Welcome to this new series which teaches you the basic little facts about sake. In our first edition, we will explain the meaning of Yamahai. I am sure you will have seen or heard the word ‘Yamahai’ at some point, but just what are the traits of Yamahai sake?
In order to understand Yamahai you must first understand Kimoto
Kimoto is yet another word which you might have seen written on the sake labels.
In a nutshell, sake is a fermented product made from rice, water and a mould called koji. The koji turns the starch into a form of glucose which is then in turn converted into alcohol by a yeast.
In order to propagate the yeast something called a yeast starter or shubo (lit: the mother of sake) is required. The yeast starter method varies depending on the production process.
Propagation only takes place when all the other wild bacteria have been driven out. In other words, a specific environment is required for the yeast to do its job. It is lactic acid that plays the role of bouncer and can be produced in one of two ways: either artificially, or by converting lactic acid bacteria naturally existing inside the brewery and weeding out the unwanted bacteria by natural selection.
The artificial addition method is referred to as Sokujo, the natural method as Kimoto. Yamahai is type of Kimoto style yeast starter.
Yamahai Translates to ‘Yamaoroshi Omitted‘
Are you following us so far?
Compared to the Sokujo method it takes much longer to propagate a healthy yeast using the Kimoto method.
During that time, in order to accelerate the saccharification (sugar conversion) process, rice, water and koji is rammed into a puree using wooden oars. This is referred to as Yamaoroshi (lit: knocking the mountain down; what you are essentially doing is just that, only not mountains but large piles of rice, water and koji) or pole ramming to you and me.
Yamaoroshi has to be carried out during the late night to early morning hours in the coldest months, making it an extremely laborious task for the brewer workers.
However, brewing has come along in leaps and bounds, so it is now possible to produce a Kimoto-like flavour without the need for the pole ramming bit.
Compared to sake made with the sokujo method, yeast propagation takes longer, but the yeast goes through a battle for survival which if it survives makes it stronger.
As a result, sake produced this way is rich in amino acids giving it depth of flavour and body. Furthermore, it comes out with more of a clean finish thanks to the acidity from the amino acid.
A sake that is more full flavoured and big boned than clean and sleek is one of the characteristics of the Yamahai type.
There are Yamahais for you to try at KURAND SAKE MARKET. Once you know the taste of Yamahai you will have broadened your sake horizons so to speak