Was the Very First Sake Really Produced by Chewing Rice in the Mouth?

Greetings Sake Lovers

You may already know that sake is produced through alcohol fermentation. You may also already know that sake is made in a similar way to beer in that an extra step is required to convert the starch into a form of glucose that the yeast can consume and produce alcohol. These days, a mold called koji does this job, but hundreds of years before koji was transported by buddhist monks from China to Japan, they had to resort to a different method. So how did they malt the rice without koji?

The answer may surprise you.
The microbes inside people’s mouths were actually used for fermentation! This was called “kuchikamizake (mouth chewed sake).” Read on to learn more about how this type of sake was produced.

What is kuchikamizake? What are its origins?


Chewing grain to produce alcohol is in fact nothing new. The Peruvian libations Chicha and Masato are also made this way and there are even tribes who continue this practice today. Over two thousands years ago, it was common practice In Japan and Taiwan. Sake was produced not for consumption but for religious rituals, an offering to the gods. Kuchikamizake might sound more appealing to know that it was female deities who were doing the chewing (not men with bad breath). To understand why this method of alcohol fermentation works, you need to examine human saliva. Human saliva contains the same enzyme that the koji produces called A-Amylase. This is the enzyme that cuts the chains of starch up and converts them into glucose. Spiting the mixture out and preserving it allows wild yeast to ferment the sugar and producing alcohol.

The exact origins of kuchikamizake are unknown but it is said that south east Asia / south Pacific area are the most likely locations of origin. These areas grow many different species of plant, besides grain, that people in these regions eat for nutritional purposes. Many of these contain starch. It is said that this method took root in this cultural region with the spread of rice. It is thought that kuchikamizake was made in Japan during the later half of the Jomon period. However, no historical connection between modern day Japanese sake and kuchikamizake has been found.

How exactly is kuchikamizake made?


The process of making kuchikamisake is essentially just chewing and spitting, so anyone can make it. However, the human mouth is home to an extremely large number of bacteria and very often other bacteria crash the fermentation process creating a strong rotting smell. Let’s just say that individuals should avoid making and drinking kuchikamizake.

Any drink that is over 1% alcohol is categorized as an “alcoholic beverage,” so making it without a permit is in violation of the liquor tax law anyway.

Did the Japanese Word for Brewing, Kamosu Originate from the Japanese Word for Chew, kamu?

The Japanese verb for brew is kamosu. This word is used only in brewing. For this reason, it wouldn’t be unusual to meet native Japanese speakers who are unfamiliar with this word.
There is a theory that kamosu is actually derived from the Japanese verb to chew, “kamu”. Since there are many sake related words that sound very similar, it is definitely plausible that kamu evolved into kamosu. Kinshi Sumonoe, a doctor of agriculture, writes in his book “Sake” that analysis he conducted shows that kamosu may actually derive from the word kabisu.

That is basically what kamikuchizake is.
Incidentally, kuchikamizake even made an appearance in the hit anime blockbuster “Kimi no na wa” (Your Name Is) there was a scene where kuchikamizake comes out. The anime glamorizes it a bit too much though. In reality it is quite gross. However, putting its rather disgusting image to one side, kuchikamizake is the closest thing we have found to sake’s true origin. Why not conduct your own research if you are interested to learn more.

At KURAND, you can mull sake’s origins while tasting over 100 different types of sake. Rest assured you won’t find any kuchikamisake in our fridges.

The End of Your Sake Pairing Woes! Go-To Sake Side Dishes as Recommended by the Brewers

Greetings Sake Lovers!

Depending on where you are on your sake journey, you may or may not have already found your go-to dish for pairing with sake. However many people are still lost when it comes to pairing sake with food.

Who better to ask for advice on this topic than the brewers themselves. We asked a selection to share their go-to sake side dish.

