The profoundness of the aroma of sake: Uwadachika & Fukumika

Greetings sake lovers

Welcome to another KURAND sake magazine column where we bring you little nuggets of information about sake in bite sized chunks.

An essential aspect of tasting sake is the aroma. The aroma of sake is in fact far more profound than you might have realised. What at first appears to be quite a simple element of tasting actually requires a very finite dissection. Suffice to say, there are various tricks to the trade, some of which we will cover at the end of this article and in future article. With these tips and just a bit of practice you will be sniffing your way through sake like a well-trained sniffer dog in no time at all.

Uwadachika – the rising aroma

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We first look at the Uwadachika (LIT: rising aroma). This is the equivalent of the so-called ‘wine nose’; that first whiff gently wafting outwards towards you. You only have to bring your nose closer to the glass for it to be evident, even if it is not quite on par with wine.

The uwadachika is the carrier of very characteristic aromas that hint at how the sake was made from the fruity aroma called Ginjoka to the less desirable Hineka.

Let’s take a look at these aromas in a little more detail.

Ginjoka

Ginjoka would translate literally to “refined sake aroma” in English. These are very similar to the secondary aromas or ‘bouquets’ that you find with a lot of aged, more refined wines and are generally a product of the yeast or fermentation process — or both. It is an aroma that as the name suggests is indicative of most ginjo sake — with many exceptions. On occasions it can be so obvious you just want to shout out and let everyone around you know. For some people it’s love at first sight. In the case of the more fruity ginjo aromas, they are what you get when you slowly ferment highly polished brewing rice (Shuzokotekimai) like Yamada Nishiki at low temperature.That is because when the yeast, the little microorganism that converts the sugar into alcohol, is pushed to its limits like this: with limited nutrition, in the cold, it creates something wonderful in the form of Ethanol Alcohol and other types of high quality alcohol.

Hineka

Let’s not beat around the bush, this is the aroma of sake that has for all intents and purposes, deteriorated to the point of no return and is no longer really fit for drinking. That is not to say that it will do you any harm; it is just probably better off turning into a cooking ingredient which is what a lot of PROs do — never waste sake though. It’s an aroma that is best described as dank-smelling, stale, rancid or if you really want to make your point: a damp dishcloth on a bad day.

Skip past the Uwadachika at your peril.

“Retronasal” aromas

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Literally translated as the “aroma in your mouth”, the Fukumika is the aroma that is released when you inhale mid tasting. It actually hitches a ride on the blast of air as it gets funnelled up towards the receptors positioned just above your nasal passage. The timing of the signals sent to the brain: while the sake is still in your mouth, tricks you into thinking that these are actually flavours when in fact there are only 4 or 5 flavours you can sense on the tongue. It’s precisely the same science that makes wine drinkers fuss so much over their nose. It’s also the reason you can’t taste accurately when you have a cold.

Have you ever heard someone refer to a sake has having achieved a good balance of aroma? That is the phrase that is used when there is little or no contrast between the Uwadachika and Fukumika.

Temperature and aroma

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Finally, let’s look at a trick to help you trap those aromas. This one involves temperature. If you have read our other articles, you will no doubt already know that temperature is a very big factor when it comes to tasting sake. In general, the higher the temperature, the more disseminated the aroma is. Low temperatures work the opposite way in shutting out the aromas.

Be careful not to heat the sake up too much though as this will over-enhance the aroma and you won’t be able to latch on to specific scents.


Well that wraps up another KURAND column. I am sure it raises as many questions as it answers but that’s fine because we plan to keep writing.

Watch this space!