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The Mainichi Newspaper covers a very specialised sake – one just for mackerel. Get ready for the puns.

The first one is the date the sake was released, 8 March. So what, you say. If you take some liberties with the readings for the numbers 3 and 8 in Japanese (which uses “Month 1”, “Month 2”, etc. for months) you can get away with 3-8 as sa-ha, which can be modified to saba, which is the Japanese word for mackerel. Crying yet?

Made by the historic Yoshikubo brewery in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, the name of the sake is equally puntastic. Saba de Shu can be interpreted as “mackerel with sake”, or as a fudged pronunciation of saba desu, “it’s mackerel”. Seriously, this is what the Japanese language spends its time doing. 

As you may have guessed, this sake is especially for drinking with mackerel, and is made up of a blend of five different sake from the Yoshikubo brewery. Mackerel is rich in umami in the form of inosinic acid, and Saba de Shu is high in amino acids, also sources of the umami taste, so it can stand up to the intense flavour. It’s also relatively high in acidity for a clean taste that also highlights the flavour of mackerel and makes it even more delicious.

Coastal Ibaraki Prefecture catches 138,800 tonnes (2016) of mackerel, the most of any Japanese prefecture, so Saba de Shu will be the perfect accompaniment.