The Basics of Sake & Food Pairing

So what are the basics of pairing sake with food anyway?
Sake can be divided into four categories based on its body, aroma, flavor and general character. Although sake doesn’t always fit into the above map, it nevertheless provides a good reference point. The trick is to use this map to pair side dishes with sake that share a similar profile.

▶ The Four Categories of SakeHere

Kunshu: Daiginjoshu, Ginjoshu

Typically sake with a fruity aroma and light, refreshing palate. A profile that provides a great match for simple dishes where the ingredients take centre stage.

<Recommended Dishes>
White fish sashimi、steamed wild vegetables, wild vegetable tempura, seafood carpaccio, steamed scallops, seafood salad, vermicelli salad, spring rolls, chop suey, white fish mousse,etc.

Soushu: Futsushu, Honjozoshu, Namazake

Typically sake with a modest aroma and light, dry palate. This category pairs with a variety of fare from simple, light dishes to richer heavier ones.

<Recommended Dishes>
Cold fish, scallop carpaccio, raw baby sardine in ponzu sauce, salt-grilled sweetfish, gratin, crab ball, rolled cabbage, simmered tofu, chawanmushi (traditional Japanese egg custard dish)

 Jukushu: Chokijukuseishu (long-aged sake), Koshu (aged sake)

Sake in this category typically tends to be complex, mature, rich and have depth, sometimes accompanied by oxidative aromas of caramel and game. Dishes which are equally as complex and idiosyncratic are a good match. This category often boasts high levels of umami (savory, tarty, meaty flavours). Try pairing cheese for flavours that are out of this world.

<Recommended Dishes>
Grilled eel, curry, hard cheese, beef steak, butakakuni (boiled pork dish), foie gras, mabo tofu (spicy Chinese tofu dish), Beijing Duck, roast duck,etc.

Junshu: Junmaishu

Sake that falls into this category tend to have very rustic, sweet aromas that come from the rice itself that might be likened to steamed rice or rice flour, or, if the rice element is difficult to pick up, cereal notes such as barley, malt and corn. The flavor tends to be quite robust, so equally robust dishes pair best. Western dishes made with butter or white cream complement the creamier flavors.

<Recommended Dishes>
boiled fish, shuto (dish of salted/pickled Slipjack Tuna entrails), miso marinated mackerel,pork cutlet, sukiyaki, boiled radish, cream stew, fried chicken, gyoza, yakitori(sauce type),etc.

Winning Side Dish Recommendations from Sake Brewers

Sake is so flexible when it comes to pairing with food that you might not know where to start. That’s why we asked a selection of brewers to share their go-to side dishes for pairing with sake. Some dishes came up more than once. Here is a list of the top 3 most popular.

3rd Place: Tofu

At No.3, it’s tofu-based side dishes. The cold tofu dish called hiyayako in particular is not only a popular izakaya staple, it’s as simple as it gets. It’s basically just tofu topped with grated ginger and spring onion and a splash of soy sauce. The deep-fried tofu dish agedofu is equally as popular. What makes tofu so popular is its versatility. There are so many ways to eat it and it works with so many ingredients. A recent rend is to pour citrus-based soy sauced called ponzu over. Even olive oil works. Tofu is already popular outside Japan for its health benefits, namely maintaining a normal functioning liver. Full of proteins, it really is the perfect accompaniment not just to sake, but other alcoholic beverages.

2nd Place: Cheese

It’s already the go-to pairing for wine, but sake gets on just as well with cheese, more so in fact because of the fact that both are fermented products. The most popular cheese dishes among the brewers was cream cheese, because of its simplicity. Cheese on its own or paired with shuto (mentioned above) another classic, that originates in Kanagawa Prefecture but has since spread across the country and cemented its place as one of the most popular go-to sake pairing side dishes. Another great combination is cheese and wasabi.

1st Place:  Shiokara

The winning side dish among the brewers we asked was another fishy delight, shiokara, salted fish guts. It’s the way this dish enhances the unami factor that makes it such a good match with sake. There was zero hesitation from the brewers who recommended this dish, which was pretty much the majority.

