Sake 101
Ep.3 “How To Store Sake At Home”

Aya and Tomoko (Tomo), total beginners when it comes to sake,

are here to learn from Saki (sake sommelier & journalist) how to enjoy sake.
If you’re new to sake too then you’ve found the right place!

Aya’s favorite after work activity is buying sake at the liquor store and enjoying it at home,
either alone or in the company of friends.
When she invited Tomo and Saki over for a drink one night,
she noticed the sake she had bought a week earlier tasted a little different.  

Edited by TOMOKO
Translated by Jojo Brandel, Saki Kimura

I’m planning a party today with Tomo and Saki. 
I’m extra excited because I have leftover Kaze no Mori sake in my fridge and I think it’s my favorite one yet!

Hi Aya, kampai! (Cheers!)
… What’s the matter? Why the long face?

I’m just bummed.
When I had this last week I thought I had finally found the perfect sake, but it tastes different today.
I was really excited for you guys to try it!

Are you serious?
The flavor changed in just one week?

It’s because there’s microorganisms in sake, that’s why the flavor changed!


Kaze no Mori
is brewed by Yucho Shuzo (Yucho Brewery) and this particular one is nama sake, which means it’ unpasteurized. When the brewer makes nama sake, they skip the final step of heating, called hi-ire. The brewer will typically use hi-ire to kill the microorganisms in the sake to stop it from further fermenting, but the microorganisms, like the yeast in this nama sake, were activated when they were exposed to air and an increase in temperature. That’s why the flavor changed.

Wow, I had no idea that the condition of the microorganisms in sake affected the flavor!
Does that mean pasteurized sake doesn’t change its flavor after you open it?

Actually, it does. 
The flavor of all sake changes with time or whenever atmospheric temperature fluctuates.
Nama sake changes even more rapidly because the microorganisms are still alive.

Well, it all makes sense now.
This Kaze no Mori tastes totally different than it did last week.
To be perfectly honest, I’m just disappointed that my favorite sake tastes stale after being open for only a week…

Not all sake gets stale with time, Aya.
A change flavor just means that the sake is aging. I want you to remember that there is ‘good aging’ and ‘bad aging.’

What do you mean?

Have you ever tried a sake right after opening it only to be disappointed?
Try it again in a few days. You’ll be surprised to find that it may taste much better. That’s the result of good aging.
Other kinds of sake should be enjoyed right after opening because the flavor deteriorates with time.

Ok, I get it. Bad aging, right?
I guess we had better drink all of our nama sake ASAP before it goes stale.

Aya might prefer smooth and easy to drink sake and dislike nama sake that is no longer freshed and become sweeter due to short aging.
Some people actually say they prefer the milder and sweeter one, though. It just depends on your personal taste.

It’s cool that people can have a different impression about the same sake!

It’s kind of like when farmers pick their fruit early and send it to the market while it’s unripe so that consumers can eat them at the perfect time at home.
Some brewers also send their products out while before they have fully matured because it often takes so long before it actually reaches the consumer’s hands.

Wow, so the flavor of the sake is changing even while it’s being delivered.

If a sake still tastes a little bright just after opening, just take a few sips everyday over a week and it should get tastier over time.

That’s cool!
I’m looking forward to pretending to be a sommelier and ageing my own sake.

I always recommend that you experiment little by little after opening sake you are unfamiliar with.
That’s the best way to explore the full potential of the drink!

Sake is almost like a living-being because it’s always changing.

Oh, I had another question though. I kept my bottle of Kaze no Mori in the fridge, but I saw some bottles at the liquor store being kept at room temperature. What’s the best way to preserve it?

You can tell what temperature is most suitable depending on the type of sake.
Nama sake and ginjo sake (which uses rice that is highly polished) are kept in fridge
because their flavor changes rapidly at room temperature.
Sake other than nama or ginjo, such as junmai and honjozo sake can be kept at room temperature because their flavor doesn’t change much even with fluctuations in temperature. Keep away from direct sunlight – ultraviolet light, though.

Does that mean the way it’s kept in stores and at home is different?

Pretty sharp, Tomo–you’re absolutely right!
There are two important points to keep in mind when storing sake at home. First, sake is exposed to more air after its been opened which accelerates a change in flavor. Even if the sake was sold at room temperature, it’s best to keep it in fridge after opening to prevent a drastic change in flavor. I especially recommend this to beginning enthusiasts like you guys.

Yeah, I think a newbie like me has to just drink the whole thing right away.

But I do I know some veteran sake drinkers who experiment with aging sake after opening at room temperature.

That’s so cool. I want to be a pro too.

One day you will be! 

The last point is that the best storage temperature is not always the same as the temperature you want to serve the sake at. For instance, some sake that is stored in the fridge in liquor stores taste even better when you serve them warm. There’s also sake sold at room temperature that’s even tastier when you serve it ice cold.

I never thought that I could warm up sake that was stored cold at the store.

Keeping sake cold is all about preserving its flavor.
Once you understand that you can experiment drinking it at different temperatures. Then you will be one step closer to becoming a sake pro!

In summary

– The flavor of sake changes over time, with fluctuations in temperature and when it is exposed to air (which is equivalent to aging).

– It’s best to store sake in the fridge after opening to preserve its flavor.

– Experiment with aging sake it home! You may be pleasantly surprised by the change in flavor.