July 2013

Sake Sensations – Sake Warmed By The Sun

Posted by Beau Timken in 2013, July, Newsletter
True Sake I love accumulating weird and wonderful sake facts, tidbits and weirdities! (Oddities for the layman) So I was both stunned and thrilled when a friend, who knew that I was about to take a trip to Mendocino, brought me a bottle of sake as a gift with a special purpose. After I told her that I was going to spend the weekend in a tree house amongst the monumental redwoods she said, “I will be right back,” and left the store. She returned 5 minutes later with a bottle of sake, which she handed to me. (Yes – she is in the industry!) She said two things. First the label reminded her of the greens found in the redwood forests of the Pacific coast and second – well I will make you wait for it!

Did you know that Redwoods only grow along a wonderful Pacific coastal stretch from Big Sur to Oregon? Did you know that this stretch goes inland about 30 miles at most? And did you know that these glorious timber beasts exist in this region and this region alone to be found nowhere else in this splendid world? I didn’t. But I do now!

Okay back to the sake. So my friend’s second reason for me to take her gift sake to the magical tree house in the redwoods was to warm it. But she wanted me to warm it in a way that I would never have thought of – ever! Why? Because her warming instructions were the opposite of my “years” of sake training and comprehension.

As she put the bottle in my hand she instructed me to leave the bottle in the sun for the afternoon to warm up “naturally.” WHAT? Are you crazy I thought to myself? My sake index brain started spinning: THE RULES OF SAKE: 1) Do Not Expose Sake To Sunlight or UV Rays. Period. Nuff Said. Just like wine or beer, don’t leave booze in a place that is exposed to the sun. But she was adamant. “Put the bottle in a sunny spot and let it warm up for a few hours then drink it in the late cool afternoon as the sun is transitioning,” she sagely advised. Damn!

True Sake So now fast-forward to the dreamy tree house in the majestic redwoods. I put the bottle on a picnic bench in the clearing above our perch. I certainly felt weird about doing it. And I just left it there on it’s own by itself by its lonesome. A truly strange feeling passed through me. I had just thrown one of the top sake tenements out the proverbial window. I had just simply abandoned a beautiful brew. Sniff sniff!

When we returned later that afternoon there was the bottle. It looked upon me as I gazed with apologetic eyes. Was it mad? Was it dead? I had basically done the one thing to this bottle of sake that the brewer would plead for me not to do. I killed it! Or did I? The air temperature was now far cooler than when we left and that is when I noticed the temperature of the bottle. As I lifted the sake from its now slightly sunny perch I felt a warmness that bordered on very warm. The bottle radiated heat and I put it on my cheek to feel exactly how warm the bottle had gotten. My best explanation is the bottle felt like the hood of your black car that had been in the sun all day and you felt it when you got out of work. It was wonderfully warm. And quite frankly the bottle felt sunny!

I quickly took the sun-warmed-sake into the tree house cabin. The glass offerings were not perfect but we settled on two larger sized glasses. We then set out some green olives and sat down on the balcony overlooking the magnificent redwoods. There was a gentle breeze that made the branches sway and talk. And then the moment came. I slowly twisted off the cap - my hands warm from holding the bottle. I poured the warm fluid into the glasses. We said cheers and I tasted sun-warmed-sake for the first time. It was a wow moment. The long gentle natural heating gave the sake a long gentle warmth and depth of feeling and flavor. It was extremely therapeutic and my body warmed accordingly.

As a protector of sake I would never have imagined leaving a perfectly good bottle in the sun all day. As a fan of sake I now totally get it. The long slow warming of the brew made the sake relax and spread out in both the taste and composure of its makeup. The “deadly” sun made that particular sake (Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai) live to its fullest flavorful potential. The mere act of killing gave that brew a new glorious lease on life.

I have tried recreating that feeling and flavor with other sun-warmed-sakes since, but that brew – that cabin – that moment were one and I am a fonder sake drinker for it!

Not every sake does well in the sun. If you try sun warming think about using richer more full-bodied Junmai or Honjozo sakes that are known to warm well:

  • Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai
  • Seko “Ninja” Junmai
  • Sakari “Gokun” Honjozo
  • Taiheizan Kimoto Junmai
  • Suehiro Densho Yamahai Junmai
  • Yuki No Bosha Yamahai Junmai

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