Many of the brewers that recommended the above top 3 dishes explained that their simplicity makes them the perfect go-to pairing option with an evening tipple. You can’t argue with seasoned drinkers like these. Other recommendations that didn’t make the ranking include sashimi, cucumber with a miso dip, rolled omelette, chikuwa (rolled fish cake), firefly squid, burdock root, and many, many more.

Bonus Entry! A Slightly More Quirky Pairing Option

There were plenty of slightly more quirky suggestions.

Anchovies & Smoked Duck

There is no need to stick to just Japanese cuisine, there were even votes for sausages, Italian ham, carpaccio, fois gras, liver pate and beef stew. But by far the most quirky of western pairings was this one. Anchovies pair best with cleaner flavoured sake, while smoked duck was voted as the go-to dish for pairing with yamahai. Both are reserved for special occasions of course.

Sweet Dishes Like Chocolate, Raisin Butter, Cheesecake (with a berry sauce)

It’s perhaps surprising to hear breweries recommend sweet dishes, but it’s also a myth that you can’t pair sweet things with sake. As long as you match the levels of sweetness it works. Raisin butter and chocolate work well with a rich aged sake, while cheese cake goes well with sweet and sour sake. KURAND has even produced its own original chocolate pairing sake called “I Love Choco”.

Wild Card Entries: Rice & Soy Sauce

Sometimes its the obvious ones that work best. Given the similarity of the production process, it is no surprise that brewers would recommend soy sauce ,and rice is of course the base of sake. Even so, you wouldn’t necessarily think of pairing either directly with sake, but they really do work. Try junmai with some cheese garnished with soy sauce or a bowl of rice.

There is no better place to try out the above pairings than at KURAND, where as well as being able to bring in your own food, you can taste over 100 types of sake, fruit liqueurs and plum wine. Our staff look forward to welcoming you very soon!

Must Know Facts About Chocolate and Sake Pairing!

With high levels of magnesium, one of the minerals that helps fight fatigue and restore energy, there is no better treat to kick-start the body during hot sweltering summers — like the one we are having here in Tokyo. And why not add a refreshing element with a glass of sake while you are at it.

Although the pairing of chocolate and sake might sound a bit alien, chocolate and sake are a match made in heaven — as if chocolate on its own wasn’t heavenly enough.

Chocolate and Sake Were Meant to be Together

Sake is perhaps not the first thing that pops into your head when you think of alcoholic beverages that pair with chocolate, at least not before whisky or brandy at any rate. It is the nutty and, depending on the cacao content, earthy notes that have such a naturally high affinity with many types of chocolate. That’s why nuts and sake provide such a successful pairing.

While sake has always had inherent potential to pair with chocolate, it is the constant evolution of sake driven by brewers adopting influences from the wine world and beyond that is opening this pairing up and unearthing new possibilities. Particular recent trends of note are sake that is sweet but has more acidity, or aged sake that has a bold profile with mild sweetness. These types were born to be paired with chocolate.

For a long time, the idea of pairing sake with chocolate was taboo because people couldn’t see past the difference in sweetness levels. But in actual fact, putting the sweetness to one side, sake can add depth to the more cacao rich types of chocolate. In these pairings, the chocolate reciprocates by bringing cocoa and chocolate notes out in the sake itself. Although sake does hold its own against the sweeter chocolate better than people would expect it to, it is the bitter chocolate types that offer more reliable pairing results.

6 Sake Characteristics That are a Natural Match with Chocolate

1. Mature Aromas and Flavours

Although in general, sake is brewed to be enjoyed young, aged sake is growing in popularity. Brewers have only just begun to explore its potential. As sake ages, depending on the storage temperature, it sometimes develops colors reminiscent of mature whisky, with aromas and sweetness that match chocolate just as well. Any sake that has undergone more than 2 years of ageing is labelled as a koshu (aged sake).

