Sake Talk Anyone?


Riedel invested a lot of money and research and have decided that the Junmai glass requires a special vessel, in essence to draw out the flavors of umami. Beau Timken of True Sake was in Yamagata prefecture during the International Wine Challenge and met with the head of Riedel to discuss the glass (initially he dissed it first until he tried it for himself to understand what was being done). Unless you have the extra sensory to pick up the subtle bits, it may or may not be worth it. However I am curious, so if I find one in Japan and if I can bring it over with breaking it…I’ll see how it goes. Some say the choice of vessel is not quite as important after you get to a certain stage, but that really depends on your preference at the end and what you can pick up and interpret from tasting through it. Some might even argue drinking sake from wine glass is a placebo effect.

Not qualified to properly explain pasteurization from a professional or brewing standpoint, but I can tell you that all regular sake is twice pasteurized; once after pressing and before storage, and a second time before bottling. You will find some single pasteurized sake as well on the market (e.g. Born: Gold Junmai Daiginjo). Non pasteurized sake are original “nama” sake (some people refer to it as nama nama), and single pasteurized sake could either be nama zume, or nama chozo. Nama zume only goes through the first pasteurization, and nama chozo skips the first pasteurization and goes straight to the 2nd. Nama chozo sake could be matured in bottle for unspecified or targeted periods of time before release to give it more character. Most nama zume (at least the ones we can get here or through True Sake) are also Hiyaroshi sake, or seasonal fall/autumn “draft” release (and thus are limited). These are worth trying (actually any seasonal release) just once so you get a better understanding of the different profiles from one brewery or more throughout the year.

My guess is pasteurization via higher temperatures (~60 degrees C or so) neutralizes the enymes and yeast, to prevent further fermentation and/or ensure they don’t interfere with the flavor, profile, and characteristics of the brew as desired by the master brewer and end result.


Oh cool. I emailed him today. I don’t know what his work hours are, but hopefully he’ll get back to me next week.

BTW… The next sake tasting at K&L will be specialty sakes, like sparkling and such. Really looking forward to that.


Do you notice a difference in the flavor profiles? Do you have a preference?

This is complicated stuff. I’m slowly(!) starting to understand more, but it makes me realize how little I know. :smile:

BTW… I read your post about some thinking the use of a wine glass for sake is pretentious or some such thing. Well, Kerry-san served all of the sakes in a wine glass and I don’t find him pretentious at all. Plus they were great for swirling and smelling the aromas.


BTW… I think Sur la Table sells Riedel products. Next time we’re there we’ll check.


The Riedel Junmai glass is so far Japan only to my knowledge. I have not seen the Daiginjo glass in a wine shop so far (for various obvious reasons).

In US/Europe it is not uncommon these days for sake to be served in various wine glasses at fancy and/or upscale restaurants, Japanese or not. Izakaya and more casual places tend not to do that. The call for pretentiousness comes from those who have more historical perspective on keeping sake more Japanese than sacrificing other elements for the sake of globalization. There should not be a need according to those types of people, to co-mingle wine related things with sake, as there are glass vessels (e.g. kiriko) and stemless glassware designed specifically for sake with a wider opening which also allows for sufficient surface area for sake to breathe and release aromas, those of which which are more commonly available in Japan and some US restaurants (omakase places) could get them…thus these types of folks see putting sake in wine glasses a farce (but then again some of these are the same types that extol the virtues of expensive unicorn brand name Junmai Daiginjo because well, they have to market themselves as experts because their target audience succumb to brand name and bandwagon jumping and couldn’t give a smell about Junmai or Junmai Ginjo).

Bottom line, the master brewer of sake just wants you to enjoy it. In the end as long as you do and appreciate it, they will be happy, and they are probably the last to know all the other little unimportant tidbits of what you had to do to get the bottle, how you enjoyed it, how your mood was, the company you were with etc. It’s sometimes some of these evangelists that have their heads up their you know where :slight_smile: causing a ruckus.


I personally love unpasteurized sake, the more raw and original the better. Though probably not something I would want to have all the time. The most original would be those that are not just unpasteurized, but also undiluted, and unfiltered (putting all three together: Muroka (unfiltered) Nama (unpastuerized) Genshu (undiluted). Probably would be a lot more fun to pair LA’s ethnic food with this type of flavor and profile.

Single pasteurized sake…I find some of the ones available in the US too thin for my liking vs the ones in Japan which are more robust (typically the ones that are not exported). Many factors can affect this.

Keep on drinking more, experiment, and asking questions, you’ll pick it up :slight_smile:


Got it

One thing @beefnoguy - I think you’re in NoCal? These are mostly L.A. recs. Should I ask him about local spots? He responded fast and was eager to help.


