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The Sake Appreciation Thread

After we have finally published our entry on Japanese sake, I'm glad to announce that we are about to open a review section for nihonshu. I have a long line of bottles, I mean, reviews in the pipeline; and I know that in @bentenmusume we have a veritable 日本酒 expert and aficionado on board. Watch this space for more updates. :)
This seems as good a time and place as any to make my triumphant(?) return. ;)

I've been taking a break from active forum posting for a few months to focus on work and family, but at least the former has begun to settle down a bit, so hopefully I can get back to contributing a bit from time to time.

Anyhow, while there are a few nits I'd pick with the article(*), overall it strikes me as a very solid introduction to the world of nihonshu. I'll try to do my part to flesh things out in the coming weeks/months, and I look forward to some interesting discussion with fellow sake aficionados here! 🍶

*::clears throat and steps atop soapbox:: For example, the contention that "most" sake "does not age well" and that "high-grade sake is not usually drunk hot", both of which seem to reflect a certain prejudice against jukusei-shu (aged sake) and kan-zake (heated sake) that, from my experience, is a somewhat narrow-minded perspective that ignores many incredible varieties of sake brewed with precisely that in mind. Also, the term "rice wine" in general, which has fallen out of popularity among sake enthusiasts and I would argue should be retired for good.
Great to see you back! And I should have reintroduced your as "connoisseur", too. :)

As far as the article is concerned, there is definitely room for improvement. I wanted to publish it as soon as possible (it's only taken me two years, lol), but I'll be more than happy to include your suggestions.

Once I'm back from work tonight, I'll set up the review section.
Haha, yes, I prefer to think of myself as a connoisseur or aficionado rather than an "expert", since most of my sake knowledge comes from appreciating it myself and speaking with who do (rather than the impressive lists of official qualifications some people have), but leaving that aside, I'm always more than happy to talk sake and contribute what I can!

I'll take a closer look through the article when I have a bit more time and see if there's anything worth adding/tweaking/touching up/what-have-you. I certainly can't fault you for wanting to publish it ASAP after I kept you hanging for ten months(!) since we originally had this discussion. 🙇‍♂️
That's the university I will enrol at in my next life.

Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine students show off the sake they produced in brewery class.


Shuntaro Sakai (22) and Mizuki Takayama (21), both fourth-graders, started to work on their sake project in May.


Aoun (碧雲) sake

I am glad to report that I have removed our sake reviews from the general Review section in an intensive three-day effort and created a dedicated Sake Portal. This is an entirely new site section (accessible from the global top navigation) that will probably expand significantly over the months to come. :)
Kazaridaru (飾り樽), "decoration sake", on display at the Naikū of Ise-jingū. These sakedaru (酒樽, wooden barrels) represent the crème de la crème of the Mie sake breweries.


Later, we found one of these breweries in Ise: Hakutaka Brewery.

菊正宗(Kiku Masamune) 樽酒(barrel sake)

菊正宗 生酛
I want to eat liquor and sashimi when I see this.

菊正宗 樽酒 「鰻蒲焼き篇」
Kiku Masamune barrel sake "eel kabayaki"
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It is a heated Sake.
A tool that combines a heat source and a copper container,
which is used to make sake at restaurants.
Put water in a container, warm it to an appropriate temperature,
soak the sake bottle in it, and heat it in a water bath.
In addition to copper, stainless steel is also available. Originally,
the heat source was charcoal fire, but nowadays, there are many gas and electricity.

燗徳利で美味しい燗酒 Delicious sake bottle with sake bottle

野燗ロ NOKANRO HOW TO USE English ver

囲炉裏・火鉢の道具 炭火酒燗器の販売 by囲炉裏本舗
Hearth / brazier tools Sale of charcoal sake liquor by hearth main office
The Asahi Shinbun on the Gunma-based Makino Brewery, a long-established sake brewery that has gone against the grain in the production process but continues its winning ways. Instead of milling their sake rice down by 50-60% (common for the more exclusive types of sake), Makino polished the rice to just 80%.


Makino Kenjiro, Makino's toji (photo credit: Eiichi Tsunozu)

"In the current sake industry, local breweries mainly polish off 50 to 60 percent of the rice grains to produce their flagship products," said Kenjiro Makino, managing director of Makino Brewery Inc. He said such products lack individuality and diversity. "They polish rice too much. Delicious sake can be made without polishing," he said. [...] The quality of sake is different each year. Makino's award-winning sake produced in 2020 had a comfortable aroma and a soft and rich flavor, but the sake produced in 2021 boasted a gorgeous aroma and a light flavor, he said. "'Koji' malted rice and the way rice is washed are crucial in sake brewing," he said. "Techniques are evolving with each passing day, and what consumers want is also changing. We have been making all kinds of efforts without fear of failure." Rice grains are polished to remove undesired components for sake brewing. But Makino feels that the more the rice is polished, the more unnatural it becomes. The brewery aims to make its main products with rice grains that have 10 to 30 percent of them polished off.

