Enjoyable either warm or chilled to complement the season, traditional
Japanese sake can be savoured across a wide range of temperatures. The different temperatures provide a changing array of flavours for the palate to appreciate. Warm sake is rather unusual in the world of alcoholic beverages, but it has a long history. The drinking of warm sake spread from the aristocracy to the common people during the middle part of the Tokugawa Period (1600-1867), when the drinking of sake itself became popular with the masses.
The real pleasure of drinking warm sake is in savouring the complexity of the rice-derived flavour brought out by the heating. Heating enhances the impact of naturally occurring glutamic and saccinic acids, imbuing the sake with a pleasant mellowness. Warm sake aids in digestion and is mild on the body. It is a drink to warm the hearts of those who share a glass.
When chilled, sake is known as reishu, and when drunk at room temperature, it is called hiya.In general, sake types such as freshly pressed namazake or the cloudy nigorizake, and highly fragrant premium sakes are the best types to enjoy as hiya or reishu. A temperature change of just a single degree can cause subtle changes in the flavour and aroma of a sake, demonstrating the depth and complexity of this ancient drink. Sampling sake at different temperatures to find a favorite flavour is yet another way to enjoy the complexity of sake.