For consumers to have a better understanding of which sake they prefer, the Sake Service Institute(SSI) in Japan evaluated ten of thousands of products and by taking into account the nose and the taste elements of sake, they concluded that sake can be categorised into 4 Types. The 4 Sake Types are "Aromatic (Kun-shu)", "Crisp (So-shu)", "Rich (Jun-shu)" and "Aged (Jukku-shu)"
(the photo above is a sake type chart)
In the photo, there are two axes that indicate the nose and the taste. The nose is represented by the vertical axis, starting at the bottom weak and moving upwards getting stronger. The taste is represented by the horizontal axis starting at the left lighter and moving to right getting stronger. With this in mind the two axes can help you under the qualities of a sake type (For example: Aromatic sake are light in taste and strong in nose), this how we read the sake type chart.
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Our Kikisake-shi has shared more information of each of the 4 sake types below:
Aromatic sake is light in taste, and strong in nose.Characteristics:
Highly aromatic, fruity and floral in nose, elegant and refreshing in taste.Representatives:
Daiginjo大吟釀, Ginjo 吟釀Food Pairing:
Lightly seasoned food, cooked to highlight the natural taste, such as steamed fish, white-fleshed fish carpaccio and Vietnamese cold spring rolls. It can also be used as an aperitif (pre-meal drink).
Click here for "Aromatic (Kun-shu)" sake.
Crisp sake is light in taste, and in nose.Characteristics:
Weak nose, light, and simple taste.Representatives:
Honjozo本釀造, Junmai Ginjo純米吟釀, Unpasteurised (Nama) sake 生酒.Food Pairing:
Light and simple dishes such as sashimi, soba noodles/cold pasta, marinated seafood(ceviche, carpaccio). Crisp sake can also relieve the palate from deep fried dishes and salty dishes, like fried chicken or salt grilled fish.
Click here for "Crisp (So-shu)" sake.
Rich sake is strong in taste, weak in nose.Characteristics:
Subtle nose, sometimes with ricey/ wheaty bouquet. Very flavourful, umami forward, long in length and complex. This type conveys the profile found in a traditional sake.Representatives:
Junmai shu 純米酒, Kimoto生酛, Yamahai 山廃Food Pairing:
Rich tasting/ caramelised dishes that have a good amount of umami such as cheese, steak, Chinese food, grilled, stewed or braised dishes.
Click here for "Rich (Jun-shu)" sake.
What categorizes Age sake? It is not aged in wooden barrels, but in enamel tanks or in bottles. Must be aged for a minimum of 3 years.
Aged sake is strong in taste and nose.Characteristics:
Deep amber colour. Highly condensed aroma often compared to molasses, dried fruit, nuts, mushroom and spices. Highly viscous in texture and profound in taste.Representatives:
Aged sake 古酒, Kijoshu貴醸酒Food Pairing:
Pairs well with dishes that have nuts or dry fruit, glazed grilled eel, roasted Peking duck, foie gras and matured cheese (blue cheese). It is also suitable as a digestif (after-meal drink)
Click here for "Aged (Jukku-shu)" Sake.