Chilling With Sake

Most Americans enjoyed their first cup of Sake served in a style the Japanese call atsukan, or hot. While sipping sake warm can surely be a pleasure on cool nights, (and some brewers even craft their Sake specifically to be served in this manner), it is generally agreed that in order to fully appreciate all the subtle aromas in a glass of fine Sake it is preferable to drink 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.

Once you have come to appreciate the subtley of flavor that properly chilled sake affords, there are a variety of seasonal styles you might wish 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. Sipping a glass of chilled and unpasteurized Namazake offers one the opportunity to fully appreciate the treasury of subtle and ephemeral flavors and aromas produced by fermentation.