Thursday, October 14, 2010

Undiluted Sake Tasting

After tasting a bottle of the carbonated portion of my batch of sake last week, I thought it was also time to give the same treatment to a bottled of the cleared, full strength sake.  This portion of the batch was left at an undiluted ~18% ABV and fined with bentonite, and then pasteurized before bottling.  The results are just too boozy for me without the big complex fruity aromatics that sake needs (since there isn't much character from the rice).

Undiluted Sake

I put the glass on a white background for the picture so you can get a better idea of the true color of it.Appearance – Perfectly transparent grassy yellow (higher grade - more polished - rice would yielded a clearer sake). No head or carbonation evident, but there are legs slowly dripping down the sides of the glass.

Smell – Light grainy aroma with some apparent alcohol. Not as much going on as in the carbonated sake (which suggests Bob was right in telling me that the toasty/yeasty character was from the Champagne yeast I added for carbonation). Lacks the fruity ester character of the high end sakes I've tried.

Taste – Light sweetness with a lingering warming alcohol. I wouldn't call it hot, but it is certainly boozy. Not much character, sadly it isn't too far off vodka cut with water.

Mouthfeel – Medium-light body, dead flat.  There is a certain refined crispness to it that you'd never find in a beer this strong.

Drinkability & Notes – Really clean character, especially considering the high alcohol content. That said, there just isn't anything in the flavor or aroma to keep me drinking.  Might be worth using in a mixed drink (maybe I'll adding herbs/spices/hops to some of the bottles...)


  1. Hey Mike, there's a slight typo in your stated that the alcohol content of your undiluted sake is only "~8% ABV." I think it might be a little higher than that if you're describing it as "boozy." ;) That is a mighty fine looking glass of sake, however. The color is actually pretty light for having been made with sushi rice, possibly a result of using such expensive rice.

    As for the lack of fruity aromatics and such...well, it's probably there but getting overpowered by the high alcohol content. Very rarely will you see a commercial sake in its genshu state for this reason. Maybe try diluting a glass with an ounce or two of water and letting it come up a little closer to room temperature next time you taste some?

    If that doesn't do it, you might try fermenting a couple degrees higher next time. My sake actually never goes as low as 50ºF, my temperature controller settings in my method are actually dialed-in to keep it right at 52ºF because I love the vanilla-strawberry aroma I get at that temperature. =) A little higher than that and I'm told you start to see some tropical fruit characteristics emerge, but I've never tried it for myself.

    I'm actually surprised you didn't taste any rice in this batch. I've never used that brand of sushi rice before, but the only stuff I have used that didn't result in a grainy/ricey/harsh character (that required aging to mellow out the harshness, but I've actually learned to like grainy/ricey flavor over the years) in the final sake was the 60% polished sake rice I got from Steinbart. You didn't taste any grainy flavors in your genshu sake?

  2. Thanks for catching that, 18% not 8% of course.

    There is certainly some light graininess in this one as I noted, but it certainly wasn’t jumping out of the glass. It could also again just be the alcohol/cold covering up the nuances. Might be rice I used as well, I wish they listed the percent it was polished.

    I’ll try diluting and going a bit warmer next time I open a bottle. For me the problem going warmer is that I’ve very sensitive to ethanol, which is why beer is my beverage of choice. Once a drink crosses ~12% ABV my enjoyment falls precipitously.

    So far the most enjoyable part of this batch the cloudy, unpasteurized sample I pulled early on. The sweetness/body from the rice particles really helped to give it balance and character. So I’m hoping the portion of the batch that was bottled with sediment will be more to my tastes.

    Thanks again for all your help!

  3. Good luck with the sedimented portion. Nigori is my favorite type of sake!

    On an unrelated note, I noticed on the Twitter sidebar awhile back you mentioned brewing a Gose. Is there a post coming about that? I actually happened to brew a Gose just a couple days prior to that as well, so I'm curious how they compare. . .

  4. Yep, Gose post coming on Monday. Fermentation is about done, with just Lacto/Sacch I'm hoping to turn it around pretty quickly.

  5. Hi! I have a question either for Mike or Taylor!

    what are the problems of using white broken rice? When I mill the rice I usually got a lot of broken rice! Do you use it?

    I have read that you shouldn't use it, but I don't understand the reason, since for example when your brew beer, you break the rice, don't you?


  6. Hi I tried various kinds of Sake in Takayama in the backyard of a brewery. I think that the environment is extremely important for the whole experience. Well see for yourself: Hope this video makes you curious for trying different Sake.