Sake Science - Testing The Boundaries of Sake
But we are also in a position to “over protect” sake. We totally have the ability to error way too far on the side of “safe.” I have been saying for years that well-built sake can stand up to some conditioning abuse. Most brews are not China dolls. They don’t break and crack and shatter when mishandled. Sure unpasteurized sakes need some extra love and attention, but on the whole most brews are pure quality and as such they have a strength and resilience that stays solid in the bottle. Don’t get me wrong here – proper conditioning of sake is extremely important, but there is wiggle room when it comes to the steadfast rules of securing the well being of each and every brew.
In this regard Takami, who is a true true purist in the conditioning of sake and takes it very seriously, and I thought about doing an experiment on a single-pasteurized sake, which we at True Sake treat as an unpasteurized sake by always keeping it refrigerated, to study its durability out of the fridge. We picked a sake that we thought represented the single pasteurized universe and would be a good example to see if it would break down with poor conditioning. We considered this a “stress-test” of sorts and took the sake out of its conditioning comfort zone.
The famous Yamagata brewery called Dewazakura makes a very special and tasty Ginjo called Oka! We sell a ton it. And we thought that this would be a great sake to use for the stress-test.
We took two 300ml bottles of the single pasteurized Dewazakura Oka from the same lot and placed one in the fridge and put the other out on an open-air shelf! We left them for two months. And left them. And left them.
A single pasteurized sake needs to be kept refrigerated in theory to protect its preservative powers, and one would assume that it would “fall apart” “lose its balance” or “go off” if not kept chilled.
The two-month refrigerated Oka had a floral and Ginjo aroma. The brew itself drank dry, tight, and a little crisp – compact would be a good descriptive. There were hints of fruit tones but still quite dry with a hint of astringency and a dry finish. Basically the kept-cold Oka drank clean, tight and had a nice balance.
The two-month open air Oka had a mild ricey and cherry aroma – no real musky smell. The sake itself drank soft and round with a semi-sweet flavor profile. It was gentle and smooth with a fleshy feeling. There was a little dryness in a larger glass. The open air stored Oka drank a bit sweeter, denser, and more round than the kept-cold Oka.
First and foremost – the mere fact that the sake was left out in the open air did not kill the sake! It did not go grotty and it didn’t drink yucky! There were subtle differences like the brew lost some of its crispness and tightness and Ginjo aromatics, but the open air sake had some nice roundness and smoothness that seemed to open up the traditionally compact sake. As a retailer I found that for this particular single-pasteurized sake we need not over protect it when selling it, and that it is more durable than perceived. If a customer had to keep it out of the fridge for perhaps a week or two it would be fine! Which is great news for shipping!