There are many different methods in which to brew sake, which can result in plenty of other styles of sake, supplementary to the main types. Some of the brewing methods are deeply complicated, and some a secret known only to the toji (Master Brewer) of the brewery; however, the main types can be brewed in a number of different ‘styles’. These ‘styles’ greatly affect the sake’s characteristics and can transform a mild-mannered junmai, for example, into a full-bodied heavyweight using one ‘style’ or into a light and fruity tipple if brewed in another.
Rather than give a detailed description of each and every other style of sake this post will serve as a general reference with further blog posts providing additional detail.
Namazake is unpasteurised sake (nama meaning ‘raw’ or ‘fresh’). Sake usually goes through a two-step pasteurisation process to stop fermentation, stabilise the brew and increase longevity, namazake does not. This results in a brew which is fresh, lively and zingy in character with ripe fruit flavours – such as banana, apples and watermelon – and notes of freshly cut grass or wood. Due to it’s fresh and fruity profile it is very popular in the West; however, due to its unpasteurised nature it must be kept refrigerated at all times to stop it from spoiling. Fresh, ripe, fruity, zesty and refreshing are the watchwords here.
|NAMAZAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Mountain Stream – layered, complex, fresh & young||Snow Blossom – super fresh & zesty with fruit salad flavours|
Kimoto and yamahai are two of the oldest styles of sake brewing. The nature of the brewing process allows airborne organisms (wild yeasts, fungi, bacteria, etc.) to enter the brew at a very early stage. Before all these organisms die off naturally, as part of the brewing process, they have an opportunity to leave their mark. This results in wilder, gamier, fuller and often rougher-edged flavours that are exciting and intriguing. Often yamahai has bigger gamy, rich and wild flavours than kimoto, with more pronounced acidity.
|KIMOTO & YAMAHAI SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Black Samurai – rich & full bodied with buckets of umami|
Bodaimoto is, to my knowledge, the oldest style of brewing method still used today; its roots extend back to the 14th century. Like both the kimoto and yamahai techniques wild organisms have time to make their mark, thus sake made with the bodaimoto technique is similarly funky and wild in character but, due to the particulars of the technique, also tends to result in sake with a slightly sour quality that brilliantly offsets and mellows the gamier and rougher notes.
|BODAIMOTO SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Rocky Mountain – rustic, raw & earthy||Misty Mountain – cloudy, zesty & exciting||Mountain Stream – layered, complex, fresh & young|
Koshu or aged sake is becoming increasingly popular in the West. It represents a tiny, tiny percentage of all the sake produced and so can be highly sought after. Generally, sake is not designed to be aged and the methods employed to do so vary wildly; thus, koshu‘s flavours and characteristics also vary wildly. In general, when aged, sake tends to become heavier, mustier, more acidic and the flavours more concentrated and rounded. Aged sake is often likened to sherry in its flavour profiles and generally savoured on its own, after a meal.
|KOSHU AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Golden Amber – superb 12-year aged sake with beguiling notes of toffee & oak||Aperitif – aged 8 years, similar to an oaked, sweet sherry|
Nigori-zake is ‘cloudy’ sake or, more specifically, sake with some rice lees (particles of rice) left in when bottled. On the whole, nigori-zake is less refined, fuller and thicker textured – due to the suspended lees – than its filtered counterparts. Usu-nigori is a type of nigori-zake that has only a very small amount of lees remaining in suspension. Usu-nigori results in a much more subtle brew but still retains the funkier, thicker flavours associated with nigori-zake.
|NIGORIZAKE SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Misty Mountain – cloudy, zesty & exciting|
Our sparkling sake is also an usu-nigori (see below)
There are a number of less well known styles of sake, some of which are available in the UK.
Sparkling sake is usually low in alcohol and, as the name suggests, sparkling!
|SPARKLING SAKES AVAILABLE IN OUR SAKE SHOP|
|Pearl – silky & elegant, finely sparkling sake|
Taruzake is sake that has been stored in a wooden cask of Japanese cedar. The sake draws out the flavours of the wood and gives a fresh, lively and often peppery cedar flavour that tends to drown out any other flavours the sake may have! Traditionally drunk at New Year this sake is a lot of fun but lacks subtlety.
Kijoushu is a ‘fortified’ sake where some of the water used in the brewing process is substituted for already brewed sake. It is a rich, desert-like beverage that is often aged too. Kijoushu can be deliciously alluring but only a handful of breweries make it so it’s difficult to get hold of (and expensive!)
There are others but they are quite niche and their peculiarities rather specific! If you’re really interested, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to fill you in.