Sake SET Vol 2: Just How Sweet is That Sake Anyway?

Written by Chris Hughes

SET 3 Event Report

Date: 29/11/15
Venue: Kurand Sake Market Asakusa Branch
Participants: 20 (8 foreigners,12 Japanese)
Duration: 4 hours
Theme: The difference between sweet & dry sake
Guest Speaker: Mr. Nakasuji of Miyoshikiku Brewery, Tokushima Prefecture

On 29th November, we held our second SAKE SET (Sake Exchange Tokyo) event and I think we actually achieved the impossible and topped the first! I would just like to thank all those who attended for making the event so successful and a joy to host.

This time we were very lucky to be joined by none other than Mr.Nakasuji of Miyoshikiku Brewery in Tokushima Prefecture, who very kindly brought with him not 1,not 2, but 3 amazing limited-edition sakes for us to taste. Two of these were served as aperitif and after-dinner drinks. The aperitif was a spicy dry cloudy sake, the after-dinner drink was a special high-quality type sake called Kijoshu. (see this article here for more info).

two bottles of sake: one cloudy / one kijoshu

So without further ado, allow me to introduce the special guest star of the show, take it away Mr.Nakasuji!


Special Guest Brewer: Mr. Sosei Nakasuji
Brewery: Miyoshikiku Brewery
Prefecture: Tokushima
Sake type: Modern, Super fruity!

Q: Why can you speak such good English?
A: I went to US when I was 17 as a high school exchange student. I went on to college and graduated UNC-CH with bachelor of economics. I came back to Japan in 2009 and decided to join sake world, my natural love.

Q: How and when did you join this brewery?
A: I joined Miyoshikiku as a brewery crew/sales representative after having worked for five years in other sake breweries near Tokyo.

So there you have it! And we had no sooner toasted the start of the event than he was busy mingling with everyone and passing around his sake.

The Theme


One of the biggest challenges facing newcomers to the beverage has got to be the sheer number of types and flavours on offer—a little overwhelming to say the least.
One way of navigating your way through this maze of choice is to narrow your preference down to something simple, like say for example, the sweetness or dryness of the sake. But sake bottles do not normally tell you whether they are sweet or dry; not like wine bottles do. So then, how on earth do you tell which one is dry and which one is sweet? Alas, that was the question we attempted to answer in our second SET.

The Concept


Learn about sake in a casual and fun way while making new friends with people from all over the world. Each event comes with a guided tasting and the opportunity to taste from over 100 different types of sake, without time limits, all sourced from rare small breweries that don’t usually get a look in in the capital. Furthermore, some of the sakes can only be tasted at these events.

The Lecture


● Sake in a nutshell 
● Cultural origins and history  
● Modern developments 
● Raw ingredients 
● Production process: Focus Koji making
Participants were treated to some videos of koji making, taken during my training- note, not a great example considering how bad I was so they were shown a professional’s work as well.

● Where does sake get its sweetness from?
● Other factors that make sake dry / sweet.
● The key ingredient that makes sweet sake clean tasting
● Conclusion 

The guided tasting


A selection of 6 sakes, all with varying degrees of sweetness and dryness; some of them deceptively so: I purposefully picked sakes that did not taste how they were described to demonstrate the diversity of flavour on offer. Too many people confine themselves to the habit of ordering sweet or dry sake, professionals included. It is much better if you can give a more detailed explanation of what you are looking for. SET 2 provided participants with a new tasting vocabulary with which to explore, one that sails far away from the aforementioned constraints. When you are able to request a sake in this way, the sweetness and dryness levels of sake in effect become surplus to requirements.

The Blind Tasting


Participants were then free to taste as many sakes as they could muster and make friends in the process.


The sakes brought by Mr.Nakasuji complimented the lineup perfectly and were hands down the most popular sake of the event —true to the KURAND concept: sake tastes even more delicious when you drink knowing who made it and the passion that went into it. He is such a professional that even when his sakes had all been lapped up, before you can say the words: the show must go on! he was gliding from table to table serving other brewery’s sakes. What a gent!
I should mention at this point that all 3 of the sakes provided by Miyoshikiku Brewery are not available in the regular KURAND lineup. In other words, this a once and only chance to try them.

