One of the more interesting things about the sake world is that interspersed between long-famous sake-brewing regions, such as Fushimi, Nada and Niigata, are locales that have well-established sake traditions all their own. Places such as Yamagata, Shizuoka, Shimane and Tottori have well-defined styles and histories that are unique and interesting. Although far from huge in production terms, some of the finest sake in the land comes from these places. Ishikawa Prefecture belongs on that list.

Located on the Sea of Japan, Ishikawa is nice and cold -- perfect for sake brewing. There are basically three regions in Ishikawa within which the sakagura are concentrated. Noto, on the peninsula of the same name, is home to perhaps half the kura, with almost as many in Kaga at the other end. The remaining few (five to be exact) are close to Kanazawa in the center.

The flavor profile of Ishikawa sake has done an about-face over the last few decades. In the mid-1970s, it was fairly heavy and sweet sake, full and complex, with a good dose of umami, the hard-to-describe goodness that is almost intuitively sensed. But since then, it has shifted greatly toward the drier side of things.