most widely read English language newspaper) for eight straight years. Many of those stories are archived here. He then wrote a weekly column on sake in Japanese for the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's and the world's most widely distributed Japanese newspaper. He now writes a monthly piece for the Tokyo Metropolis magazine, and has published five books on sake. His last book entitled "Nihonjin mo Shirenai Nihonshu no Hanashi" (Things About Sake Even Japanese People Don't Know) was published in Japanese in 2003 by Shogakkan, and is available at bookstores everywhere in Japan.

Known as "The Sake Guy," John has been quoted and/or mentioned in sake related articles in countless publications including The New York Times, Newsweek, Forbes, Business Week, and Rolling Stone. He has spoken at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Universities, Wharton School of Business, and countless other venues across the US and Japan.

John is the only non-Japanese certified Master of Sake Tasting in the world, and has also achieved the very difficult Sake Expert Assessor certification from Japan's National Research Institute of Brewing. No other non-Japanese in the world has both of these certifications. Learn more about them here.

John also received the Sake Samurai award in 2006, the first year it was awarded. The "Original Sake Educator," John has educated hundreds of sake professionals through his Sake Professional Courses, including the owner/operators of many of the sake-centric stores in the US, Germany and other locales. He has written five books and hundreds of articles on sake (see Articles & Books), and publishes a free monthly newsletter and offers various digital products that make sake easily understandable. Learn more about John here. .

He is the only non-Japanese member of the Ginjoshu Kenkyu Kikou (Ginjo Sake Research Group), and is the only non-Japanese to have participated as an official taster in a prefectural government tasting, as well as the only non-Japanese to provide regular sake-related consulting assistance in the form of lectures to the Government of Japan. He is the only non -Japanese to sit on the panel of the Award for the Promotion of Japanese Cuisine Overseas, an award assessed by the Ministry of Forestry and Fisheries in Japan. He is also the only non-Japanese to have won the "Kikizake Meijin" (Accomplished Sake Taster) award, presented by the Junsui Nihonshu Kyoukai (Pure Sake Association) for accuracy in sake tasting skills, an award he has won three times, in March 2001, March 2003, and March 2006. He serves as the chairman and chief non-Japanese tasting panel member of the International Sake Challenge held in Tokyo each year. Furthermore, he is the only non-Japanese to ever take (and subsequently pass) the "Kikizake Seminar" (Sake Assessment Seminar) administered by the Nihon Jouzo Kyoukai, or Brewing Society of Japan, the organization that, among other things, provides the majority of yeast strains to the brewing industry.

John also holds monthly seminars in Tokyo in English for the expat community, or those just passing through. Each summer and winter, he runs the Sake Professional Course, a week-long intensive sake study course, held in Japan in the winter and the US in the summer. Graduates of that course include the owners of all three of the sake-only retailers in the US, True Sake (San Francisco), Sake Nomi (Seattle) and Sayaka (New York City). Most of each winter he is traveling around Japan, visiting breweries regularly and constantly learning. Other efforts at educating and edifying about sake include a free monthly sake newsletter and various digital products and e-books available for purchase and immediate download in the Educational Products section.

John is available for seminars on sake, as well as consulting on sake-related projects. Interested parties please contact John directly.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Shea HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ah, sake. This rice wine has been around for thousands of years, and is part of many traditions in Japan. As Japanese food styles have become popular across the globe, so has this fine drink, which can be served both warm and cold. To learn more about the history of sake, and to learn how to choose a good brand, this book is invaluable.
To start with, The Sake Handbook goes over each step involved in making sake. Reading through the intricate processes involved helps you understand why there are so many varieties of sake, and why each one has a different flavor. One key step, for example, is the polishing step. The inner part of the rice generally is of higher quality than the outer portion, so the more 'extra' that is polished away, the finer the sake.
Next, Gauntner goes over the various types of sake, and how each is unique. Some of these terms are:
* Junmai-shu is pure rice sake. Only rice, water, and the koji mold are used to produce this top level sake. It ends up tasting heavier and fuller than other types of sake. It uses less than 70% polished rice - this means they have `ground away' the other 30% of impurities.
* Honjozo-shu has a small amount of distilled ethyl alcohol added during the final stages. They then add water later so the alcohol content stays the same. This sake is lighter and dryer than other types. It can be served warm.
* Ginjo-shu uses 60% polished rice. It is also fermented for longer periods of time, giving a complex and delicate flavor.
* Daiginjo-shu is just like Ginjo-shu, but polished to 50% of the original size. It takes even longer to brew and complete. Futsuu-shu - any sake which does not fall into one of the above four categories.
Read more ›
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
John really knows his stuff. I live in Tokyo and I run a Liquor shop here. I have studied for years about sake and I go once a year to make sake at a friends family brewery. I got so much insight and new information from John's wonderful book that I only wish he'd written it five years ago! If you already have several books on sake, this is a must to add to your collection, if this is the first book on sake that your going to buy, consider your self lucky that such an informitive and well written book is around to buy. Thanks to John Gauntner for sharing this informaion with all of us.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jim Richards on March 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is excellent. It's main sections on How Sake is Made, Drinking and Where to Buy are very detailed. Most of the terminology will be new to those unfamiliar with sake, the author takes the time to explain them in detail. There is the history, the people and some of the ritual of sake as well.
With each of the sake detailed, the author provides tasting notes and information about other sakes from the same brewer.
As a side note of the detail of the book, one of my Japanese friend's found her favourite sake in the book. I went to my local bottle shop with the book, pointed to the picture of the label and found we found it, leading to a night of entertaining drinking.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By mrvco on September 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first 1/3 of this book is rather interesting and does a decent job describing the history of and labor/love required to make Sake, but 2/3'rds of this book is a rather dry description of specific types of Sake and recommended Sushi bars in Japan.

I was really wanting more of the first 1/3 of the book since I'm have no plans of traveling to Japan on a Sushi-tasting junket anytime soon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve M on June 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I lived in Japan for 12 years and have tasted both good, and bad sake. Of course, good and bad is purely one person's opinion, and often the subject of bitter arguments - except in Japan. I have sat down with good friends and tasted $100 a glass sake and said to them (they were buying of course), "I don't like it". And they would not be offended. That's how sake is, like art. Some get it, and some don't.

This book provides an objective description of many types of sake, without treading on that hallowed ground of 'taste'. The description of how different types of sake are made sets up the novice well to make their own judgement on which brands meet their satisfaction. Good book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a source of invaluable information. It has the explanation of every type of sake and how it's made. The kimoto and yamahai methods were a first for me.
I also like the explanation of the various types of rice used to make sake. The language in the book is made easy, so that anyone can understand the contents of this very good information. I think that we need to read this book at least twice in order to become familiar with the sake terminology.
There are also some good recommendations of great sake: many of them are hard to find in Japan. However, with a little searching around: eureka!

If you're into rice wine like I am, this is a good piece for anyone's collection.

Good work John Gauntner!
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By P. Mulloy on April 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sake is one of those scary unknown things that is almost as intimidating as downing your first Uni nigiri. This book lays it all out and opens the door. I am more of a beer enthusiast than a sake drinker but I have a sake brewpub about 6 blocks from my house. This book gives me enough information to figure out the sake brewpub, ask intelligent questions and find and drink some interesting Sake. It also gives me enough information to go out and buy a bottle if I am so inspired. It is interesting and well written.
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