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5 great sake to drink warm

Kanzake Time Follow-Up!

Following my post about kanzake, I decided to share some recommendations for the sake, which are great to drink warm or even hot. You can pick any sake from the list and try it at different temperatures to decide which is the best for you.

Tamagawa ‘Heart of Oak’ Tokubetsu Junmai

Chilled 

❄️

Room Temp 

🌡️

Warm 

♨️

Hot 

♨️♨️

Piping Hot 

♨️♨️♨️

5-15°C

15-25°C

25-35°C

35-45°C

45°C +

⭕️

👍👍

👍👍

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Tamagawa Heart of Oak Tokubetsu Junmai
Tamagawa Tokubetsu Junmai

I know that I have already featured Tamagawa Tokubestu Junmai in one of my articles. But such a great sake, that I couldn’t help just feature it again. And of course, Tamagawa is an ultimate sake for kanzake. Made by the first non-Japanese sake master brewer, Philip Harper, the sake is great at any temperature, but especially when served hot. It was also recommended by Andrew Russell on a podcast episode about yeast. So it’s an amazing sake.

Tamagawa Tokubetsu Junmai is a savoury full-bodied sake with a deep taste and silky texture. For me, it tasted sweeter chilled or at room temperature than hot. The sweetness seems to dissolve as you warm the sake up. As many junmai sake, Tamagawa is not particularly aromatic sporting some rice notes and a bit of earthiness.

You definitely have to try it hot or at least room temperature with practically any comfort food: be it Japanese like curry or tonkatsu or Western as a beef stew or a burger or any other cuisine. It will shine with any Indian dish or Thai curry.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 32.99

Hakusturu Excellent Junmai

Chilled 

❄️

Room Temp 

🌡️

Warm 

♨️

Hot 

♨️♨️

Piping Hot 

♨️♨️♨️

5-15°C

15-25°C

25-35°C

35-45°C

45°C +

👍

👍👍

👍👍👍

👍👍👍

👍

Hakusturu Excellent Junmai, kanzake, warm sake
Hakusturu Excellent Junmai

Surely, Hakusturu Excellent Junmai has it in the name. The sake is really excellent, affordable and versatile. You can enjoy it at any temperature. Chilled, it has a light aroma of grapefruit, toasted rice and green apple. When you drink Hakusturu Excellent Junmai straight out of the fridge, the sake is off-dry with pleasant acidity and light vanilla and Bromley apple notes. The sake is medium-bodied, with a silky texture and a long nice finish.

250-year old Hakutsuru is one of the largest if not the largest sake brewery in Japan. It’s located in Nada area famous for its excellent water and produces a wide range of sake, umeshu and other drinks.

However, when you start heating it up, the profile magically changes. It becomes very mild with dryness and acidity almost going away. The texture gets more buttery and the body – more mouthful. It pairs nicely with any food due to its umami and higher acidity. I had it with a beef stew and at 30-45°C it was the best. With lighter dishes, I would recommend it at a room temperature of even chilled.

Hakusturu Excellent Junmai is a great entry-level affordable sake. It’s currently available from TK Trading but only from their physical store. It should appear at the online store soon though.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 15.70

Tedorigawa “Silver Mountain” Yamahai Junmai

Chilled 

❄️

Room Temp 

🌡️

Warm 

♨️

Hot 

♨️♨️

Piping Hot 

♨️♨️♨️

5-15°C

15-25°C

25-35°C

35-45°C

45°C +

⭕️

👍👍

👍👍👍

👍👍👍

👍👍👍

Tedorigawa “Silver Mountain” Yamahai Junmai
Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai

The Tedorigawa brewery makes a wide range of excellent sake from classy Ika na Onna to sweet and clean Kinka and mellow Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo. You can enjoy all of them at various temperatures. But Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai was probably specifically made to drink warm.

You can drink Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai chilled but it doesn’t give it justice. Made by using a yamahai method, the sake acidity at 1.6 and SMV +2.0. It’s not that aromatic which is normal for junmai sake with gentle green tomatoes, rice, lemon and timber notes.