2. Acidity

Just like wine, any acidity in sake accentuates the sweetness of chocolate. Although the acidity of sake is generally quite low, brewers have begun to develop styles with higher acidity to increase the pairing potential with western cuisine.

3. Viscosity

Sake often gets a bad wrap for being too watery, but there are plenty of styles with higher levels of viscosity. Some sake could be described as luscious because of the way that they coat the mouth.
In general, these luscious sake pair best with the more rich, heavy chocolate.

4. Rich Rice Flavours and Aromas

For example, the rich rice-laden creaminess of nigorizake (cloudy sake) creates a wonderful melt in the mouth combination with white chocolate and the milkier types.

5. Sweetness

This is an obvious one, but the general rule is match chocolate with sake that has similar levels of sweetness. Although, bitter and sweet combinations can sometimes be surprisingly successful if you have enough of the other suitable characteristics to offset the imbalance. Such pairings very much depend on individual tastes and so are considered a bit risky.

Chocolate x Sake Pairings You Can Try at KURAND

Here is a list of pairings you can try at KURAND.

A Rice Wine: Te-Hajime

Te-Hajime, is an original KURAND product produced in a partnership with Fukunishiki Shuzo in Hyogo Prefecture. It is our answer to the question: What would sake taste like if it really WAS a rice wine? It is lower in alcohol with inherent sweetness from the rice, and has a very pure taste like wine with citrus and tropical fruity notes that might remind you of German Riesling.
This sake pairs best with dark chocolate.

A Sake Made with Sake: Chou Chou Chou

Whereas normal sake is made with 130 parts water, kijoshu replaces some of the water with alcohol. That’s right, sake made with alcohol. The extra alcohol raises the alcohol strength in the fermentation so that it reaches a level that the yeast can no longer operate (it has a low tolerance to alcohol) much quicker. The yeast stops fermenting very early leaving lots of residual sugar. And so of course, kijoshu is normally pretty sweet. Chou chou chou is a kijoshu by Ishii Shuzo. Another KURAND original product. What makes this kijoshu so special is the fact that all the water was replaced with alcohol.. and not just any alcohol — sake. The previous year’s kijoshu in fact. This is the definition of luxury in a bottle. This has also got to be one of the best kijoshu to pair with chocolate. Kijoshu not only ticks the box for sweetness but it also has a much more viscous texture which as explained above are all favourable characteristics for pairing with chocolate.

Find more information about Te-Hajime, here.

I Love Choco

Not satisfied with the chocolate pairing potential of aged sake on paper, we decided to put to the test by producing our own aged sake as a KURAND original product together with Kanbai Shuzo in Saitama. Since our objective was creating sake to pair with chocolate, we named it “I Love Choco”. Its mellow flavor profile with notes of nuts, cedar and oak releases it true potential with the more cacao rich chocolate types, but supermarket bought chocolate also pairs well minus the complexity.
With its mellow and gentle flavor, and nutty and woody aroma, jukuseikoshu matches with chocolate perfectly!

Find more information about I LOVE CHOCO, here.

Tips to a Successful Pairing of Sake With Chocolate

How about a few tips to enhance your chocolate and sake pairing experience.

2. Drink The Sake While The Taste of The Chocolate Still Remains

Make sure you drink the sake while the taste of the chocolate still remains. Enjoy a new way of sake pairing by tasting the combination of chocolate’s sweetness and the bold taste of the aged sake!

※ Make sure to drink the sake after you finish eating the chocolate. Drinking the sake with chocolate in your mouth will reduce the pairing effect to half. We strongly suggest to drink the sake while the taste of the chocolate still remains.

Warm Up Your Sake

You can enhance the flavor of aged sake like jukuseikoshu by warming it up. The bold taste of warm jukuseikoshu matches perfectly with chocolate.

Enjoy Sake and Chocolate Pairing with Nurukan (40℃)!

The temperature just keeps on rising, so why not pop into KURAND and chill out with a plate of chocolate and a glass of sake. Our staff look forward to welcoming you soon!

