I have been studying sake for over ten years now. Damn, Im old. But my favorite part about my studies in sake is educating others and finding a sake that appeals to every palate. I am going to start writing basic lessons on sake here in this blog and then going out in the field and proving it, like homework but drunker. Starting in the winter, I will start hosting my own sake classes. So stay tuned!
In wine, the most important classifier is the grape. In sake, even though the type of rice will give some indication of how it will taste, the most important classifier is the amount the rice has been milled or polished down, the seimaibuai. If you should know one thing about sake, this is it. When you polish rice, you put it in a rolling drum and the friction of the rice on itself polishes the grains to a fraction of its original size. A piece of rice is mostly fatty protein with a kernel of starch. The more you polish it down or the closer you get to the starch, the more fragrant and complex the sake will become. This added effort of milling it down further adds to the cost of a bottle more than most features. The differences between the types are subtle just like wine but even though the higher milling rates are more labor intensive, expensive, and more complex in flavor, they are not necessarily superior. Preference is personal. One of my goals is to create a system to help people understand what a sake will taste like but the only way to know for sure is to taste it and see.