We hope to invite Miyoshikiku back for future events.

Once again, the element that made this event such a success is without a doubt the people. I think you can see from the pictures what a lovely bunch of people we were graced with. Every event just gets better and better for all involved. I can’t wait to see where this event is in the next couple of months time. I hope more of you will join us on this crusade to create one of the biggest, most spectacular, memorable meetups in history.

If this event report has tickled your taste buds, there is another SET just around the corner.


SAKE SET VOL 3 13th December noon-4pm

It is all in the label!
We will examine the beautiful artwork of the sake label and determine whether it really is wise to choose sake based on its bottle’s aesthetics.

<<< Meetup link >>>

I look forward to seeing you all !!

Did You know? How The High Quality Type Sake, Kijoshu Gets Its Sweet Taste?



Well, first off, kijoshu is a type of sake, where the water that is normally added in the third and final stage of the three-stage fermentation* process: Tome, is replaced with sake; accordingly it can be quite an expensive luxury item.
* In general, sake is fermented in 3 stages.

As those who have tasted it before will know, it is recognisable by its sweet, rich, velvety flavour. The raw ingredients are, for the most part, rice, koji and sake which puts it into the futsushu tax category. Incidentally, Kijoshu is apparently the brand name that the Kijoshu Society, an organisation of over 40 breweries, thought up and is exclusive to its members. Kijoshu made by non-member breweries is therefore referred to using other names such as Saijojikomi, Jojo and Sanruijoshu.

The Origin & History of Kijoshu


Kijoshu was established in 1973, by the National Tax Agency Brewing Laboratory (the former name for the National Research Institute of Brewing) — no doubt you are surprised by its short history. Back then, the sake of choice to entertain foreign guests to state dinners was mainly French wine or Champagne. The fact that sake, with its long rich Japanese tradition, was not getting a look in at such functions, raised a question in the mind of the chief professor of the laboratory at the time, Satou Makoto. He thought to himself: “we need to make something more expensive. And to do so, we will make a sake with sake instead of water” and together with his researchees he got down to work. It was later so named to serve as a sort of high quality sake that was comparable with Kifu wine (sweet Japanese aged wine).
Incidentally, by complete coincidence, the sake-with-sake method used to make Kijoshu is identical to an ancient brewing method of the Imperial Household, Shiori, as inscribed in an ancient manuscript from the Heian Period: Engishiki (set of ancient government regulations). This tells us, does it not, that people back then possessed the same sort of superior skills and wisdom as in modern times.

Why Does Kijoshu Turn Out Sweet?


Right then, down to the question at hand.

Sake making employs a multiple parallel fermentation process, so-called because both the process where the enzymes from the koji mould breakdown the starch in the rice and turn it into a form of sugar, “saccharification”, and the process where the yeast breaks down that sugar into a form of alcohol, “alcohol conversion”, take place in tandem.

The yeast continues to breakdown the sugars to produce alcohol and the fermentation continues until the alcohol level exceeds 22 degrees from which point the yeast begins to be weakened by the alcohol that it has produced and die. Or, to put it another way, the fermentation loses momentum and comes to a halt.

Are we clear up until this point?

In a normal sake production, the sake is fermented over three stages, and in each stage water is used, but in the Kijoshu method water is used in all but the last stage in which sake is added instead. As a result, the prescribed alcohol level is reached well before the yeast has had a chance to break down the sugars which would normally be turned into alcohol. The yeast then weakens (dies) and the fermentation comes to a halt. Sugars which would normally have been converted into alcohol are left behind, hence the end taste is a sweeter one.

We can super simplify this by saying that while the sugar conversion stays the same the yeast’s work is hampered by the addition of sake (in some cases completely), thus allowing the sugar conversion to take over.
I trust that the mechanisms that make Kijoshu sweet are now understood.