8 Ways Tips to Upgrade Your Warm Sake Experience

Warm sake in the winter is already an accepted piece of sake culture. But did you know that warm sake tastes just as good in the summer. It might sound a bit counter-intuitive, but it can have the same cooling effect as a hot curry. Read on to discover a few handy tricks to help you warm sake this summer.

Types of Warm Sake

First, a quick review of the various types of hot sake.
Every 5-10 degrees along the thermometer, the flavour of sake changes dramatically and each temperature variation comes with a special term.

Temperature   Name
55℃       Tobikirikan
50℃       Atsukan
45℃       Jokan
40℃       Nurukan
35℃       Hitohadakan
30℃       Hinatakan
20℃       Hiya
15℃       Suzuhie
10℃       Hanabie
5℃       Yukihie
0℃       Mizorezake

The temperature of warm sake will decrease after poured into the glass, so warming up your sake to a slightly higher temperature is recommended.

In general, sake with bolder flavor profiles, such as many junmai, taste best when warmed. kimoto and yamahai are also good candidates, often developing aromas of freshly cooked rice.

3 Methods to Prepare Warm Sake

Immerse in Warm Water

The simplest way to warm sake is to fill a tokkuri or special cup called a chirori with sake and immerse it into a preheated water bath. That’s basically how we do it at KURAND. Only, we use a special machine called a shukanki. Without this, it might be a bit impractical at home, but this is the best way to warm sake; warming sake slowly in this way gives the sake a milder flavor. The water should be heated to about 80 degrees and it is best to preheat the water, then turn off the source of heat before inserting the container. 2-4 minutes in the water is normally enough to warm to atsukan level.

Warm in Microwave

You can also use the microwave. In fact, this is the easiest method for home. You simply pour the sake into a tokkuri or microwaveable container. Be careful not to fill to the brim as it might overflow. The temperature of the tokkuri may be different at the top and bottom so take care when handling it. Perhaps the biggest problem with the microwave is that it can be a little too powerful sometimes to warm to exact temperatures. For astukan, it does the job.

Warm on an Open Fire

Warming on an open fire is another option. Pour the sake directly into a pot and heat on a high heat for about 30 seconds. Take care not to boil it, because alcohol starts to evaporate at around 78 degrees C. This is the fastest way to warm sake, but sometimes throws the delicate flavours off-balance.

Incidentally, sake that develops desirable aromas and flavors when warmed is called kanagari.

Tricks to Make Delicious Warm Sake

Let the Sake Rest Once During Heating

This is recommended when using the water bath method. After About 1 minutes of heating, remove the tokkuri from the warm water and let it rest for 30-40 seconds before returning it to the water and heating for another minute. This little trick helps transfer the heat through the tokkuri, and makes the sake milder in flavour as well as enhancing the aromas.

Cover The Tokkuri with The Sake Cup

This trick prevents precious aromas from escaping when warming sake. Preheating the sake cup prevents it from altering the temperature of the tokkuri. When you don’t have a sake cup to hand, plastic wrap or aluminum foil works just as well.

Put Disposable Chopsticks Into The Sake Bottle

This is a great trick to use when warming sake in the microwave. The disposable chopsticks help distribute the heat to the sake, and you can enhance the effects by stirring the sake. As an added bonus, the woody smell of the chopsticks often add a nice extra little aroma to the sake.

Put It In Cold Water After Preheating It

Dipping the tokkuri in cold water for 5 seconds after warming produces a milder taste.

Pour The Sake Into Different Sake Bottle

Prepare two different sake bottles, and pour the sake into one of the sake bottles. Preheat both sake bottles in the microwave or in hot water. Pour the preheated sake into the empty sake bottle By doing this, the heat will transfer through the sake evenly.

Use Aluminium Foil

This trick, introduced by Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association, is useful when heating sake with the microwave. Covering the tokkuri / container with aluminum foil helps reduce the difference in temperature between the top and bottom of the tokkuri.