"Sake consumption in Japan is declining" is a statement that needs to be qualified a bit.

While the overall consumption of sake by total volume has, indeed, decreased (and decreased markedly) over the years, this is mostly because the generation(s) that used to consume sake (in particular, the cheaper, non-premium grades traditionally consumed locally) regularly is gradually dying out, and younger generations (on the whole) are drinking more cheap beer and/or less alcohol altogether.

The sort of "premium" types of sake (and I don't necessarily mean expensive daiginjos, etc., but just anything that's brewed with a mind toward "sake aficionados" nationwide) has enjoyed something of a revival/renaissance in the past ten years, and all things considered the overall level of sake being produced today is probably higher than ever.

Of course, there's still much work to be done in revitalizing the industry as a whole (sadly, COVID hasn't been helping these past few years), I wouldn't want anyone to get the impression that it's hopeless -- that sake itself is "dying out" in Japan. It's simply going through a transition phase and finding a way to rediscover/adapt to the changing tastes/tendencies of a new age.
On a more personal level: our household consumption is definitely on the rise. :)
Haha, likewise -- and this is definitely the most important thing. ;)🍶

musicisgood said:
Isn't exports of sake on the rise ?
Yes, they are, and there's certainly a lot more sake being enjoyed around the world these days than even a few years ago -- which is a good thing in my book.

That said, there's still a long way to go before sake becomes available as widely and in as much variety internationally as (to use the reverse example), wine/beer/whisky/etc. from around the world can be enjoyed in Japan.

I feel like that many Japanese people misunderstand this sometimes when they hear about the "global sake boom", and get the (mistaken) impression that sake bars are springing up everywhere -- the same way you can find bistros with quality wine, craft beer pubs, whisky bars, etc. all over Japan's city centers (and even some out-of-the-way locations). Sake around the world is still very much limited to establishments -- mostly high-end ones -- that have gone out of their way to expand their sake menu.
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Toshimaya is great! Both their standing sake bar / shop in Kanda and the brewery itself out in suburban Tokyo (Higashi-Murayama) are both absolutely worth a visit (for a brewery visit, you'll need to call in advance or go on a day when they're having an event -- see their homepage).

They're great people, brewing incredible sake right here in Tokyo for hundreds of years, and always experimenting with new things to reach out to younger people and those who may not be as sake-savvy.
[...] always experimenting with new things to reach out to younger people and those who may not be as sake-savvy.

And that's exactly what it needs to appeal to the younger generation: make it fun, classy, but not elitist à la French Bordeaux. (Though, I am not too fond of manga and anime characters on sake labels, lol)

I am just reading Tuttle's latest sake title (to be released in May) that features lots of young (and often female) toji who are very willing to experiment and combine the traditional with the innovative.

I didn't know where else to put this, but I assumed it's also good news for (moderately imbibing) sake fans. :)

A new study published in the JAMA Network Open found that people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to develop cardiac diseases than those who drink more and than those who abstain. Unfortunately, the reason is not that smaller amounts of alcohol protect your heart but that light to moderate drinkers - those who consume up to 14 drinks a week - tend to have other characteristics that decrease their risk, like smoking less, exercising more and weighing less than those who drink more heavily and those who do not drink.

It's not known why moderate drinkers tend to be more healthy than nondrinkers, Aragam said. But the Biobank study did not ask why people drank or abstained. Instead, it attempted to tease apart the effects of alcohol on the heart from the effects of other habits, behaviors and characteristics. To do that, the researchers used a method called Mendelian randomization. Researchers have found genetic variants that predispose a person to heavier or lighter drinking. Because the variants are distributed randomly in a population, they can serve in a study as the equivalent of randomly assigning people to abstain or to drink at varying levels. Researchers can ask if those with variants that are linked to greater alcohol consumption have more heart disease and high blood pressure than those with variants linked to lower consumption. The investigators' statistical analysis showed an exponential curve of risk with the gene variants that suggest they drink more. The risks of heart disease and high blood pressure started slowly as the number of drinks increased, but they quickly gained steam, soaring as people got into the abusive drinking range of 21 or more drinks a week.

Us Italians know that eggs and a bit of wine can give you a long life in many cases. Also, the elderly in Japan that live in the countryside says eggs are good for you.
My mother is in her 90's so something is true about this and as a kid we ate a shitload of fried eggs for breakfast. I do eat a boil egg maybe 2 times a week. Wine... that's another story for another day.
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