Hi @beefnoguy -

Turns out Kerry san lives in L.A., but he got these recs from his colleagues:



Akikos Restaurant on Bush Street

Namu Gaji



Not necessarily my favorite places for sushi (not a fan of Akiko’s; Kusakabe is better), however, they do have a sake list with some very prestigious and hard-to-get bottles, namely some special Kokuryu such as Nizaemon that I can’t find retail, anywhere.

In other news, I believe Asahi Shuzo brewery was flooded in early July :cry: but they seem to be doing alright as of about 3 weeks ago…


Kokuryu is also repped by Kerry @ World Sake!

In many cases, premium sakes are not available at supermarkets by design.
The sake makers or distributors refuse to sell to supermarkets in order to maintain brand value/image.

While pointless destruction is always terrible, Asahi Shuzo (Dassai) will be just fine. They are a “big dog”.


In some sad sake news, it appears that Honda-san of Honda Shoten (Tatsuriki) has passed away.
He was a (the?) master of Yamadanishiki rice and Ginjo sake. He believed heavily in sake terroir and shared his passion to the very end.
It is makers like Honda-san that encourage and motivate me to learn more about sake and share with others.


Yes, I wasn’t talking about supermarkets, but looking on Wine-Searcher for wine stores. I don’t see many of these sakes at wine stores, anyway.


A few things.

Thank you @TheCookie for the information of where to find the new sake in restaurants for NorCal! Appreciate it!

Akiko’s sommelier is Jessica Furui, who used to work at Ozumo San Francisco (hence the ridiculously impressive sake list, despite the mediocre food, including reserve bottles…that restaurant was one of a handful that stocked the $1200+ Kikuhime Kukurihime 10 year aged Daiginjo…Sawa Sushi being another establishment and likely a few more places in New York, though to be honest I’ve had a bottle of Kukurihime and it wasn’t all that…luckily I only paid retail Japanese prices, from Japan). She has a special relationship with World Sake, hence almost all of Akiko’s sake is sourced from there. Once you have earned your keep as a customer/account holder at World Sake (and with the right volume and reputation), then you as a business may get a lottery or allotment of Kokuryu Nizaemon, Ishidaya (which by the way are the darling sake of choice by some of the top Japanese sushi instagrammers, even in Tokyo they are impossible to get retail). The other limited rare prized Daiginjo from the World Sake portfolio would be Tedorigawa Mangekyo and that one is also ridiculously good (it’s a 2 year aged Nama Daiginjo), and I guess you have to do quite a bit of volume as well to get an allotment of it, but maybe easier to procure than the two super limited Kokuryu’s.

I have been fortunate to taste Ishidaya a few years ago at a friend’s birthday (alongside Dassai Beyond), and that Ishidaya was one helluva sake. I can only imagine how great Nizaemon would be as well. Though the baseline Kokuryu Kuzuryu Junmai is far more affordable and extremely versatile, as well as a beast of a food pairing (and you can even warm it up).

Honda san, either in his will or his family’s wishes, did not want the news of his passing to leak. I guess someone did not get the memo and I learned of the sad news from an online sake publication based out of Hong Kong, guessing they got it from that instagram post. It’s very old school Honda san, I guess he wanted people to think he was continually working overseas… It’s a truly sad day as I’ve only recently learned about some of Honda san’s early hardships, and how he overcame so many hurdles and became a pioneer in his field. Not only did he invest a lot of time researching Yamadanishiki and finding out ways to improve its flavor through different cultivation methods, he’s also the chairman of a committee on rice polishing techniques, as well as researching the effects of low temperature aging. On top of all that he is so humble, he only does what he does as passion…he’s not some celebrity brewer and could care less about how much he sells (but he does want people to enjoy and be able to appreciate). Super high end product, but yet also super low key. I’m sure they could use a hand with improving on marketing and evangelism, as Tatsuriki’s sake is significantly superior to so many. There’s a reason why places like Sushi Amane carry the Kami Mikusa Junmai Daiginjo of Tatsuriki and I think they have the Jingu Junmai Daiginjo as well which is absolutely stellar. All of his high end sake are aged before release and bottling, but they don’t mention it in their specs.

This video explains what he has done quite brilliantly and I encourage everyone reading this thread to watch it. @Starchtrade I’m guessing you have seen this already

I met Honda san twice a few months ago when he was in Northern California helping to promote Tatsuriki with their distribution up here, and told him through a translator how much I enjoyed what he was doing, and in fact had two sake bottles (and their boxes) autographed. I also told him how I took one of his bottles to Californios to experiment with different food, and that the wine somms there loved tasting it also when I poured them some. Still stunned at the news of his passing! He embodies the true shokunin spirit in the sake world with his dedication, humility, and research of improving the Yamadanishiki rice profile. If I rely on memory from tasting Kome no sasayaki Daiginjo for the first time back in 2015 at Mori Sushi, to the current batches now, the profile with the latest batches are so profound and addictive. I will consume a bottle of Tatsuriki in his honor this week (and next)… rest in peace Mr Honda Takeyoshi.