Mix The Sake With Water

When warming Genshu (undiluted sake), mix a little water in. This will make the sake less aggressive and easier to drink. It also has the rather odd side-effect of making the aromas more fragrant. And of course, adding water reduces the alcohol content of the sake.

Take care not to over dilute the sake causing it to become thin.

Put Lemon or Yuzu

Adding lemon or yuzu gifts an altogether different taste sensation. Add a squeeze of a slice of lemon or yuzu into your cup first before pouring in the warm sake and let the sake extract aromas and flavor of the fruit.

These are just some of a number of tricks that you can use to enhance the flavor of your warm sake. Why not invent your own It is all part of the fun of sake.

Must Have Items for Enjoying Warm Sake

Various items are available on Amazon Japan to help you add a touch of class and tradition to your warm sake experience. You can use these items at home, and you can also bring these items to KURAND SAKE MARKET!

Sake Jar from Maekawa Kinzoku Co., Ltd.

Image Source: Amazon

Made from aluminum, this sake jar is the perfect tool for warming sake. As aluminum is a better heat conductor than other materials, warm sake can be made in a fraction of the time. It is also perfect for camping and other outdoor uses.

The jar is available to buy on Amazon Japan here.

Sake Thermometer

Image Source: Amazon
A good thermometer, in particular a specialized sake one, is a must have item. This thermometer is marked: atsukan (warm sake), nomigoro (time to drink), and nurui (not warm enough). It is super easy to use and no sake kitchen is complete without one.

The thermometer is available to purchase from Amazon Japan here.

Sake Thermometer from KATARIKI CO., Ltd

Image Source: Amazon
Compared to the previous thermometer, this is marked with a more specific temperature guide. Perfect for the intermediate drinker.

The thermometer is available to buy from Amazon Japan here.

Traditional Sake Heating Pot Set

Image Source: Amazon

This is how they used to warm sake before the advent of the warming machine and microwave. It comes with a sake cup. It will keep your sake warm for long periods.

This bottle is available to buy from Amazon Japan here.

And there you have it. A few little tricks are all you need to enjoy warm sake at home. All branches of KURAND are equipped with sake warming facilities so why not pop down and enjoy warm sake and maybe discover some new sake in the process. There is no better place to enjoy sake.

Yamada Nishiki Grown Outside Hyogo? A List of Other Prefectures that Grow It

Ask most people to name a famous variety of sake rice and most people will almost instantly name Yamada Nishiki. Ask them to name a prefecture in Japan that grows Yamada Nishiki, and they will probably name Hyogo. And while Hyogo is perhaps the most famous, it is not the only prefecture where this fabled sake rice varietal is grown. Sake rice is basically rice cultivated with properties that are more suited to brewing than eating. There are two types of sake rice: sakamai (literally, sake rice) and shuzokotekimai (sake specific rice for brewing). Yamada Nishiki belongs to the latter. For the rest of this article, the term shuzokotekimai is used. To learn more about shuzokotekimai see this article.

In What Type of Environment Does Yamada Nishiki Grow Best?

If this were an article about wine grapes, this would certainly be a concern. Yamada Nishiki is no exception. It only grows in certain climates.
Yamada Nishiki is a late ripening varietal with stems that grow very tall. The height of these stems make it particularly vulnerable during the Japanese typhoon season, which, yes you guessed it, is when it usually harvests. This and its vulnerability to disease and pests make it notoriously difficult to grow. The best growing areas have soil with good drainage, a rich supply of nutrients, namely magnesium and phosphorous, and contain clay particles to hold water. The climate should be moderate.

As well as being the birthplace of Yamada Nishiki, Hyogo boasts the most appellations that fulfill these conditions, namely the areas around Osaka and Kobe. The topography of a lot of the appellations located north of Mt.Rokko are quite hilly and benefit from large diurnal ranges (difference between day and night temperatures). The valleys and basins to the east and west in particular are cooled by winds from the surrounding mountains and enjoy a diurnal difference in the summer of 10℃, the perfect climate for growing Yamada Nishiki.

