Posts Tagged ‘sake’

Sam Sake website now launched

You may already be aware that I import and market a small range of sake from Akita prefecture in Japan.  I am pleased to say that, after several months of planning, the Sam Sake website has now been launched.  You can find out about the whole range of sake which we have on offer and there is lots of information provided about each sake; how to serve it (recommended temperatures), how to store it and even what food we recommend with it.  You can also find out about the individual breweries and, to make things easier, there is a sake glossary explaining all of the terms which you come across.

We are happy to accept orders online but there is also information about where you can buy and drink our sake.


Sake & Sherry Tasting

Fukurokuju Junmai

A dry, but fresh, sake with an aroma of pine needles and mineral notes on the palate.

I believe that the first ever “Sake & Sherry Tasting” was held yesterday evening in Richmond by Tasting Sessions who kindly invited me to introduce sake to their participants.  We served a selection of sake including Ichishima Honjozo, Harukasumi Junmai, Fukurokuju Junmai, Dewazakura Oka Ginjo, Tamaki Yamahai Junmai Ginjo and Akashi-tai Genmai Koshu so that guests had quite a broad spectrum of sake flavours and grades to sample. 

The thought behind the evening was the notion that sake can be explained as being similar to a sherry in flavour but without the deep fruity notes that sherry has.  I must admit that many years ago when I first started drinking sake I had the same impression, although it is a lot harder to recapture that concept now that I am so familiar with sake.

Knowing that the evening had brought together both sake and sherry the sake were served in the order of lighter to heavier flavours, with the last two, Tamaki and Akashi-tai Genmai Koshu showing similarities in flavour profile to sherry, the Akashi-tai Genmai Koshu had a nose which was particularly reminiscent of the Oloroso which we tried.

The evening was a success with people showing a keen interest in sake and everyone (I believe) finding at least one sake that they enjoyed!

A daiginjo for junmai fans

Yoikigen Daiginjo

It will not come as any surprise to say that I am a fan of sake and, because I enjoy the full-bodied flavour of rice more than the elegant daiginjo and aromatic ginjo sake, I am a  junmai sake fan through and through.  No matter how many times that I have tried a selection of sake from one brewer, 9 times out of 10 it is the junmai that I prefer.

However, there are some occasions when I opt for the junmai ginjo, especially if they are a full-bodied sake and have encapsulated the flavours of the rice.  I particularly like Jokigen Junmai Ginjo from Yamagata prefecture which encapsulates the umami flavour of the rice.  It even has a label which is shaped like a grain of rice!

Today was the first time I found a daiginjo which I really like.  The brewery is Yoikigen which is located in Okayama prefecture and it is their  Daiginjo that has won me over.  While being an elegant, dry sake, it has a lovely round flavour of koji (the rice which has been propagated with koji fungus to transform the starch content into sugars) and is well-balanced with a surprising sweet highlight at the end.  This sweetness comes from the umami content which has developed from the rice and seems to be a recurring theme in sake from Okayama prefecture – at least it seems to be a style present in the sake I have tried in Okayama so far.  Apparently this brewery uses a larger amount of koji fungus when making the koji which is why the flavour is so central to this sake.  If you would like to try it, it is on sale at Chisou restaurant for a limited time.

Minato Tsuchizaki enjoyed at The Kitchen

Minato Tsuchizaki

Minato Tsuchizaki - A Yamahai Futsushu

 Burning Japanese at The Kitchen, London SW6 – Times Online

I am pleased to say that Shirley Booth, President of the British Sake Association, serves Minato Tsuchizaki at her cookery classes in Parsons Green.  It is quoted to be a “smooth and fruity” sake when served chilled. 

Sake is one of the best drinks to consume with all Japanese food (green tea being the other) as it never clashes with the ingredients like wine and even beer can (particularly with some raw fish) and, instead, boosts the flavours of the food due to its high umami content.  (Umami being the “savouriness” of food which can also be construed as the depth and richness of flavour in food.)



  • 最初にグラスとかで日本酒を売ること。または小さい瓶で売ること。
  • 熱燗はかなり流行っているので、できれば冷酒でも熱燗でも同じの日本酒を売ること。そうすれば、違う日本酒を熱燗で飲んで頂けるし、冷酒で飲んで頂けることを試してみる可能性があります。
  • まだ日本酒に関して知識があまりないので、メニューに味の説明が書いたほうがいいです。ワインに詳しいお客さんのために日本酒にある香りと味の果物・花・スパイスとか具体的に書けば、もうちょっと分かりやすいと思います。
  • サービススタッフはお客さんに日本酒を薦める教育をすること。ワインより日本酒が和食と合う理由はいくつかあります。ワインは和食の上品な味を隠すが、日本酒は味を増やすこと。ワインとビールが生魚の味とぶつかる可能性があるが、日本酒は生魚の味とぶつからないこと。

Ideas for improving sake sales in British restaurants –

  • Sell sake by the glass or in smaller bottles.
  • As hot sake is popular, sell the same sake both hot and cold.  If you do then customers will try a different sake hot and they are more likely to try it cold too.
  • As sake knowledge is still limited write flavour profile descriptions on the menu.  Write the descriptions to appeal to customers who are knowledgeable about wine by describing their aromas and flavours with reference to the fruit, floral and spice elements present.
  • Teach your service staff to recommend sake.  There are several reasons why sake suits Japanese cuisine more than wine.  Wine overpowers the elegant flavours of Japanese food while sake enhances them.  Wine and beer can conflict with the flavour of raw fish but sake does not.

Sake – To warm or not to warm?

That is the question!  Having recently hosted a warm sake tasting a So Restaurant it is clear that the notion of drinking sake warm is still misunderstood. 

First of all, sake was traditionally warmed because warming served to round out the flavour and hide the imperfections of sake brewed at a time when technology was less advanced for polishing the rice and sake was quite a rough drink (think homebrew!).  However, nowadays, sake is one of the only alcoholic drinks which can be enjoyed over a range of different temperatures.  In fact, it is very interesting to try one sake at three different temperatures to enjoy the change in the flavour and aroma that occurs.

That said, not all sake is suitable for warming.  Any “nama” sake is unpasteurised or only partially pasteurised so that you can enjoy its fresh taste.  This sake needs to be served chilled.  Also, the aromatic ginjo and the elegant, yet delicate, daiginjo are usually not suitable to be served warm.  But if they are junmai (pure rice) ginjo or daiginjo they may be.

Unfortunately, the majority of sake served warm in restaurants in London is the house sake which does tend to mean that it is a lower grade and that warming it makes it more palatable.  Aqua Kyoto does, however, serve a lovely Yamahai Ginjo warm.

Finally, if warming sake, you should only warm it to around 4o degrees centigrade (50 maximum) to avoid the aroma evaporating.  Don’t forget that sake is brewed in the cold of winter and the brewers spend a long time brewing it to develop the best possible flavour and aroma of the sake – it would be a pity to overheat it!

Sake in London

I was fortunate to be given this excellent article on sake at a sake tasting I was hosting at Matsuri St James’s in September last year.  It is a double-page spread by John Stimfig which appeared in the FT’s “How to spend it” magazine and gives an excellent overview of sake in London and its history so far including many of the key people and organisations in the industry.  Definitely worth a read!