A Pioneer Kijoshu And My Recommended Kijoshu


Source: Hanahato
The first brewery to make a Kijoshu, in 1974, the year following its development, was Enoki Brewery, and the current CEO, a Mr. Enoki, who makes a brand called Hanahato in Kure City, Hiroshima- a real positive push to explore new skills, I think you will agree. The brewery has since become recognised as the pioneer of Kijoshu and has many fans all over the world. Presently, Enoki Brewery sells many different Kijoshu. Moreover, there are many Kijoshu I could recommend to you. On this occasion, I will omit these but if you head over to the sister site of KURAND, NOMOOO, you will find the products that I speak of there.


That about wraps up my explanation of how Kijoshu gets its sweet taste. I hope you have enjoyed reading. If you understand sake’s multiple parallel fermentation process then it is quite a simple mechanism, but the fact that there were people around me who did not know, lead me to write this article. I only hope that it serves as a helpful little addition to your knowledge.

Kijoshu is the sort of sake that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways such as warming up and savouring slowly; or serving straight, with soda or on the rocks. It is particularly recommended for a female drinker who isn’t used to sake, and or people who prefer something sweeter, in which case it works both as an aperitif and after dinner drink. If you get the chance, please give it a try.

I bid you a wonderful sake life.

Written by Omori Makoto – Sake Ambassador

Reference Link: Japan’s Traditional Foods – No.15: Kijoshu
Canned Technology Research Institute Monthly magazine “food and containers”, the July 2014 issue, page 406-407.

Sake SET Vol 1: Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold

Written by Chris Hughes

Date: 15/11/15
Venue: Kurand Sake Market Asakusa Branch
Participants: 12 (5 non-Japanese, 7 Japanese)
Duration: 4 hours
Theme: Drinking sake at different temperatures

On 15th November, we held our first SAKE SET (Sake Exchange Tokyo) event, and I am pleased to announce that it was a roaring success! I would just like to thank all those that attended.


The event kicked off with a welcome drink in the form of a mulled wine made with a base of sake instead of wine. I didn’t know until I started researching for this event but in Japan there is also a spiced version of sake (uses different spices) which is drunk at New Years called Otoso Sake.


My Vision

When I was asked to design an event aimed at both Japanese and non-Japanese, I knew instantly the sort of event that I wanted to create: international exchange through sake; what better way to bring people from different nationalities together. I also thought it would be interesting for the Japanese members to see how non-Japanese receive their national drink. I have met many a foreigner passionate in sake since my introduction to the beverage almost 7 years ago so I am aware of its potential. However, my research suggests that most non-Japanese either living in or visiting Japan have little or no knowledge about it.


The Theme

One of the most often experienced misconceptions among non-Japanese, and Japanese sake first timers is that all sake has to be served warm. Actually, serving all kinds of sake warm has recently become a bit of a trend here in Tokyo. There are no real hard and fast rules about which sake work this way and which don’t. But that I believe, is what makes this aspect of sake so appealing.

The Lecture

● Sake in a nutshell
● Cultural origins and history
● Modern developments
● Raw ingredients
● Production process
● The 3 phases of warm sake
● Merits of warming sake
● Which sakes work warm
● Which don’t
● Conclusion

The Guided Tasting

A selection of 3 sakes taken from all over Japan. 2 sakes that taste excellent warmed up and one that clearly doesn’t. The sakes were first served at room temperature and then at a range of different temperatures from body temperature right the way up to piping hot, passing through a sort of shower-water-temperature warm on the way. The tasting demonstrated how acidity, sweetness and alcohol levels change when warmed up. I was very interested to hear from one participant who had come from a wine background how different sake tasted compared to wine. They cited the timing of the finish as one key distinguishing feature. The most popular sake, and the best served warm was, not surprisingly perhaps, a robust Yamahai with a smoky quality.

The Blind Tasting

The guided tasting was followed with a blind tasting where participants had to identify a 4th sake out of the 3 they had just tasted. It is not as easy as it sounds but nearly everyone got the right answer. Well done!! and it was free nibbles all around for the lucky winners!