Growing Areas Outside Hyogo

While Hyogo accounts for 80% of the total production of Yamada Nishiki, there are other prefectures where it is grown. In actual fact, the Yamada Nishiki growing zone currently spans over 30 prefectures, from the south side of the Tohoku (North East) region to all the way down in the south, in Kyushu. As it prefers a cooler climate, a lot of the north of the country still lacks the right conditions to produce the right quality for sake production. However, global warming may change all this in the future. Could we one day see Hokkaido grown Yamada Nishiki? Watch this space……

So without further ado, KURAND is proud to present the other Yamada Nishiki growing prefectures.

Okayama Prefecture

The undisputed number 2, it is better known perhaps for another, indigenous shuzokotekimai varietal called Omachi, but that should come as no surprise to those with a little geeky sake knowledge who will know that Omachi is in fact a part of Yamada Nishiki’s lineage (omachi is also one of the only pure-breeds of shuzokotekimai, all the others are crossbreeds from other varietals just like wine grape cloning or cross-breeding through artificial fertilization). Omachi is none other than one of Yamada Nishiki’s parents, albeit under the slightly confusing pseudonym of Tankan Wataribune (it’s basically an offshoot of Omachi).
Some brewers in Okayama like to produce earthier styles of sake from Yamada Nishiki and in general it is polished less which intentionally produces less fruity and floral aromas in favour of a more rice inherent nose and palate.

Yamada Nishiki Prefecture

Although domestic sake production is still on a downward trajectory, Yamaguchi is one of the prefectures bucking the trend, the only prefecture to manage a 70% increase in production year on year.
It is home to some famous brands, all of whom use Yamada Nishiki as the cornerstone of their signature product line-ups. This is also one of the prefectures upping production to meet the growing demand for this fabled varietal.

Kanagawa Prefecture

This one might come as bit of a surprise, but this prefecture is actually the 20th biggest growing area for Yamada Nishiki. Thanks mainly to an increase in brewers that grow their own rice, some right on the edge of of the urban sprawl.

Niigata Prefecture

Although the northernmost parts of Niigata are a bit too cold for Yamada Nishiki cultivation, a number of areas bordering the neighboring Nagano prefecture boast Yamada Nishiki terroirs, although production is small compared to the other prefectures.

Tokushima Prefecture

In recent years, Tokushima has seen a surge in Yamada Nishiki production. The most famous growing region in Tokushima is Awa on the coast. Sake made with this varietal in this prefecture tends to be much more rich and fruity with lots of acidity to counterbalance the slight sweetness, produced by a special regional yeast which is the result of zapping yeast strains with LED light.

Fukuoka Prefecture

And finally, the gateway to Kyushu, Fukuoka. Fukuoka is the former number 2 grower, but has since given up its crown to Okayama. Again, the sake in this prefecture tends to be much more rich and full-bodied than up in the north of Japan and in many ways Yamada Nishiki is a perfect fit with this style.

Finally, as mentioned earlier in the article, soil is a very important factor in growing high quality Yamada Nishiki, so much so that some brewers in Hyogo have begun to set up the concept of a terroir. But that’s the subject for another article.

So there you have it, Yamada Nishiki is not only grown all over Japan, but the style of sake it produces also varies wildly with the difference in climate and local production techniques.

KURAND showcases a number of examples of Yamada Nishiki so why not pop in and try a few.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!

Does Sake have an Expiry Date? The 3 Rules of Storing Sake!

One thing that puts many people off making their first purchase of sake is not knowing how long it will keep or how to store it properly. Does sake even have an expiry date? Nothing should keep you from experiencing sake, so this article will attempt to provide the answers to all these questions.

The Expiry Date of Sake is Not Printed on Its Label

You certainly won’t find an expiry date printed on the sake label.

