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Sake Experiment - Shak'n Nigoris!

Yes the True Sake Science team was at it again! As many of you know I/we like to experiment with sake to test the boundaries of this amazing beverage. We like to check for durability - conditioning - handling - longevity - temperature points - delivery etc amongst others. It is a way to document how sake survives and has been very well received by brewers and exporters alike. They value our efforts and we have received a lot of constructive feedback as to what they had previously thought and why. It's fun to give something in return.

The latest True Sake Experiment revolved around nigori or unfiltered sake and the effects of over shaking. We have done past experiments shaking a filtered sake and the impact was profound. Would the same be true for nigori sake? We got the idea after noticing people shaking the nigori sakes in our store. Yes, people love the snow-globe effect and they cannot control themselves from shaking away. It's sort of like the old "Don't squeeze the Sharmin" commercials. So true to form we began a shaking exercise!

We took two bottles of Sasame Yuki Nigori from Fukushima from the same case and put them in the refrigerator. One of the bottles was not touched. The other sake got shook! We literally shook - as you would normally do for a nigori (I call it an undulation) - the second bottle everyday for 90 days. That's a whole lot a shaking going on! Again - the other bottle just sat there.

Because we had done this type of experiment before I was fairly certain that we would see a serious consequence - or ramification - of the extra shaking. I expected the shaken bottle to be far more "smoothed out" far more relaxed and far more flat than the bottle that did not take the dancing class. And truthfully I thought the impact would be far more extreme than the filtered sake.

The Shook bottle will be referred to as Bottle A and the un-shaken bottle will be referred to as Bottle B.

Comparing the noses it was quite evident that the shaking muted the aroma of Bottle A. The un-shook Bottle B had a more pronounced nose. Aha! The first discover is that when one "damages" a nigori the aroma profile suffers to a degree. This held true for 4 different glass sizes!

Comparing the texture and flavors of the sakes one had to concentrate as there were no massive differences in the two. They both drank pretty much the same - to a degree! For the uninitiated one would say the sakes stayed about the same. But we did notice some subtleties that actually became more pronounced when the nigoris warmed up in the glass a little. Firstly the shaken Bottle A drank a little lighter than B - the presence was smoother and more buoyant. The un-shaken Bottle B drank with more body and acidity play - there was an almost crisp quality when compared to A. In a sense the shaking dispersed the acidity and it blended better in the shaken Bottle A. Consequently the more evident acidity in Bottle B brought forth more sweetness that was not evident in Bottle A. The shaking changed the "sweetness" of the brew and Bottle A drank with more richness than sweetness.

Bottle B - the one that just hung out in the fridge - drank with a tingle of alcohol that some may call "semi-boozy," and this was not present in the least with the shaken Bottle A. Perhaps again the shaking can be attributed to taking down that alcohol tingle that actually created an edgy finish in Bottle B, but this was not present in Bottle A that a far more muted and subsequently better finish.

In summary - This was a good experiment on several levels. For one it shows yet again that conditioning has a profound impact on the quality of a consumed sake. The same batch of sake could be served in Japan and the US and folks will taste different sakes. I like that. I also like the fact that the nigori did not collapse or completely fall apart with such an amount of over-shaking. Seriously! The brew should have folded in theory, but it drank fine - so much so that two out of the three tasters preferred the shaken bottle. This just reminds me again that well-made sake is completely durable. Lastly, I really liked the fact that we could identify four distinct ways the shaking "damaged" or "aided" the sake: 1) The aroma 2) The acidity 3) The Sweetness 4) The Finish. Should you now go home and shake your nigori collection? Why not?
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