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Sake Tasting

Sake is a alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice which has a very rich Japanese tradition and history. For people who enjoy drinking sake, there is a very deep hobby that consists of learning about the many different varieties of sake.

Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Sake Tasting resources. We have a Sake forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with Sake Tasting how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Sake Tasting books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis



Sake is usually called as rice wine, but unlike wine, the alcohol in the sake is not fermented from sugar. Instead, the sake is actually made in a process where brewing of the sake is done. This is more like beer in the process in which it is manufactured. When the brewing is done, it is very dissimilar to wine since wine is made by fermentation. So actually calling sake as rice wine is a misnomer.

Another important factor about Sake is that it contains more alcoholic content than either wine or even beer. It is well known than the alcoholic content in wine is usually about 10 to 15 percent. Beer usually has about 5 to 10 percent of alcohol. Sake on the other hand, has a lot of alcohol in it which is more than 15 percent and near to 20 percent. This concentration is reduced by adding water. Once the sake is diluted, then it is bottled.

Sake is one of the drinks that originated from Japan. Japan is a place where different kinds of drinks were made. These alcoholic drinks were made from various kinds of materials like rice and other stuff. As time went by, people started using the sake for social occasions. This rapidly increased the popularity of Sake in Japan. Though Sake was very popular, there was a period during the wars, when the sake production and consumption decreased.

These days, Sake is not only popular in Japan, but it has become popular in all places over the world. This has made the number of places making the drink to crop up in even far off places. In fact there are many places in China and other parts of Asia where Sake is being made. Other than these areas, Sake is also being made in both north and South America and parts of Europe.

Sadly, in the land of the sake, where the brew initially originated, people have started consuming other drinks like beer and wine that the number of places where Sake is being made is on the decline in Japan.

The popularity of the sake means that there are millions of people who are fond of the drink. As sake is brewed, it needs to be tasted to know the quality of the sake. So who is needed to test the sake, but Sake tasters. Sake tasting is an important method of checking to find out which is the best sake.

Sake is mainly imported by some countries who do not have their own places for making the sake. In this situation, it is very important for the sake tasters to identify the right kind of sake to be imported. In fact the Sake that is made in each company may vary. To overcome this, the sake tasters are used to taste the different varieties and decide on the quality and other factors of the sake. This makes the role of sake tasters to be very important as far as the sake industry is concerned.

Since sake tasting involves a relaxed time with friends where one can drink a beverage that is alcoholic, sake tasting has become one of the well known pastimes and hobbies of recent times.

History of Sake

The sake and the preparation process have undergone a sea change over the years. Now sake is being made all over the world. As this has become the norm, the taste of sake has also changed. The quality of sake, the taste and other factors change from one place to another. Sake tasters who have knowledge of the history of sake will do a better job in sake tasting as they will learn to appreciate the difference in the taste and the materials from which the sake is made. This will help them to do better in their activity as sake tasters. The origins of sake are unclear; however, the earliest written reference to use of alcohol in Japan is recorded in the Book of Wei, of the Records of Three Kingdoms. This 3rd century Chinese text speaks of the Japanese drinking and dancing. Sake is also mentioned several times in the Kojiki, Japan`s first written history, compiled in 712. People used sake for spiritual functions because people who had it got a fever.

Qualities of a good sake tester

Many people who are ignorant of sake tasting may think if sake tasting is really needed and if it is important. The truth is that sake tasting is a very integral part of the sake industry. The best sake will get a better price when compared to the one that is not good. Not only are clients using sake tasters to check the quality of the sake that is being produced, but the sake makers are also in perennial need of sake tasters because these are the people who are able to make or break the company with their reviews and ideas about the sake that is produced.

There are various factors that have to be on the mind of every sake taster. The sake taster itself should be a person who should have certain qualities that sets the person apart from the rest of the people. The sake taster should first be able to identify the taste of the sake. Taste does not mean than tasting is just to check if the sake is good or bad. It is a lot more than that. The sake taster should be able to compare it to the previously made sakes. The sake taster should also be able to identify what is wrong or right about a particular sake. This will help the process of sake making to be fine tuned.

The sake taster has to identify if the sake is harsh to the tongue when drinking. There are different levels of qualities that are made from the same brewer. This makes the number of sake kinds to run into hundreds of varieties and they may change from time to time depending on various factors. So the role of a sake taster is also never ending and important.

The different varieties of sake that include junmai, ginjo and daiginjo may vary drastically. Some are expensive and others are cheaper, but the variations do not end there. They also vary in the quality and taste.

The types of sake that needs to be tasted and differentiated

There are different kinds of sake that are available and the sake taster should be ready to taste all these kinds and differentiate the taste. The memory of the sake taster is also important as the taste has to be remembered and differentiated. This hobby is fun filled, but at the same time has a lot of activity involved in it. In fact, the sake taster needs to be alert to identify any change in the taste or other parameters in the sake.

The different kinds of sake that the sake taster needs to know about are listed here.