Printing the date of manufacture is mandatory, so you will find this, but this is not the date when the sake was brewed; it is the date when the sake was bottled.

How Long Is The Shelf Life of Sake?

For sake there isn’t really such a thing as an expiry date because sake will never deteriorate to the extent that it will become harmful beyond the usual effects of consuming alcohol. That being said, the flavour may start to change after a period of time. This so-called shelf life varies by sake. To enjoy sake at its best, we strongly suggest finishing the bottle within this period of time. The main thing that determines how long a sake will last is whether it has been pasteurized or not. Some sake is pasteurized; some isn’t.

The estimated shelf life for both pasteurized and unpasteurized sake is listed below.

Regular Sake

1 year after the date of manufacture.

Unpasteurized Sake (Namazake)

If refrigerated, 6 – 7 months after the manufacturing date.
Unpasteurized sake will not keep for very long outside the fridge, 2-4 hours at most in a dark, cool environment*

※ The shelf life mentioned is only an estimation

After production, sake is normally immersed in boiling water, just before bottling, to sterilize and stabilize it. This pasteurization step is called hiire in Japanese. Namazake (unpasteurized) sake has basically skipped pasteurization so it is fresher, but it also very unstable, and will not last nearly as long as its pasteurized counterpart.

While most sake stores in Japan only sell sake well within its shelf life, some old sake stores continue to sell for longer. Using the above information as a guide, it is best to check the shelf life before you purchase.

3 Basic Rules of Storing Sake

1. Keep it Away From Sunlight!

Sake is extremely vulnerable to direct sunlight.
UV radiation causes the components and color of sake to change rapidly. It may even sometimes taint the aroma, causing it to develop a burnt aroma like singed hair.

Make sure to keep your sake away from direct sunlight at all times!

2. The Right Temperature Control is Vital

Sake is also extremely vulnerable to changes in temperature, so you should always keep your sake refrigerated.
The ideal temperature is 5-6℃. If this is not possible, the next best option is a cool place set below 15℃.

3. Never Leave The Bottle Open Without a Cap

Never leave the bottle without a cap.
Sake’s biggest enemy is oxygen.

When sake comes into contact with oxygen it oxidizes. Ginjos in particular lose their fresh aromas and develop aromas of baked fruit,honey,caramel and dried fruit, which while perfectly acceptable in an aged sake, do not suit the delicate profile of a ginjo.

Make sure to consume your sake within a few days after opening. In general sake is best enjoyed young.
Never chuck old sake. It makes a great ingredient for stews, hot pots, and soups.
The best way to store your sake is to decant it into a small container and keep it in a cool dry place. You can also reduce contact with oxygen by using a wine preserver or a tool that vacuum sucks the oxygen out of the bottle.

Pouring into a smaller size bottle is another great way to reduce contact with oxygen because the surface area in contact with oxygen is smaller. Make sure to keep the gap between the cap and the sake as small as possible. This is one of the reasons that sake is best stored upright as opposed to laid down.

Be sure to clean the bottle / container thoroughly before transferring the sake to it.

Bonus: Long-term Aged Sake

Long-aged sake, called choki jukusei in Japanese, is a different type of sake entirely. While most sake is shipped young, some is held back and put into storage for an extended period of time.

Although not a legal requirement, the Association of Long-term aged sake dictates that the standard length of aging should be at least 3 years or longer.

It’s the unique color and flavor of long-term aged sake that makes it so loved by the Japanese.

Sake has to be produced in a particular way that brings out richer flavours that develop well with maturity, so it is difficult, but not impossible, to achieve get good results from aging sake for long periods at home. It takes practice and a little knowledge about which sake ages the best.

Hopefully, that answers the question. Now there is nothing putting you off buying that bottle of sake you have always wanted to try. Get out there and discover this magical beverage. Here in Japan, KURAND provides the perfect space to discover many different types of sake. Be sure to pay us a visit the next time you come to Japan. Our staff will be waiting to welcome you.