Big in Japan: Sake tasting notes

I really love sake (?????????, nihonshu).

If you think about it, variety is indeed the spice of the life, especially in the bar. In the modern era of microbrews, alcopops and flavored vodkas, we are all secretly becoming closet gourmands.

Of course, all of these self-aggrandizing styles can’t match the sheer variety of flavors and styles of the sweet, delicious nectar that is sake.

Think sake is just rice wine? Don’t believe me that no two bottles of sake are created equally? Allow me to educate you on the high culinary art that is sake.

Much like wine is divided into red, white and varying shades in between, sake runs the spectrum from sweet and rounded with fruity overtones to dry and crisp with a powerful bite.

Of course, true wine connoisseurs can distinguish the variety of grape, just as true sake connoisseurs understand the different brewing styles.

Although there are literally dozens of sake brewing methods, this basic list will help you get started:

Yamahai (???) One of the most traditional methods of brewing sake, the mash is allowed to sour, which gives the final product a more intense flavor.

For more tasting notes on the sweet, delicious nectar that is sake, click on and keep reading!

Sokujō (速醸) Referred to as modern sake, lactic acid is added to the mash to speed up the production time, and subsequently yields a crisp and clean drink.

Muroka (無濾過) ‘Unfiltered’ sake is spared the charcoal filtering process, which creates a slightly cloudy brew that is extremely bold and complex in flavor.

Doburoku (濁酒) This classic unfiltered style is reminiscent of traditional homemade sake, and can come in a variety of flavors depending on the individual brewing methods.

Nigorizake (濁り酒) One of the most unusual types of sake, this unfiltered sake contains a large amount of rice sediment, and must be shaken before it can be served. The texture of nigorizake is extremely smooth and creamy, while the flavor is surprisingly sweet and rounded.

Namazake (生酒) ‘Fresh sake,’ which may can be made by any of the processes described above, is not pasteurized and best served chilled.

Kuroshu (黒酒) Something of an acquired taste, this Chinese-style sake uses unpolished (brown rice) to create a rough and ready brew that quickly overpower the palette.

Taruzake (樽酒) Absolutely delicious but difficult to find, this premium sake is aged in cedar casks, which imparts a unique spiciness to the final product.

Koshu (古酒) Although sake is meant to be drank immediately, a few varieties can be aged, resulting in a honey-flavored brew that is as rich in taste as it is in price.

Now that you know lingo, don’t be afraid to experiment with whatever varieties of sake are available at your local liquor store or Japanese restaurant.

Truth be told, the best Japanese sakes are sadly rarely exported to North America, though every once in awhile it’s possible to find the real staff.

Happy drinking, or as they say here in Japan, kampai (かんぱ, cheers!)