Ask Beau – “What’s the best order to taste sake? Is it like white to red wine?”
This is a good question and there are a lot of answers because you can truly do a tasting in so many different fashions. The point, Ryan J from Miami, is to determine what you want to achieve from a sake tasting. If you want to focus on dry and sweet then you definitely start with dryer sakes first then graduate into the sweeter sakes. If the point of the tasting is to taste in order of milling or the “categories” make sure that you have the milling %’s correct and do not assume that a Junmai is 70% and a Ginjo is 60%. More often than not, especially today, brewers tend to over mill each category so that Junmai you thought you were tasting is actually milled to a Ginjo level.
If you want to taste for acidity then it’s important to start with the lower acidity sakes first, then push up to the higher acidity sakes later. If you are tasting by category, Daiginjo for example, then I always like trying the dryer Daiginjo’s first followed by the sweeter sakes.
Let’s say you have a jumble of sakes with no real identifiers...in that case I would stick to the basics. If you don’t have milling rates, SMV, or acidity information then I would go general. I would try to taste for purity. I would taste from the lowest to the highest category. I would start with Honjozo and go to Junmai, then to Ginjo and Daiginjo thereafter. And in so doing I would always put things like Nigori, Taru, and Nama sakes at the end of the tasting. Also Yamahais need some protecting too, as they are a great style of sake, but in a line up of excellent Junmai and Ginjo sakes they may taste like the wet dog in comparison and that’s no fun!
There are some other basics too! I try to always taste the sakes at the same temperature. This is fair! I also try to use the same size vessel for each sake, and I take the same sized sip for each brew. It’s about consistency.