Participants were then free to taste as many sakes as they could muster and make friends in the process.

I personally enjoyed speaking with each and every one of the participants. It was a glorious mix of beginners and experts.

We could not have wished for a more friendly interesting bunch of people to attend our first meetup.

Everyone was having so much fun, we complete lost track of the time.

To finish there was a Happi Coat try-on photo session.


If this event report has tickled your taste buds, there is another SET just around the corner.

SAKE SET VOL 2 29th November noon-4pm


Filtering The Confusion Out Of Sake Filtration

To Filter Is To Filter


A note from your translator Chris.

This article was originally written exclusively for a Japanese audience. In its original form, even when translated, it makes little sense to a non-Japanese speaker because the beginning of the article focuses on a purely language based issue. The writer is explaining about the different filtration processes that exists in Japanese. Now here comes the confusing part. In Japanese, two words are used to refer to the filtration stages in sake making: Kosu and Roka; the meaning of both is essentially filtration. However the former, Kosu, which is used to refer to the process of separating the lees from the liquid is not referred to as filtration in Japanese but pressing. To not refer to this process as filtration is not a mistake per se because what you are doing in effect is pressing the mash through a mesh, not filtering. If you want more of the rice sediment in the end product, you simply use a mesh with bigger holes so that more of the sediment passes through with the liquid. Yes, I know what you are thinking: “don’t be pedantic! this is actually filtering”. In the case of using a coarser mesh, the end result is of course what we lovingly refer to as cloudy sake. The rest of this article talks about the second type of filtration, the step that is referred to as filtration in Japanese as well: Roka. My translation starts from the part of the article that explains the Roka filtration process.
So one type of unfiltered sake is nigori (cloudy), or coarsely pressed sake. – See more at:

Roka Filtration (The Other Type Of Filtration)


Some of the freshly pressed type sakes are sold in their just pressed form with no other processing, but most of the time they go through an extra step of processing that removes any leftover rice sediment, yeast particles and solids: Oribiki.

And in some cases, the cut goes even deeper, removing even the very finite particles, off flavours and substances that are detrimental to the quality of sake. This is the process that is referred to as Roka filtration. At this point, the crucial difference between Kosu and Roka is probably clear.


There Are 2 Methods Of Roka Filtration


Incidentally, there are 2 main methods of Roka filtration. In the first, powdered active charcoal is poured into the sake before it is passed through a filter (this method is referred to as charcoal filtering, carbon filtering or active carbon filtering). The result of this type of filtering is clear sake devoid of excess off flavours or discoloration. The amount of charcoal used varies depending on the type of sake that is being made and the brewery. The second method, Suroka, passes the sake through the filter substituting charcoal for either diatomite, filter paper, a filter with a cartridge, or cotton instead.

MUROKA Unfiltered Type Sake.

In recent years, the word Muroka (unfiltered) has become prominent. While I think the meaning is of course pretty obvious to the consumer: sake which has not been filtered, it seems that it is interpreted different from brewery to brewery.


In order to explain how the two filtration processes Kosu and Roka differ, it was necessary to explain to you about Muroka as well.
Even top officials have tripped up over the definitions in the past. For example: there is the case of the North East tax office official who committed a fundamental blooper of saying that roka was not a type of filtration in sake making and instructed all the breweries in his constituency not to write Muroka on their bottle labels. If you are reading this article already well versed on its subject, then you are probably sniggering away right now, but if the difference is so confusing that even a top official can make such a mistake then your average user is surely going to be a little confused.

Some parts of sake are a little complicated; understanding them is surely the key to improving the taste experience.

Please acquire a little knowledge and enjoy your sake life.

Written by Omori Makoto – Sake Ambassador

Deciphering the ‘Sweet’ in Sweet Sake

Sweet is delicious; delicious is sweet! Ever since the image of dry sake was attached to sake, we have become able to produce sakes with new types of tastes and hidden flavours, a development which is nothing short of sheer bliss for the consumer.

