Does Father Time bless sake, or curse it?
Time does not share its blessings equally with all sake. For very weak sake, the passage of time can be an unmitigated disaster. Time sorts the wheat from the chaff.
"Creating sake that grows with time" is one of Daishichi's mottos, and achieving it is a goal that we pursue with zeal.
Aging in a north-country climate
Some sake is best at a lower accumulated temperature (the sake's total exposure to temperature above its fixed baseline). Such sakes are best kept in cold storage in their bottles.
But among sakes that are more robust in warm temperatures a question arises: would such sakes not age better when stored in an environment that, while remaining generally cool, also experiences the fluctuations of nature's four seasons, rather than in a refrigerator at a uniform temperature? Oxidation is not an absolute taboo when creating good maturity as trace amounts of oxygen can serve as nutrients. So perhaps a cool, north-country summer, a summer during which small wildflowers only just manage to bloom on the highest peaks, would encourage better aging of the sake than keeping it at a constant temperature using the power of electricity?
Such was the thinking behind the unique storage facility built in our new brewery. Groundwater at an annual average temperature of 14 degrees, circulates through the facility, keeping out the hottest of summer weather. In the winter it naturally becomes much colder. In this way a sake storage facility that gently welcomes the four seasons was completed. Our junmai sake and honjozo sake sleep here for one or two summers.
The ephemeral nature of sake
What does it take to create an epic sake, a sake that can defy the ravages of time, ripening for as long as possible in order to reap the full blessings of maturity? How do you make a sake that will develop new character with each passing moment until it is finally tasted, a sake that will not simply be consumed, but offer timeless pleasure anywhere in the world?
This is the ambition of any brewer, whose life's work is dedicated to the creation of a moment of bliss.
Raw kimoto sake develops into a smoother, more mature sake as the summer passes and autumn beckons. The various flavours that jostle for attention in a young sake begin to calm down, settling into a light, firm maturity. In contrast to short-lived sakes that begin to degrade before the summer is over, those that improve over autumn and winter are known as akibare (autumn-blossoming) sake or akiagari (autumn-rising) sake.
Sake that has been thoroughly fermented with hard water is often somewhat coarse when young. Then it gradually becomes more rounded, typically evolving into an akibare sake. A light sake produced with soft water is smooth when young, delicate and easy to drink, but it tends to deteriorate after the summer.
Kimoto sake takes a long time to brew, and it also develops slowly. Its highly antioxidative properties make it much less susceptible to deterioration with age. At Daishichi, we store a large number of undiluted sakes at different stages in order to offer customers sake at optimum maturity.
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