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More Japanese. My last Taketsuru 21. 

I'm feeling better today,  Not as dark, tense, and angry as I have been the past several days. Today was better. Chores around the house, building a new humidor, repaired a door frame, and just being

  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/9/2016 at 9:21 PM, dangolf18 said:

I don't know much about Sake but these were out of this world.





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Chilled. I'm thinking about getting into sake now. This bottle totally changed my opinion about sake. 

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You only warm crappy sake - good sake is chilled.

Dan, since you live in San Francisco, you are very close to an outstanding sake store. True Sake on Hayes street - your life will never be the same.

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21 hours ago, Lotusguy said:

You only warm crappy sake - good sake is chilled.

Dan, since you live in San Francisco, you are very close to an outstanding sake store. True Sake on Hayes street - your life will never be the same.

not sure that is always so. i must say i prefer it not warmed but i have spoken with a sake master who moved to australia - she imports it. believes that there are times/styles when warmed sake is the way to go. and it should be a discussion of cool/warm and not of too cold and certainly not hot.

in general, yes, the good stuff chilled/cool but a lot of the japanese experts apparently like warmed sake, especially in winter.

there is an american, john gautner - site called sake world, i think - who is one of the world's experts. worth reading him. he sends out regular emails on the topic. this one actually arrived today which is slightly on topic, or at least this part is. interesting stuff.


Mushikan - Steam-warming Sake 
Could it really be different?.



No matter how long you hang around sake, there is always something new. And with so many old and traditional customs suffusing the sake world, it often seems like what is “new” is a new twist on something old. But it’s still seems new to us, and that is what keeps the sake world endlessly fascinating.

I had begun to see references to it on Facebook, this “mushikan” stuff. The word alone made it clear what it was: warming sake using steam rather than hot water. And it seemed to be the obsession of only one guy, Takashima-san, the brewer of Hakuin Masamune in Shizuoka. Reading into it a bit further, the method seems to be how all sake is warmed at a particular sake pub in Nagoya which Takashima-san frequents. His SNS photos and write-ups have always left me longing to go, but I have yet to make it down there.

warming sake properly


Going off on a quick but important tangent, while the delicate, subtle and often fruity aromas of premium sake make it more suited to slight chilling or room temperature, the joys of warmed sake are boundless. Surely not every sake is enjoyable at warmer temperatures, but much more was perhaps 50 to 75 years ago, before these aromatic whippersnapper yeasts came into use. And slowly the industry – led by young brewers that have rediscovered the roots of great sake – is moving back toward the joys of o-kan, or warmed sake.

What makes a sake suitable for warming? Nothing more than the flavor profile. How does one know? Often the label will tell you; more often you need to figure it out. But that is the fun part!

And usually sake is warmed by immersing the tokkuri – the traditional flask in which it is served – in hot water for an amount of time determined by the sake at hand, personal preference, and the tools at one’s disposal. Heck, a microwave will work in a pinch, but you didn’t read that here.

The tools


But this mushikan stuff is sake that is warmed by placing the tokkuri into a bamboo basket like apparatus usually used for warming dumplings and things like that. It sits upon a wok or saucepan within which water is boiled to create the steam that rises up. To put a tokkuri of sake in there, a bit of modification is needed (like ripping the center out!), but that is a small price to pay for o-kan adherents, I am sure.

I would read about it from time to time and then move on with my life, relegating it to the closet of curiosities in the sake archives of my mind. But then, all of a sudden Mr. Shigeru Nakano, the president of Fullnet, a company that does much to promote great sake in Japan (and a junmai-shu jihadist) latched on to it and seemed as smitten at Takashima-san had been.

So when Nakano-san had an event geared toward noticing the difference between mushikan and sake heated in warm water, I had to be there. And be there I did.

Our sake for the evening


We had upwards of twenty sake that a mainstream magazine had ranked as some of the best for enjoying warmed. We tried some of the sake warmed in hot water, and compared that to the same sake heated using the cumbersome contraption needed to make it via the mushikan method. And we enjoyed all 20 warmed by mushikan, and with a tasty assortment of nibbles to augment the experience.

It was enlightening to say the least. Shit, anything is after 20 doses of great sake. But I digress.



There was, in fact, a noticeable difference in the sake warmed by mushikan. It was fuller, softer at first, but discernibly deeper. Just the way I like it. Overall, when warming sake this way, the idiosyncrasies were muted. However, in truth, not every sake was better when warmed using the steam. There were some that are tasty when warmed precisely because of the idiosyncrasies that are amplified. Big acidity paired with big sweetness, earthy smokiness, complex layers of wood, moss, and gaminess. These characteristics tended to be downplayed and supplanted by overall fullness and a billowing breadth followed by depth. But some of those sake were more memorable and tastier with those quirks apparent.

But it was, in the end, an incredibly interesting evening.

By all means, if you are into warmed sake (and you should be!) try mushikan. You have to have the tools and the requisite patience and time. It ain’t for everyone. It can be a bit of a hassle.
More than a bit, actually. You have to have the toys and the time.

The less tolerant of us might even be best advised to forego even messin’ with it. It is all a function of your hassle threshold.

However, if your pursuit of all things sake knows no bounds, herein you will find potentially endless fun and tastiness suffusing warmed sake.



In the end, as nascent as the mushikan method might be, and even if it goes nowhere beyond this level, it is great for demonstrating the veritable appeal of o-kan, i.e. premium warmed sake. It is getting to be high time we move on from the “good sake = cold, bad sake = hot” thing. And any interesting publicity drawing attention to the joys of warmed sake is a good thing, methinks.

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