Enjoy Japanese Sake!


How to Enjoy Drinking Hiyaoroshi, an Autumn Delight

When we think of Japanese drinks, it is probably sake that most of us think of first. But do you know there is a type of sake called “Hiyaoroshi”? Let us introduce this unfamiliar sake to you.

What is Hiyaoroshi?—its characteristics and meaning

Hiyaoroshi was born in the Edo era. Compared with unpasteurized “Nama-zake” that is released in summer, Hiyaoroshi goes through a pasteurizing process called “Hi-ire”(heat pasteurization), once in spring before it is stored in a tank to be laid down over summer so that the freshness and good taste of sake brewed in winter will not go bad during summertime. This type of sake is called “Hiya(cold)-oroshi(putting on the market)” because unlike other types of “Seishu”( clear, refined sake) that undergo “Hi-ire” pasteurizing process again before shipping, Hiyaoroshi is put on the market without being heated up for the second time.

Perfectly matured after spending hot summer in a storehouse that is kept at a cool temperature, Hiyaoroshi comes out in autumn with a gentle and mellow aroma along with a smooth yet rich creamy texture, attracting a lot of fans among connoisseurs.

Difference from Nama-zake
Sake called “Seishu” generally undergoes heat pasteurization twice to kill bacteria, stop fermentation and keep its aroma and taste good. “Nama-zake”, on the other hand, does not get pasteurized at all. Nama-zake was born lately as refrigeration technologies got advanced to make it possible to keep unpasteurized sake. It is also known as “Natsu no Nama-zake (nama-zake of summer)” or “Hatsu-shibori (sake from the first brewing of the year, bottled right after brewing without pasteurization)”.

“Hiyaoroshi” is a type of sake that is pasteurized only once before put in a sake storehouse to be laid down and get matured during summertime, and it is released in autumn, making a seasonal tradition since the Edo era.

Release of Hiyaoroshi
Hiyaoroshi, which sleeps in a storehouse over summer, awakens as autumn comes. It goes on sale in September, October and November, during which time you can enjoy many other seasonal foods as well. Hiyaoroshi is said to be a wonderful accompaniment to autumn tastes like sanma (Pacific saury) and matsutake mushroom.

The degree of maturity is also the key to enjoying Hiyaoroshi, because this sake is always changing in its taste as it keeps maturing. Each Hiyaoroshi is released some time during the three months from September through November depending on its maturity. Some Hiyaoroshi taste best in early autumn and others come into full bloom later. Since the speed of maturity and timing of release varies among brands, so does the best way to enjoy them. The following are three Hiyaoroshi categorized according to the timing of release.

Released in September right after the hot summer, it is called “Nagoshi-zake”, literally meaning “oversummered” sake. Coarseness is gone, and there is a mixture of mild bitterness and astringency, richness and fullness, lightness, and mellowness. Recommended to serve chilled, at room temperature or frozen. Goes well with both Japanese and western dishes.

Released in October in the middle of autumn, it is called Akidashi-ichiban-zake (the first sake released in autumn), because it is October when you actually feel like the autumn season has begun. Good taste in a fine balance with aroma. Harmonized complexity. Can be enjoyed either warm or cold and makes a good pairing with a wide variety of dishes.

Hiyaoroshi released in November is called Banshu-umazake (late-autumn sake with umami) since it boasts increased mellowness and umami and is described as having “ripened richness”. Its characteristic richness is a good match for game dishes. Its full umami taste also goes well with dishes cooked with such traditional seasonings as soy sauce, salt or miso. Best served gently warmed or warmed to bring out the best taste as well as to enjoy warmness in the chilly season.

Now that you learned there are various types of “Hiyaoroshi” with each of them showing a different face of this attractive sake, go and find your favorite one!