Sake shelf life
By Asiaeuro Wines & Spirits March 22, 2021

One thing that discourages many people from buying their first sake is not knowing how long it will keep or how to store it properly. They wonder if sake even have an expiry date. Here are some answers to questions on expiry date and shelf life.

Does sake have an expiry date?

No, you won’t find an expiry date on the sake label.

What is mandatory is the date of manufacture, so that is what you will find printed on the label. But this is the date the sake was bottled, not the date it was brewed.

How long is the shelf life of sake?

There really isn’t such a thing as an expiry date as sake will never deteriorate to the extent that it will be harmful beyond the usual effects of drinking alcohol.

Having said that, the flavour may start to change after a period of time.

The so-called shelf life varies by sake.

What determines how long a sake will last is whether it has been pasteurized. Some sake is pasteurized, some isn’t.

The estimated shelf life for both pasteurized and unpasteurized sake:

Regular sake

One year from the date of manufacture.

Unpasteurized sake (namazake)

If refrigerated, six to seven months after the manufacturing date.

Unpasteurized sake will not keep for very long outside the fridge – about two to four hours at most in a dark, cool environment

After production, sake is normally immersed in boiling water, just before bottling, to sterilize and stabilize it. Namazake (unpasteurized) sake has not undergone pasteurization so it is fresher, but it also very unstable, and will not last nearly as long as its pasteurized counterpart.

Opened bottles that are kept refrigerated ought to be consumed within two to three weeks.

Does sake, like wine, improve with age?

No. Although there are a few special varieties of sake that are “aged” before bottling to produce a darker, more mature flavour, all sake is meant to be drunk soon after purchase. Once opened, sake will begin to oxidize and so it is best to drink it within a week or so. In general, sake is best enjoyed young.

Can you get sick from drinking old sake?

Sake will not spoil in such a way as to make you sick, nor will it turn to vinegar or become downright undrinkable. Although this varies from sake to sake, in most cases the more delicate and refined the flavour and aroma of a sake, the sooner it goes downhill.

Never chuck old sake. It is a great ingredient for soups, stews, and hot pots!

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