There are many who perceive sake to be a hard alcohol – akin to gin, vodka, tequila and the like.
Fact is sake is fermented like wine or beer; it is not distilled.
Why its ‘hard’ image is no thanks to the many folks who have consumed rot-gut sake in mass quantities and woke up the next morning with a humongous hangover, swearing, “I’m never drinking sake again!”
Then there are the bartenders who serve sake in shot glasses and you gamely go ahead and “shoot it”.
There’s also the “Sake Bomb” where you drop a sake into a beer! You know no one in their right mind would drop a Chardonnay bomb in their beer, right?
Another fact is, of all the fermented beverages in the world, sake has the highest naturally occurring alcohol content. What that means is sake will ferment “naturally” up to 18% to 20%.
But that doesn’t mean we should think of sake in terms of 20% alcohol content, as the actual industry average for sake is about 15-16%.
So how does 20% drop to 15%?
It is diluted; watered down.
As to why is because the brewers feel that it is best to drink sake at that level of alcohol content, where the sake’s flavours and textures are best expressed.
But not all sake is diluted.
Undiluted sake is called genshu, and it comes in all forms – Junmai Genshu, Junmai Ginjo Genshu, Daiginjo Genshu. The common underlying theme is that there has been no secondary water added to temper the alcohol percentage.
Just as there is a reason why sake is diluted, there is a reason why genshu is undiluted – brewers believe that certain sakes taste better in their naturally fermented stated, without the additional water.
As to whether genshu sakes are boozier, some are and some aren’t.
What’s for sure is the bolder sake that is genshu has more impact and presence.
Some genshu sakes are so clean and pristine that you forget you are drinking a booze. Some are drier because the extra alcohol dries up the flavours by the time the sake passes through the palate. Then there are some exceedingly sweet genshu sakes that taste almost fruitier because of the extra booze.
Not all genshu sakes are 19%-20%, or even 17%-18%, as there are plenty of 15%-16% brews.
So, does adding water make for thinner or more watery sake? Well, the desire of the brewers is for the drinker not to notice nor think about it. They produce a genshu at 15% because it drinks the way they want it to drink.
In conclusion, what is the point of undiluted sake? Is there one general reason to produce this style?
The answer is really quite simple – genshu sakes are just another expression on your path to sake understanding. In a nutshell, they are just another offering!
And happily, we have this “offering” in our selection of sakes.
Last call for the Saito Junmai Ginjo Genshu super value deal which ends on Nov 30, 2020!