There are two basic types of sake: futsū-shu and tokutei meishō-shu. Futsū-shu, "ordinary sake," is the equivalent of table wine and accounts for the majority of sake produced. Tokutei meishō-shu, "special designation sake," refers to premium sakes distinguished by the degree to which the rice is polished and the added percentage of brewer`s alcohol or the absence of such additives.

The parameters involved in sake tasting

Sake tasting may seem all fun and joy, but there is some hard work that needs to be done by every sake taster. There are various parameters that make the sake to be the best or the worst. These parameters have to be kept in mind by every sake taster so that the process of sake tasting is more involved and effective. When these parameters are taken into consideration, then the sake taster will be able to make sure that the sake tasting results are standardized.


The fragrance

The fragrance itself plays a major role in the quality of sake tasting. There are many people who are excellent sake tasters and they will be able to tell you the quality of the sake, just by smelling the sake. There are some sakes that have mild fragrance and others that are strong. In fact the smell and the taste senses are connected and the sake taster will be able to take in the taste of the sake with the smell. The fragrance depends on the items that are used to make the sake. The reason for the sake taster to be knowledgeable and be able to identify the smell of the sake is because there are some people who will like some kind of smell to the sake and this can also be added to the sake. Other people like the rice based sake that has no strong taste or smell and instead is very light and good to taste.



Similar to the other parameters, the amount of sweetness in the sake is another important factor that needs to be identified and listed by the sake taster. There are different grades that are given by the sake tester to quantitatively measure the sweetness of the sake. A very sweet sake may not be very good just like the one that has no taste at all. The sake should be a perfect blend to make it taste well. The density and the specific gravity of the sake are also important aspects of sake that one has to remember. A good sake taster will be able to give reliable readings each and every time he tastes sake. The fact that the sweetness of the sake is highly dependent on the factors like temperature of the surroundings makes it



The acidity is measured while the sake is made. In spite of this, it is also the job of the sake taster to test the acidity and how it tastes. There are some sake that are not at all acidic. Though the sake may not be acidic in the tests, the taste can be acidic. This is the reason why a sake taster is very important. The sweet content and also other factors play a major role in the acidity of the sake.


The fullness of sake:

Sake can feel light or full. It depends on various factors that had an impact on the sake when it was being made. There are sometimes when the sake can feel full when you consume it. The difference has to be identified by the sake taster. There are various factors that can play a role in this. This makes it impossible to identify the taste properly and only an experienced person well versed in sake testing will be able to identify it.

Tasting the sake

The process of tasting the sake is the most important one and the sake taster should take care that he is ready to do the job before starting to taste the sake. The sake should be served and tasted in specific methods that will help the process to be better. There are some important traditions that are attached to the method in which the sake is served and tasted. The methods of sake tasting are listed here.

Sake is served chilled, at room temperature, or heated, depending on the preference of the drinker, the quality of the sake, and the season. Typically, hot sake is a winter drink, and high-grade sake is not drunk hot, because the flavors and aromas will be lost. This masking of flavor is the reason that low-quality sake is often served hot.

Sake is usually drunk from small cups called choko and poured into the choko from ceramic flasks called tokkuri. Saucer-like cups called sakazuki are also used, most commonly at weddings and other ceremonial occasions. Recently, footed glasses made specifically for premium sake have also come into use.

Another traditional cup is the masu, a box usually made of hinoki or sugi, which was originally used for measuring rice. In some Japanese restaurants, as a show of generosity, the server may put a glass inside the masu or put the masu on a saucer and pour until sake overflows and fills both containers.

Aside from being served straight, sake can be used as a mixer for cocktails, such as tamagozake, saketinis, nogasake, or the sake bomb.

Impact of the sake

The impact of the sake is another important factor that needs to be identified by the sake taster. There are various factors that can change the impact. The sake taster should know these facts and be able to differentiate the various kinds. Even the alkalinity or acidity of the water from which the sake was made can change the taste and the impact of the sake. The sake that is made in some breweries are very mild and have a soft impact on the person drinking it. This should be packaged separately from the sake that has a great impact on the senses. The one that has a hard impact on the individual has to be packed as a stronger sake as it can bowl a person over! An experienced sake taster will describe each of the sakes differently. The mild one is described as quiet and the one that is strong is considered to be explosive in taste.

The future of sake tasting:

Sake tasting is continuing to be one of the best methods that can be utilized as a hobby as well as a method of making money. Sake tasters are paid will by the people who make the sake as the sake tasters are the ones who help them to learn about the quality of the sake. These sake tasters also identify as to what is missing in the sake. The sake tasters are on firm ground as far as their hobby or work is concerned. Though sake is declining in Japan, it is being used in larger quantities in all other countries. In fact different varieties of sake are being created in other countries and the sake taster will be in high demand in all these places. So every sake taster will not only have fun, but will be able to make money having all the fun. It should also be remembered that the sake tester also needs to be very alert and consistently give good results.