An unparalleled array of the world’s finest sakes, a record 391, found their way to Las Vegas, for its first time hosting of the 15th Annual The Joy of Sake event at Caesars Palace. There was more sake than any one person could hope to sample, yet one could always try. To top it off, the cuisine was spectacular, full of flavorful, palate-tempting options from 12 of the best Asian restaurants in Las Vegas.

Southern Wine & Spirits’ Luis de Santos introduced me to some of the best sakes I tasted in the evening. Just sampling them, my life improved immediately. Chris Pearce, the Joy of Sake Restaurant Coordinator, is right with his advice: Just sip the sakes to find what you like. As a sake novice, I’m no expert on how to rate body, balance, harmony of taste and aroma but I can find what I like.

The sake sampling was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Every single option of the 391 available was competition-level and represented the largest sake tasting display in the world outside of Japan. It was extraordinary to taste the incredible variety of flavors, dependent on how polished the rice was, what process was used to make the final product and the region in which the rice was grown. One of the absolute standouts of the evening and one of my favorites of the approximately 40 sakes I sampled was from the Fukushima area, Okunomatsu Tokubetsu Junmai.

I also really enjoyed this cloudy sake in a blue bottle, the Shirakawago Sasanigori sake. Luis shared with me that all sake is cloudy like this one when it’s first produced. It’s only through the filtration process that most sakes become clear. One of the great benefits of these two sakes includes that they’re available in the United States and absolutely delicious.

My top picks of the foods I sampled to complement the sake included the offerings from Other Mama, Sushi Roku and SUSHISAMBA. Other Mama served a smoky shrimp ceviche with a sweet potato chip. The ceviche to die for was spicy and very flavorful with strong hints of garlic, fresh tomato, cilantro, barbeque and cayenne, nicely balanced with the sweet-salty-crunchiness of the sweet potato chip.

Sushi Roku delighted with a bite of tuna sashimi topped with black truffle, avocado and shaved parmesan cheese - so creamy and robust, the layers of flavor evident.

SUSHISAMBA’s spectacular salmon tiradito with a great textural crunch and savory garlic ponzu sauce which stimulated the palate, balanced with the sweetness of the kinkan honey… nectar of the gods!

I kept returning to one particular sake throughout the evening - a Daiginjo A, which are top sakes characterized by their smoothness, nuance and gentle qualities. They are perfect introductions to sake. The placard read Tokugawa Ieyasu “Junmai Daiginjo” Marushi Jozo Aichi Prefecture. It was incredibly smooth and easy to drink. It complemented all the delectable appetizers beautifully. The only problem is that it’s only available in Japan.

As I see it, this leaves me with two choices to revisit my favorite sake of the evening. I can either hope this phenomenal event returns to Las Vegas next year or I can visit The Joy of Sake which takes place in Japan on November 5 of this year. I prefer Option B.

For more information about The Joy of Sake, please visit their website at