Regarding Asahi Shuzo (Dassai)

They recently collaborated with manga artist Kenshi Hirokane 弘兼 憲史 and released a limited run of Dassai Junmai Daiginjo less than a week ago, featuring Kenshi’s artwork, and called 島耕作 Shima Kozaku. This came about as a result of the power outage the brewery suffered from the flooding. It seems like they were trying to get towards a 0.1% semibuai but the setbacks essentially caused this project to come to a grinding halt. Instead of tossing the batch away, which is already at Junmai Daiginjo grade level, they decided to release it (specs unknown). Supposedly 650,000 bottles were made to help Dassai get out of their rut (and for the manga artist to show his support and promote more morale nation wide), and I’ve recently heard all cases have sold out.

Not bad for 1296 yen per 720 mL bottle, if you can get your hands on one over there (though very very low on my priority list)


Had a glass of this Masumi Arabashiri First Run Junmai Ginjo. Very savory flavor profile, think it would pair well with greasy izakaya fare. Retail ~$40/bottle.


Yep it’s also a nama genshu, unpasteurized and undiluted, so a bit higher in acidity and alcohol content. I think I had it once a couple years ago and the profile is a bit different every year.

Might be fun to try it with something more out of the box, like spicy stir fry dishes (think typhoon shelter crab Hong Kong style).


Interesting find @Sgee at a nice price too. Thanks for sharing.


Hi Sake Lovers -

As I do my reports a pattern may appear of a preference for fruity. However, they may have more starch, more sugar and that = belly fat. :relaxed: I would like to become more familiar w/Junmai Sake, which seems to have less added starches and such (correct me if I’m wrong). My question is: if Junmai has no distilled alcohol added how does a bottle have a “higher alcohol content”?



Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo, these are pure rice based and have no distilled alcohol added.

Ginjo, Daiginjo, these are sake with distilled alcohol added.

Difference between all of these would essentially be the % of rice polishing done to the grains (with a few instances of overlap once you reach say, 50%).

Nama sake is usually unpasteurized (most commercial sake that are not nama, are double pasteurized, a few single pasteurized). A Genshu is an undiluted sake, where the process of adding water helps temper the amount of alcohol produced during fementation. The key with the higher alcohol content is the word “genshu” (undiluted).

From a much simpler scientific standpoint (which may not explain the sake brewing process entirely), if you add starch to water you get glucose. If you ferment glucose (e.g. with yeast) it converts to carbon dioxide and ethanol (an alcohol). If you keep fermenting then at some point the amount of alcohol accumulated will increase, but is naturally produced. The brewing technique will determine the level of acidity and perhaps additional storage and aging, but based on my experiences with unpasteurized and undiluted sake, acidity and alcohol content tends to be higher. If in the brewing process water is added to cut the sake / temper the alcohol percentage, then you will be looking at 15 to 16% alcohol vs at least 19 % or more in an undiluted sake.

With Junmai sake, the % polish of sake rice grains is roughly anywhere from 60% (I’ve encountered a super special Junmai that is polished to 50% but that’s too ridiculous) to upwards of 80 to 90%. The more polished the rice, the more of the “shinpaku” is revealed which is the center (and inner portion) of the rice grain (where it contains the most sugars). Regular Junmai sake will have more rice flavors / rice feel to it, fuller bodied, and at the end of the day far more versatile with food pairing. In the end it’s all rice. You could eat less carbs during a meal if you have sake.

The Masumi Arabashiri that Sgee had is actually a Junmai Ginjo, so it’s polished to 55%, Acidity is around 1.8 (medium high), and alcohol % is 17, just a wee bit higher than normal (Born Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai Daiginjo is around 19% in comparison).


Okay, let me see if I get this.

  1. Alcohol content comes naturally from the fermentation process, similar to beer.

  2. Junmai sake - which has no distilled alcohol added - has nothing to do with starch levels.

  3. Starch is a given since sake is made from rice - fruitier or dry has no correlation.

  4. Sweeter profiles don’t come from added sugars, but from length of fermentation process, egs. shorter fermentation means the yeast consumes less of the sugars.

  5. Feel free to correct me.

This is why? Because of polish?

I’m looking forward to starting vacation next week and spending a day (two if I can get away with it) re-reading this thread, articles, notes from the K&L tasting and starting Sake Confidential. I might even watch The Birth of Sake again. A day of sake class. :slightly_smiling_face: Then a report.

Thanks for the help. Science has never been my strong suit, but curiosity is…