Most Americans enjoyed their first cup of Sake served in a style the Japanese call atsukan, or very hot. While it is certainly pleasant to drink warmed Sake on a chilly night, and some brewers even craft their Sake specifically to be served slightly warmed (nurukan), it is generally agreed that in order to fully appreciate the subtle aromas of Sake it is best to enjoy it just slightly chilled.
Modern rice-milling techniques, carefully isolated yeasts, and newly crossed “heritage” strains of rice all collaborate to offer a broad diversity of flavors in Sake, most of which are lost when the wine is heated. All those delicate melony notes and earthy, herbal influences simply evaporate with the introduction of heat. Chilled sake also offers a variety of seasonal styles to consider. Nigorizake is an unfiltered Sake style. The word nigori, which means “cloudy,” refers to the rice remnants that did not fully ferment in the process of brewing which are allowed to remain in the bottle in order to enhance both its texture and flavor.
Another essential Sake experience, only available for a brief period at the start of each year, is freshly-pressed Namazake or unpasteurized Sake. Nama means raw or fresh, and refers to Sake that has never undergone the brief heating process designed to kill off enzymes and stabilize the drink for bottle-life. Fresh unpasterized Namazake retains an array of vital and ephemeral flavors and aromas to delight the senses.