I will be drinking at a bar and hear someone say that they would really like to drink sweet sake. This is more a trend amongst women but that is not to say that there are no male fans hiding in the wings. I am one such man.

Why do we detect sweetness in sake?

back label of sake

It would be all too easy to put this down to preference. However, I believe that there are key factors in there that guide us to a naturally good flavour. I have listed 3 of these below.

Key Factor 1: Levels of alcohol

Sakes at the higher end of the alcohol level spectrum (18-20%) inevitably taste drier. Sakes at the lower end (lower than the average 15-16%, 8-12%) taste comparatively sweeter. The lower alcohol Junmai type has a less aggressive palate and the effects of intoxication are slightly delayed making it popular with the ladies.

Key Factor 2: Carbonated gas

At present, in amongst the newfound diversity of the sake genre, unfiltered, unpasteurised, and undiluted type sake are becoming standard fare and with it sakes that have cleverly trapped the gases that are released during fermentation. A clean finish that does not leave any off flavours or sweetness in the throat makes for a refreshing deliciousness.
(A lot of summery and new brew cloudy sakes fit into this mould). They are referred to as bubbly, pasteurised, or secondary fermentation sakes etc).

Keyfactor 3: Acid

Without exception, all sakes contain acid. When we say acid, we are referring to the compound substances that originate in the sake such as Succinic Acid, Inosinic Acid, Citric Acid, and Malic Acid, and not the CO2 gas that is separate from the fermentation; acids which are essential in production

How do you find sweet sake?

One way is to ask the staff at the bar or restaurant but let’s first look at the label! That’s the other one on the opposite side of the bottle to the brand label; if you are lucky, it will show the sake’s specs — a sort of resume for sake if you will. Everything from the alcohol content, brewing water type, raw ingredients to the acidity and sake-meter-value are displayed.
(This information is to be used as a guide only).

Given for example, that two types, sake A&B contain the same 15% alcohol and 1.3 acidity; but whereas A has a sake-meter-value of +3, B is -5; the sake with the minus value, B, should taste sweeter than the other. Think of it as the sum of the remaining parts that are not alcohol (umami from the rice, sweetness and body).

The method of measurement is the same across the board regardless of brewery thus a minus value seals the deal. Perhaps it is best to taste at a place where you can see the label! (in the worst case scenario, if you cannot find a sake to suit your tastes, it might be best to explain to the staff and leave ! If the place values a high level of service they will respect your decision — Let’s be courteous in the manner that we leave. )

The way to enjoy sweet sake

Sweet sake is something to be enjoyed not just at room temperature and chilled; sweet sake comes with its own unique enjoyment.

Make a Japanese-style sweet and sour cocktail.

If the sake is a little too sweet, mix it with sparkling water. Adding carbonated gas to the natural flavours results in a champagne-esque transformation. Or you could accentuate with a dash of plum. Enter the sweet and sour Japanese style cocktail!

Dry and sweet vs salty flavour

The saltiness of pickles, and nuts like peanuts, almonds and pistachios etc enhances sweetness. The fatty quality of the nuts melts together with the salt to produce a unique flavour.

Put sweet with sweet

Chocolate is also good, just as you would pair it with whisky or brandy. (I recommend chocolate with over 90% cocoa). A bitterness and slight sweetness thickens the sweetness of sake.

An all holds barred warm sake

Simply leave the sake to return to room temperature. Playing with different temperatures is just another way to have fun.

Here are a few kinds of sweet sake!

Fukunishiki FU junmai Alc: 8%, SMV: -60

The fruity-like sweet qualities from the rice lend it a soft finish and light natural palate.

Sea of Japan, sparkling junmai, Awabuta (bubble pig) Alc:10%, RPR: 70%

A sake with a cider-like body.

Eiko Fuji Momoyuki (Super Fortune) A plum wine made with a base of 3 years aged Junmai Daiginjo

A plum wine made with a base of sake that is treated like a liqueur. The aroma of the plums and moderate sweetness is divine. I recommend drinking it on the rocks or mixed with soda.

