Sake: The National Beverage of Japan(II)
Similar to French fine wines, the flavor of sake is highly influenced by rice variety, water quality, brewing techniques, and local weather. Therefore, except for the common sake (click here to learn common sake!), there are some special types of sake. The most famous sake does not necessarily most suit you. What matters most is your own taste and preference. Here is a list of “unfamous” sake for you to give a shot!
Akai Sake: Akai Sake is known as red sake because it appears a distinct rosy color. This special color can be attributed to a special Koji (the fungus to make sake) - beni koji. Beni koji can endow the final product with a reddish tint without spoiling the sake flavor.
Amazake: Literally, Amazake means “sweet sake”. Although it’s called “sake”, it can be made low alcohol or non-alcohol. It’s a thick and creamy sake with a naturally sweet taste. It is a traditional Japanese beverage fermented by rice koji or sake lees.
Arabashiri: In Japanese, Arabashiri means “rough run”. Arabashiri sake refers to the first-run fresh sake that runs out under its self-gravity. Arabashiri is fresh and tangy with a slightly sweet flavor.
Flavored Sake: Flavored sake is a popular type of sake infused with sweet and tangy fruit flavors. It’s perfect for making cocktails because it’s full of fruity aroma, such as plum, cherry, raspberry, and apple.
Genshu: Literally, the word Genshu means “original”. Genshu is undiluted sake that has a higher alcohol level (18-21%). Normally, other sake will be diluted to a lower alcohol level (around15%). Therefore, Genshu enjoys a powerful and punchy flavor.
Jizake: In Japanese, Jazake means “local sake”. It is a regional or local sake produced by smaller breweries. Normally, they are fresh and affordable. These independent brewers tend not to mass production, therefore, they can only be tasted locally. They are the perfect match for the local cuisine.
Kimoto/Yamahai: Kimoto refers to sake brewed in the traditional way. During brewing, Kimoto is fermented by naturally-existing lactic acid in the air rather than additive lactic acid, which is a labor-intensive and time-intensive manner. The long-time brewing endows Kimoto with a mellower and richer flavor. Yamahai is similar to Kimoto, only skipping a process of mash-grinding.
Kinpaku Iri: Kinpaku Iri is a sake that contains gold flakes. It will not change the flavor of the sake. It’s merely a decoration to impart a luxury and enjoyable vibe.
Koshu: Koshu sake that aged in bottles or barrels for at least 3 years. Koshu appears an amber color and has a tangy, earthy, and nutty flavor.
Muroka: Different from most sake that goes through filtration for transparency, Muroka is the unfiltered sake. It skips the filtration process to retain a rough and robust aroma.
Nama: In Japanese, the word “Nama” means “raw” or “fresh”. Most sake are pasteurized two times to kill bacteria. By contrast, Nama is the unpasteurized sake. Its flavor is fresher and fruitier. It must be refrigerated delicately and consumed quickly after being opened.
Namachozo: Namachozo is the sake pasteurized once (skip the first pasteurization. Its flavor is similar to Nama. Similarly, it also needs to be reserved in your refrigerator.
Namazume: Namazume is the sake skip the second pasteurization. Its flavor and storage condition are similar to Namachozo.
Nogori: Nogori is the unfiltered sake. It’s not 100% unfiltered, rather, it is filtered roughly. Therefore, it’s cloudy because of the floating leftovers. The residual sake lees make Nogori taste sweeter and softer.
Shiboritate: Shiborita is a sake that can only be enjoyed during the winter. It is made of rice harvested in that year and goes to market directly after pressing. Since it skips the process of maturity, it tastes wild and spicy.
Sparkling: Sparkling sake is treated with a secondary fermentation process and bottled before the end of the process to ensure abundant bubbles. It tastes softer and lighter than other sake and contains less alcohol.