November 2012

Sake Experiment - Aging "Hiyaoroshi" Sakes

Posted by Beau Timken in 2012, Newsletter, November
True Sake It's been a while since I "conducted" a sake experiment. A what? A sake experiment - you know when I try testing sake to a certain degree to see if there is another hidden facet to this incredible libation. We've done some brilliant (If I can say so myself) experiments in the past with some amazing conclusions and even some controversial ones at that! But it has been so long since we played!

Two months ago I had to move my "vintage" "aging" sake collection from one small fridge to my shiny new refer that is the bomb! (Did I say that? Really? How old am I?) Well, in the process of moving three coolers full of funky, freaky, superb aging sakes I re-discovered my collection of aged Hiyaoroshi sakes. (Please see the section above for a definition about Fall Draft Sakes) Yes, I age everything from nama sakes to honjozo sakes, from taru sakes to hiyaoroshi sakes. I age everything to see what happens to brews that are purposefully aged past recommendation. I like testing the durability and balance of sakes that should have been consumed long ago. Sometimes the sakes improve in a wonderful way and sometimes they are meh! It's the ol' Forrest Gump box of chocolates scenario - you never know what you're going to get!

I found a lot of Hiyaoroshis. Some brews are no longer exported to the US. I also found several years in a row of many of the same sakes. Ah Ha! I decided to pick three sakes to compare against this year's version to see how well single pasteurized sakes do over a not-recommended length of time. I found two brews from the 2009 class and one from last year and figured it would be a good idea to at least have one sake that wasn't 3 years old.

True Sake One of my favorite Hiyaoroshi sakes has always been from Urakasumi brewery, and a close second has been from Wakatake brewery in Shizuoka. So I took a bottle of each of these guys released in 2009 to compare to this season's release. Also I took last year's Kikusui Hiyaoroshi to compare to this year's release.

Let the experiment begin: Comparison sakes were served in the same glasses and tasted at the same temperature, which was roughly 20 mins out of the fridge. My reviews for this season's Hiyaoroshi can be find in the New Store Arrivals section, so I will focus on the aged brews.

Urakasumi Hiyaoroshi
  • The brew drank its usual rich self but there was a heat or acidity or tingly feeling to it. It was smooth with a little edge, which was sort of zesty. And the tail was far longer than the new release. The tingle added a brightness to the sake, but it was an un-balanced brightness.
  • RESULT - Aging the Urakasumi three years took the softness out of the sake. The richness stayed, but the sake drank more jagged. I did not like the aged version better.
True Sake Wakatake Hiyaoroshi
  • The nose on the aged Wakatake was not that different than the fresh release. It drank smooth and even, almost to the point of very soft. It was not watery per se but the sake definitely had lost the edges in terms of feeling. The taste was pretty neutral. There was no crazy acidity just slightly more watery.
  • RESULT - Aging the Wakatake Hiyaoroshi three years made the sake far softer. Almost to the point of watery in feeling. It thinned the flavor as well as the feeling. It was drinkable but did not improve the sake, which was actually by a different toji then the current brewer. I did not prefer the aged version better.
Kikusui Hiyaoroshi
  • Oddly the 2011 released Kikusui had a more musky nose than either of the 2009 brews. That was a head scratcher. The one-year-aged Kikusui drank far softer and had a more sensitive tail. By weight standards the sake drank lighter and smoother. It had a richness that is lacking this year, but the softness mellowed the sake.
  • RESULT - Aging the sake for one year made the Kikusui Hiyaoroshi drink far smoother and richer than the crisp current release. It opened up the sake and took the chippiness away. I far preferred the aged version as it drank smoother and more soft and flavorful.

True Sake Should you age Hiyaoroshi sake for more than three years? Probably not. But in this very limited sample size I found that the tight and crisp Kikusui actually did far better with an extra year to relax in the bottle. The Urakasumi and the Wakatake that were aged three years drank okay. They were drinkable. They were not grotty! But they did not improve in time. Basically the feeling of the sakes changed more than the flavors. In one case the sake drank "hotter" than before and the other drank more watery. Is this a scientific experiment? Nope! But I have aged enough sakes to tell when something becomes special and when something does not! Those two sakes aged for three years did not become something special, but the sake aged for one year did! You do the math! I must now re-evaluate my aged Hiyaoroshi collection, which also includes a 2008 version of both the Urakasumi and the Wakatake.

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