In Conclusion

From time to time, why not try changing your order from dry to sweet. Just as there are five basic flavours, sake is no exception (or 7 to be precise): dryness, sweetness, bitterness, astringency, savouriness or umami (the body and creamy quality of the rice), and sourness.

The types of sake, the production method, the difference in sake rice, koji, yeast, rice polishing ratio, water and the seasons, the craftsman, and all the various factors that make up sake help to define the flavour of sake. Flavour is not an addition to this formula, but a multiplication.

The diverse depth of sake stems from this.

According to the marriage with cuisine, the same sake can give a completely different impression. Sweeter sakes should be used at the start (aperitif) and the end (dessert wine); drinking while examining the balance with other sakes makes for a complete flight.

I will leave my introduction to sake, and how to navigate to enjoyment of the beverage for the next time.

Written by: Minamisawa Masaaki (wandering drunk: Maachan)

What Do We Mean by ‘Dry Sake’ Anyway?

The scene of someone entering a bar and ordering ‘dry sake’ will be a familiar one for anyone who drinks the beverage, but how many of us have stopped to ask what ‘dry sake’ actually is?

Everyone has different tastes and if one person says it is dry it is dry, but to end the debate there would be a missed opportunity. So then, what kind of palate makes a dry sake? I hope to offer some insight in this article.

So what exactly is dry?

Dry, or Karakuchi  in Japanese, is used to express the spice levels in food. In English, in this case, the word hot is used. This is one concept of the dissection of flavourings. In Japanese, the stimulating flavours that are often found in ingredients like TOGARASHI (red hot chilies), WASABI (horseradish), SHOUGA (ginger) and SANSHOU pepper are all referred to as spicy. In general, they provide a violent stimulus sometimes bordering on unbearable. However, in many cases, such flavours help boost our appetite making the heat worth bearing. Examples where such spices, in particular red hot chilies, are used in large quantities in cooking on a daily basis can be found in various cultures in every corner of the world.

And then you have the word used with sake, dry, used to describe a palate with a lack of residual sugars. The antonym is of course sweet. In the production process of fermented alcoholic beverages like sake, wine etc, the sugars are broken down by a yeast and converted to alcohol, so generally speaking dry sake has a higher volume of alcohol.

In the case of sake, the latter is true.

How did sake come to be referred to as dry?


To begin with, the word dry was not used to describe the flavour of sake, rather used as an antonym of sweet, a sort of industry specific lingo.

However in post war Japan, in an age when a super sticky sweet type of sake called Sanbaijozu was widespread, a so-called non-sweet sake, made by breweries who had protected their time-honored craft, started to make noise and thus the phrase ‘authentic dry type’ began to make its way into TV commercials and gain popularity. Before long, dry type sake had gained a high quality image.

This is in a nutshell how dry sake made its way into the vocabulary of the consumer.

The ‘dry’ in sake refers to non-sweet sake.

Perhaps it would be fair to say then, that for reasons like the above dry sake became regarded as opposite of sweet. Perhaps, but that is quite sketchy. A lot of sakes are not sweet.

The human palate judges sweet and dry based on stimulus such as levels of alcohol, aroma and the balance between acidity and sweetness.

For example, even a strong sweet flavour can taste dry if there are high levels of acidity. Additionally, a lot of the GINJO type sake are dry but strangely that fruity floral ginjo nose tends to make it feel sweeter. Furthermore, the undiluted type of sake GENSHU with its slightly higher alcohol levels has a clean finish which tricks us into thinking it is dry. This can also be said for the types that have plenty of umami and have body that puts umami more to the front of the palate.

Ordering sake at the bar

Incidentally, some people may judge the dryness of sake using the sake meter value, but this is really just a guide. No really, it is just a guide. I strongly recommend anyone who has the habit of using phrases like “can I have a sake with a high SMV” or “can I have a dry sake” at the bar, to reconsider.

