Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.
As the weather gradually becomes cooler, the season for natsuzake (summer sake) ends and the long-awaited hiyaoroshi season begins. Autumn is known for a plethora of delicious foods. This is also the season that gifts what many sake aficionados lovingly regard to as the most delicious seasonal sake. We are of course talking about hiyaoroshi. See this past article for a simple introduction to hiyaoroshi.
To briefly recap, hiyaoroshi appears on the market during September, October, and November. During these three months, hiyaoroshi continues to mature slowly shedding its rebellious, youthful edge and developing more depth, balance, and maturity. However this evolution is quite complex and each month produces such a different flavor, that brewers often give each version of hiyaoroshi its own name.
In this article we will introduce three of these and look at the best way to enjoy them including tips on serving temperature and food pairing. Note, this article introduces hiyaoroshi in the context of the Japanese seasons. Serving advice and the styles themselves may vary in other countries.
Hiyaoroshi that goes on to the market during September is called nagoshizake (literally, end of summer sake). Its name derives from the timing of its release, crossing over from the summer and hitting the shelves just as the chill of autumn arrives. Any bitterness the sake had when it was a little whippersnapper vanishes and is replaced by a flavorful but altogether mellower profile. It is the perfect precursor to hiyaoroshi. Summer namazake can still be enjoyed during this season so some sakaya (liquor store) intentionally introduce summer namazake as nagoshizake during this season to set it apart.
How to Enjoy
Nagoshizake is best enjoyed at cold or at room temperature. A unique way to drink it would be mizorezake (slush sake). Mizorezake is a sherbet like sake made by freezing the sake. Instead of freezing it suddenly at minus 10-15 degrees, it is frozen slowly which causes it to freeze while still in liquid form. As you pour into a glass it thaws and turns into crunchy slush.
Hiya or room temperature hiyaoroshi pairs with both Japanese and western cuisine. Hiyaoroshi still as lightweight as natsuzake so it goes well with light tasting dishes such as tofu, otsukemono (pickles), and plum crystals. Mizorezake is a very cold drink so it goes best with warm dishes. Hiyaoroshi also goes well with cuisine where the ingredient’s natural flavor is used such as nabe, even though it is a little early in the season.
Hiyaoroshi that comes out in October is called akidashi-ichibanzake. The flavor and aroma are in perfect balance. October is the perfect timing to drink this sake. It is more mature than in September and has a deeper mellow flavor. It also has a soft aroma and has soft mouthfeel.
How to Enjoy
This sake can be enjoyed cold or slightly warmed, the best temperature being around 35 degrees, the same temperature as human skin. The sweetness of hiyaoroshi increases as it gets warmer and accentuates and spreads the aroma of rice inside the drinker’s mouth.
The soft, soothing aroma and mellowness of this sake makes it a perfect match for nearly all autumn fare. It can be enjoyed hot or cold. It goes particularly well with Sanma (pacific saury) and mushrooms. Hot oden is also great. Another surprising divine pairing is fresh cheese.
Banshu-umazake makes its long-awaited arrival on the market during November. This is the late bloomer in the hiyaoroshi category but has by far the most mature taste. As late autumn comes to a close, the umami increases and giving it a richness that contrasts nicely with its much milder undertones.
How to Enjoy
Banshu-umazake appears when mornings and evenings start to get chilly and autumn leaves start to turn red. This is the ideal season for kanzake (warmed sake). Also nurukan (lukewarm) is good too. Nurukan is about 40 degrees which is a bit hotter than human skin temperature. Matured sweet flavor stands out and combines with the aroma to make it even more mellow.
Banshu-umazake is matured slowly and has a deep umami and mellowness. Autumn food that is rich with umami and has strong flavor (dishes flavored with miso, soy sauce, and salt) goes well with banshu-umazake. Shiokara (salted fish), saba-daikon (yellowtail and Japanese radish cooked with soy sauce), saba-no-misoni (simmered mackerel with miso), nikomi (stew), ankimo (monkfish liver), karasumi (dried mullet roe), and nikujyaga (simmered meat and potatoes are just a few of the dishes that go well with banshu-umazake. Kanzake goes especially well with dishes that have been simmered for long periods of time. It also goes well with rich cheese.
Autumn is only three months long but the difference taste every month is something to look forward to. KURAND SAKE MARKET is proud of our selection of hiyaoroshi so please come and try it out!