Reader Question – Where Can I Find Good Sake…

One of the most common questions I get asked from my US readers is “Where can I find good sake near my home?” Almost as frequently I’m asked “Can I buy any good sake over the internet?”

Unfortunately, the answer to this questions isn’t all that easy and I can’t be a huge help here. But…let me explain why…

As far as helping readers find what sake is available near them, or where their favorite brand is, or where good sake in general can be found in a specific area, that information is changing constantly and certainly not located in one place. The closest thing to a US directory is the book, “Sake Pure and Simple,” which lists places that sell and serve sake all over the US. It certainly does not have the absolute latest information.

So, that leaves the Internet. Ah, yes, the Internet.

Since we know there is plenty of good sake out there, why can’t we just contact those who are selling it, wherever they may be, and have them ship it to us? In this day and age we would expect that we could just order it over the Internet and it would show up on our doorstep. In a perfect, free-commerce world, this would be true. But the U.S. has a few old laws on the books left over from the days when Prohibition ended that, it could be argued, no longer serve the public. In short, with the exception of some states, it is not legal to ship alcoholic beverages to consumers over state lines.

In short, there are three tiers to the industry. The top tier is that of the producer, like winery, brewery or distillery, or importer and/or out-of-state-shipper (OOS). The second tier is that of wholesaler or distributor (for all intents and purposes, the same thing). The third tier is the retailer. To keep unsavory elements from controlling the industry, no company is allowed to own an interest in more than one tier.

In order for sake to get into the hands of a consumer in the U.S., it must pass through all three tiers. In other words, a sake needs to go through an importer, wholesaler, and retail shop or restaurant before coming to you. Naturally, each tier takes its margin, adding to the final price along the way.

Finally, sake cannot be shipped from a retailer to a consumer in another state, with the exception of the states that allow it. This means that if a distributor in your state does not carry a certain sake, it is all but impossible for you to get it.

Sorry I don’t have better news for you, but the good news is that you can find a local retailer and work with them to help you get what you would like, and plenty of sake groups popping up all over the place, so you may just be able to find what you need after-all.

If you’ll be in Portland, Oregon in November, I’ll be hosting the Sake Professional Course. This  event will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sake and give you the chance to taste over 90 different types of sake. You can read more about the Sake Professional Course that was conducted earlier this year on “The Professional Foodie” or “Wine Enthusiast Magazine”.  For more information, click here, or email us at

Explore posts in the same categories: Sake-General Information

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