When you try Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai chilled, you taste its high acidity straight away. It has a nice creamy texture and is quite a mouthful feel with a long finish with a vanilla aftertaste. You can notice prunes and apple crumble flavours and the taste in general quite deep.

However, when you start warming the sake up, it becomes much more enjoyable. The acidity melts down with the sweetness making the taste more mellow and gentle. The spiciness from alcohol becomes more prominent but without a strong alcohol aftertaste.

Hot Tedorigawa Yamahai Junmai is the best. Heat it up to 45-50C and it will be a great companion for a steak or other grilled meats. It also plays amazingly well with spicy food like curry or fajitas. It’s also good at room temperature with grilled fish or any mushroom or vegetable dish.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 29.99

Akashi-Tai Tokubetsu Junmai

Chilled 

❄️

Room Temp 

🌡️

Warm 

♨️

Hot 

♨️♨️

Piping Hot 

♨️♨️♨️

5-15°C

15-25°C

25-35°C

35-45°C

45°C +

👍

👍👍

👍👍

👍👍👍

👍👍👍

Akashi-Tai Tokubetsu Junmai
Akashi-Tai Tokubetsu Junmai

Located in Hyogo prefecture, Akashi-Tai is a small craft brewery making beside sake Hatozaki whiskey and 135°East gin at its Kaikyo distiller. Despite its modest size, the brewery has a very good presence in the UK.

I have featured Akashi-Tai sake before as I quite like it. However, it’s the first time I tried Akashi-Tai Tokubetsu Junmai. I asked Miho san, who represents the brewery here, what her favourite temperature for drinking this sake. “Make it really hot!” she replied. So I started with 50C and wasn’t disappointed.

Akashi-Tai Tokubestu Junmai is quite pleasant chilled. It has an elegant but subtle aroma with notes of apple, elderflower and rice. The sake is quite acidic and dry with a simple taste, creamy texture and short but pleasant finish.

However, when you start to warm it up, the sake opens up and the acidity becomes milder but doesn’t disappear completely. Actually, it was one of the main things I liked about Akashi-Tai Tokubetsu JUnami: its ability to hold acidity even at a high temperature. The warmer sake gets, the more sweetness comes out and the more mouthful it becomes. I liked it best at 50C as Miho san recommended.

In terms of food pairing, Akashi-Tai Tokubetsu Junmai is a very versatile sake. It’s full-bodied and full of umami, so it’s great with a steak, stew or a vegetable bake. I had it hot with baked sea bream and it was delicious. But you can have it chilled with savoury snacks and you will love it!

Where to buy

Price

GBP 16.00

Jidai Yamahai Junmai Ginjo

Chilled 

❄️

Room Temp 

🌡️

Warm 

♨️

Hot 

♨️♨️

Piping Hot 

♨️♨️♨️

5-15°C

15-25°C

25-35°C

35-45°C

45°C +

👍

👍👍👍

👍👍👍

👍👍

👍

Hyakujyuro Jidai Yamahai Junmai Ginjo is the only ginjo entry on this list. Generally, people drink ginjo sake chilled, sometimes at room temperature. However, there are a few ginjo sake in the market, which are excellent warm. And Jidai is one of them.

Jidai Yamahai Junmai Ginjo
Jidai Yamahai Junmai Ginjo

It’s brewed at the famous Hayashi Honten, one of a few Japanese breweries run by a woman, in Gifu prefecture. Jidai as well as the previous Tedorigawa Junmai are made using a more traditional yamahai method, which results in a richer and deeper taste and higher acidity. However, Judai is still ginjo sake with a fruity aroma full of apricot, pear, baked apple and a bit of herbal notes.

Again, I tried the sake at various temperatures and room to warm were the best in my opinion. Jidai has a deep and rich taste and high acidity, especially when you drink it chilled or at room temperature. However, the higher you heat it up, the more mellow it becomes.