Why not try one of the below:

“Relaxing dry”

“Robust dry with umami”

“Feisty weighty dry“

“Simple light dry”

“A dry which would pair with this food”

Being more specific when you order will better translate your order to the bar and will in turn help them to furnish you with a sake that will match your tastes.

That pretty much sums up my article on dry sake.

I hope that our readers will find something useful in this article.

Having learned a little about the way to order sake, please go out and enjoy sake.

Written by Omori Makoto – Sake Ambassador




Does the Idea That HIYA (Unheated) = JOUON (Room Temp) Still Hold Water?

There are a wide range of temperatures at which to enjoy sake. For example, JOUON (room temperature), HIYA (unheated) and ATSUKAN (warmed up). The HIYA type delivers a tastier, more-open sake, whereas the ATSUKAN style is simply amazing.

There was a time when, in some Japanese bars, even if you ordered HIYA it would be served chilled instead. There is will be no shortage of people who have had this slightly surprising experience.

What is the difference between HIYA and REISHU?


In actual fact, the term HIYA(冷や) refers to sake served at room temperature and REISHU (冷酒)refers to sake served chilled. Semantically speaking, in their makeup both Japanese words carry the same ‘cold’(冷) nuance. However, it is the Japanese character ‘YA’(や) in HIYA that sets them apart.

Using the word HIYA even though the sake is not cold may seem a little strange to new comers.

To drink sake chilled is a new trend.

There is a reason for this. In the past, when fridges were a rarity, there were only two temperature variations: unheated and heated. Chilling sake was something you couldn’t do easily and so HIYA referred to any type of sake that had not been heated up, in other words room temperature.

Basically, historically speaking, serving chilled sake called REISHU is a more recent trend.

Despite the fact that it is thought that warm sake was divided up, just like it is now, into NURUKAN (lukewarm 40℃) and ATSUKAN (hotsake) etc , there was little appeal to serve sake chilled. Then, in the 1980s, there was a boom in GINJO type sake and as the refrigerator became commonplace the idea of chilled sake started to spread.

How have bar owners adapted?

The difference between HIYA and REISHU might be a no-brainer for the sake aficionado but to a new younger audience it is not quite so clear-cut.

We asked an owner of a bar in the Bunkyo district of Tokyo, who told us that an increase in young customers has meant that when someone orders HIYA he now makes a point of double checking whether it is chilled or at room temperature that they want. Apparently quite a lot of young people are not drinking sake at room temperature.

Personally speaking, I think room temperature is the best temperature at which to experience the unique flavor of sake.

Alcohol beverages that have a different flavor and a different name depending on the temperature are still quite rare outside Japan.


Depending on the temperature there are actually a number of different terms.

The extent to which the temperature influences the flavour of sake is what sets it apart from other alcoholic beverages. It is a characteristic which the natural climate, topography and culture have helped to shape. This is the very culture that we want to show off to the whole world. There will already be people for whom this is sake’s charm.

How does temperature change sake?

Generally speaking, from HIYA to HINATAKAN the sake is sweeter and has less bitterness. In other words, warming it up brings out sweeter flavours from the sake.

And then, once you enter the territory of HADAHIE to TOBIKIRI (PIPING HOT) you get a clean finish and pleasant dryness. (of course this might vary depending on the makeup of the sake and or the individual’s palate).

Once again, depending on the temperature range of sake, the flavour and nose of sake changes. In some cases, the flavour transforms.

Therefore, to a sake aficionado the difference between unheated and chilled sake is a matter of life or death. Unheated, the flavour is enhanced, whereas chilled sake has a more florid bouquet and is lighter on the tongue.

Perhaps the idea that UNHEATED = ROOM TEMPERATURE is already obsolete.

However, recently, at a lot of bars chilling the sake in large fridges has become something of the norm so in many ways the problem has already been solved.

Times have moved on, chilling is now the norm so there is probably no longer any need for young newcomers to have to remember that unheated is the same as room temperature. While I am a little suspicious, I am ready to accept that this is one of the positive results of the evolution of sake.

Original article written by shima chiroko