The texture becomes creamier and almost velvety with a very luxurious feel. The acidity softens and some sweetness appears. Jidai Yamahai Junmai Ginjo has a long and lavish finish and holds acidity at a higher temperature pretty well.

You can pair any autumn or winter dish with Jidai and it will be delicious: beef stew, baked chicken, fried fish or mushroom risotto. One of the suggestions on the Tengu Sake website is dark chocolate. Try it and let me know!

Where to buy

Price

GBP 28.00

Something special: Kanpai Tsuki ‘Moon’ Junmai Usu Nigori Kijoshu

Chilled 

❄️

Room Temp 

🌡️

Warm 

♨️

Hot 

♨️♨️

Piping Hot 

♨️♨️♨️

5-15°C

15-25°C

25-35°C

35-45°C

45°C +

⭕️

👍👍👍

👍👍👍

👍👍

👍

I would like to conclude my recommendations with something special. This time it’s a limited edition sake from London Kanpai, who have just released Tsuki Junmai Usu Nigori Kijoshu. Tsuki means “moon” in Japanese. The sake is a part of Kanpai’s “NATURE” series follows the Japanese proverb, “Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon” – Kachou Fuugetsu (花鳥風月), which is a Japanese concept that means to discover yourself when experiencing nature.

Kanpai Tsuki 'Moon' Junmai Usu Nigori Kijoshu
Kanpai TSUKI with a matching lunar sake set

I reviewed Kaze Junmai Ginjo sake from that series in summer if you remember. Similar to Kaze, Tsuki’s bottle has a very beautiful and stylish label with a picture of the moon and a Chinese character for it. All four labels in the NATURE series are beautifully designed by Joe Davis, an artist from South London, where the Kanpai brewery is located.

Wha is kijoshu

The most interesting part of the sake’s name is “kijoshu”, which refers to a special brewing technique when instead of water a brewer adds sake to the fermenting mash at the final stage. It gives the resulted sake a luxurious feel, deep flavour and distinctive viscosity. Normally, kijoshu sake is very sweet, but not in the case of Kanpai Tsuki, which is rather dry.

Usu Nigori means a cloudy sake with very fine rice particles remaining after pressing. They give the sake a nice mouthful texture. Kanpai Tsuki is also genshu sake, undiluted with an ABV of 17%. Overall, all these characteristics make Kanpai Tsuki a perfect sake to drink warm.

I tried it chilled first and the low temperature does not do justice to Kanpai Tsuki. The fun starts at room temperature as the sake opens up. So you can smell sweet apple and pear with honey notes and some herbs and a bit of chestnut. It’s a full-bodied sake, slightly fizzy with a creamy texture notable acidity and spiciness from the higher alcohol content. It has a bitter but pleasant finish.

As you start warming up Kanpai Tsuki, it becomes softer and milder. A bit of sweetness that you can taste at room temperature goes away as well as does the fuzziness. It’s perfect to pair with any seasonal dish be it English roast, Japanese korokke, German schnitzel or Italian mushroom risotto.

Where to buy

Price

GBP 36.00


With 3-4 months of cold weather ahead, you might want to try all 6 sake recommended above. However, if you can’t find any particular sake, just use a simple rule of thumb: most of the junmai sake are great warm. 5 of the six sake recommended here are junmai. If you see “yamahai” or “kimoto” in the name, it’s also a good indication that the sake might be pretty good at a higher temperature. And last but not least, try any sake at various temperatures and see for yourself! Let me know how your experiments are going!

Kampai!

Alex

Alex is a London-based sake blogger, podcaster, IWC Sake judge and sake advocate. He is a publisher of the Sugidama Blog website and a host of the Sugidama Podcast. Alex has an International Kikisake-shi (Sake Specialist) qualification from SSI (Sake Service Institute). He sees his mission as expanding the awareness of Japanese sake among as many people as possible and helping the growing community of sake lovers to bring together beautiful Japanese sake and non-Japanese food as a way to build a better understanding between our cultures.

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